Our Behind the Mask series, produced in partnership with Atrium Health, tells the stories of healthcare heroes in Charlotte.
Amina Ahmed, MD, is a pediatric infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Atrium Health Levine Children’s.
For Dr. Ahmed and her team, the past few weeks have been busier than ever as COVID-19 cases among children surge and schools return from summer break.
- “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in our COVID cases the past two weeks,” she says.
What’s a typical day in your life like?
Since the pandemic started, my day starts out with looking at my phone and checking my emails. I also believe that faith is very important, so I try to read a bit and do my devotion.
The past two weeks, I’ll come into work and put out any Infection Prevention fires and then touch base with my Infection Prevention nurse to see what’s going on.
Then, I go to the unit to start my inpatient duties.
- I have a wonderful team working with me and we’ll go around and see patients until 5 or 6 p.m. every day.
Then, I’ll write my notes and address my emails (and everyone has tons of questions right now); my husband will tell you I’ve been rolling in around 10 p.m. the past few weeks. But usually, I’d be home closer to 7 p.m.
This week, I also gave a couple of antibiotic lectures to the students.
Why did you choose this specialty?
Truth be told, I wanted to save the world with vaccines. I’m originally from Pakistan, one of the three holdouts for the Polio vaccine.
- And it was always going to be pediatrics. I love working with children and helping children get better – because children recover.
My mentor told me to “go into what you love reading about,” and I love reading about infectious diseases.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
For years, I was a runner, but with old age comes bad knees so I’ve been walking a lot. It’s been great – it’s a chance to not have anything electronic with you.
How has the pandemic changed your job?
We hit the ground running in February 2020. It was a total 180, shifting more of our resources to COVID and balancing our resources between different needs.
- We’re always making, adjusting and operationalizing policies.
Children’s hospitals are extremely unique because we, of course, needed to allow visitors (in the form of parents and guardians), and we wanted to do it in a way that kept everyone as safe as possible.
How do you think the return to school will impact the trends?
It’s something I’m very cautious about. We’re very fortunate in Mecklenburg County to have a universal mask mandate, but we’re an island. But we’ve also learned that there’s a huge impact in not having in-person school.
I think we need to encourage in-person learning and do our best to protect the children. Encourage your child to wear a mask even if others are not.
What message would you want to share with parents who are worried about COVID-19?
I’ll be very clear: the people that are being hospitalized are the unvaccinated. The people that are dying are the unvaccinated.
Masks and distancing will keep them from getting COVID, but what’s going to keep them from getting hospitalized and having poor outcomes is vaccinating the child (if you can) and vaccinating everyone around them if you can’t.
Note: Dr. Ahmed also pointed out that vaccines are expected to become available to children ages 5-11 within the next few months, offering another way to protect school-age children.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and the community from COVID-19. Vaccines are available for everyone 12 and older through Atrium Health.
This content was created in partnership with Atrium Health.