Alumnus finds inspiration in his father’s credo

Leonard Mermel, D.O.’84, Sc.M., A.M. (Hon.), FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, hasn’t had a day off since Jan. 6 because he’s been working tirelessly to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the Rhode Island Hospital, where he is medical director of the department of epidemiology and infection control. You won’t hear him complaining, however. As he reflected in the June edition of the Rhode Island Medical Journal, he is striving to practice his late father’s credo to be charitable, honest, grateful, and kind and helpful to others.

The link to the article, titled “Keeping hospitals safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” is shared courtesy of the Rhode Island Medical Journal (RIMJ).

His father, Bennet Mermel, survived sickness, starvation and the death marches of the Holocaust. “Growing up, he always told my sisters and I how lucky we were to be Americans,” Dr. Mermel stated in the article. “He said that the United States government allowed him to immigrate here and have a good life, so we should be humble, give back, and help the less fortunate.”

Also professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, Dr. Mermel has focused nearly 30 years of his career on the prevention of hospital infections. He has presented on the topic at institutions ranging from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, but he admits the “the gravity of the current pandemic remains daunting,” and the responsibility he feels toward his colleagues, amid COVID-19-related shortages of protective equipment, is “frankly overwhelming.”

“Yet, camaraderie among our staff has afforded us the opportunity to work together, innovating every hour of every day of every week, as much as humanly possible, to mitigate risk to those for whom we are honored to serve with and reduce risk to those who enter our hospital system for care,” he said in the RIMJ article. “We have been successful in these endeavors. As Nelson Mandela wrote, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.'”

Dr. Mermel expressed gratitude in the article for friends in Europe whom he has called for help in troubleshooting “the complexities of safety for our staff.” He also wrote he was grateful for his hospital colleagues, from providers and administrators to supply chain staff, housekeepers and public health professionals.

“In a time of such need, the likes of which has not been seen since the 1918 flu pandemic, those who have risen to the challenge speaks of the passion and humanity they bring to work each day,” he said.

Read the full article here.

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