ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Boris Shmigel has been practicing medicine in Rochester for some 50 years.
While he started in the emergency department he now works for Rochester Regional Health as an occupational medicine physician.
His tenure gives him a unique perspective on the current pandemic, and Adam Chodak sat down with him to find out what that is.
Adam Chodak: You’ve been at this for around 50 years, have you ever experienced anything like this, what we’re going through right now?
Dr. Boris Shmigel: No, this is completely different. And it’s chaotic, it really is. No end in sight, that’s the horrible part. We’re still in a COVID situation and each day goes by we’re hearing different things. The children are more affected where before they weren’t. The adults were always the main ones that were affected and dying, but not we’re starting to have the kids getting affected and who knows where that is going to wind up. So it’s a bad situation and it’s not something to take lightly. And the horrible part is a percentage of people that are holding off with the vaccine. There is absolutely no excuse for that whatsoever.
AC: I’m sure you talk to a lot of people with vaccine hesitancy. What do you say to them?
BS: There no justification for not taking the vaccine. We don’t have any information whatsoever that would prevent people from winding up in trouble if they take the vaccine. I mean, yes, the minor problems about the swelling in the arm and the pain and discomfort, but nobody has died from the vaccine. I mean, look at all the passed history. Polio, we had vaccines. They weren’t the best, but people survived and they did well. The measles, the mumps, the rabies shots. All of those shots we didn’t have a hullabaloo like what we’re having now. Why? I don’t understand why there is this strong animosity about taking this vaccine because there is no justification for it, there really is not, and the bad part is until we have a higher percentage of people vaccinated, we’re going to have a problem because the delta variant is spreading and it’s spreading quickly and it’s deadlier and we don’t have real solutions to that short of the vaccine.
AC: Every time I cover a story that involves Mercy Flight I think, what an incredible service we have here and you’ve been part of it. Why don’t you talk about that…
BS: Well, it started out actually. I was the one who brought the helicopter into Rochester and it was a New York State police helicopter and we did the first medivac program in the city. And after several years the Mercy Flight outfit came to town and the state police pulled out of that program all together. But, again, it is a life-saving program. No doubt about it. Today more so than ever. We have patients that are coming in from various areas of the state with cardiac problems who are taken into the operating room immediately without having to go through a 4-5 hour trip by ambulance. It’s a life-saving situation. We have helicopters now that pick up patients at the scene, which is a tremendous benefit instead of being take by ambulance to a local hospital and then from the local hospital to be taken to a major center like Strong.
AC: Where did your passion for medicine come from?
BS: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I can’t really say, but it’s always been my feeling that I was going to be doing medicine and that’s all there was to it, there was no discussion as to what else I could do. I sidelined a little bit here and there. I took ROTC, Air Force so I thought I was going to be a pilot. Well, that dream died when these glasses came on because you either had 20/20 vision or you were a navigator and I was not going to be a navigator. So that sort of fell apart and the medical continued and there were are 50 years later.
AC: And from my understanding you have a special relationship with law enforcement. How did that come about?
BS: When I was resident in surgery and working at night – because night shifts were part of the requirement – every third night it was a stay in the hospital and that’s where I met a majority of the police department personnel who came in for a cup of coffee at midnight. It was a police officer. And who brought the trauma patients in? It was the police department. So I got to know a lot of the people and then I realized that they were not getting the medical care that they deserved and that’s where I started to lean towards that aspect in trying to provide the service for them. The next thing I knew I was taking care of the Rochester Police Department, the Webster Police Department, the Irondequoit Police Department, the Gates Police Department, the East Rochester Police Department, the Sheriff’s, the Marshals, and then I got involved with the state police with the helicopter.