As St. Patrick’s Day approached, Leslie Schwietz ‘99, M.D., worried. She worried about her friends and family in Omaha and the silent threat that was surely sneaking through her hometown. After nearly a month of fighting corona virus on the front line in Seattle, Leslie issued a warning to friends and family via Facebook. It would be shared over 5,000 times, hitting the Marian alumnae page March 17.
Her message was simple: stay home to save lives. It will not be doctors who save lives, it will be the efforts of ordinary citizens. To read Leslie’s post visit bit.ly/LeslieFBpost.
Leslie didn’t expect her post to go as far as it did. “I guess it was a message people needed to hear. To think about corona virus taking over my hometown, compelled me to write the post. It scared me that I don’t know how to protect my family and there are no good treatments,“ said Leslie.
According to Leslie, COVID-19 was the perfect, sneaky virus. The threat of the virus seemed distant and the response to it was slow. Without wide-spread testing, case counts weren’t accurate. Furthermore, the medical community was learning about the virus at the same time as the general public. With so much confusing information about the virus, it was hard for people to understand the risk.
In February, Leslie, an ER doctor at Swedish Hospital in downtown Seattle, began seeing weird symptoms that presented like influenza. Initially, permission was required to test for COVID-19, and the criteria were strict. You had to have come from Wuhan to be tested. “But the virus was here, and we were missing it and sending people home. Then we had our first case that was not travel related, and we knew it was spreading in the community,” said Leslie.
By the time you learn about the virus in your community, it’s too far gone. Leslie’s hope was to spread the word back home to get serious about the virus early, so it might not be as bad.
For the time being, Leslie continues to isolate because she is re-exposed every time she goes to work. “We’ve done so much and it’s been a massive sacrifice,” said Leslie. “I hope no one doubts the value of that.”
Leslie moved to Seattle after graduating from medical school and completing her residency at UNMC. She credits her years in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) with drawing her to the Pacific Northwest and into medicine. A 2003 Creighton undergrad who majored in biology and environmental science, Leslie worked with the JVC in Portland providing medical outreach to migrant farmer communities. ”The JVC service changed my idea of what medicine could be…It motivated and drew me to the ER, which is available to people whatever their concerns are or their background,” said Leslie.
As she pondered the idea of going back to medical school, Lelsie thought, ”I can do that. I never thought ‘I can’t.’” She credits the foundation she received at Marian. “Marian taught me that there are no limits to what women can do in life…There was an emphasis on going out there and continuing to be servants. Do good things in this world and make good happen.”