What do I need to know about COVID-19 vaccines? How can I social distance and maintain a positive outlook? How can I cope with the economic hardship of the pandemic?
These are just a few of the wide range of questions answered in the new book “Facing COVID-19: A Guide for Patients and Their Families.”
Published by the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy, it is the latest of 20 books in a series about facing conditions that are the most disabling and prevalent worldwide, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
“Rather than just write books for fellow clinicians, we decided that the audience that would gain the most from our knowledge and expertise was patients and their families,” says Mass General psychiatrist Ted Stern, MD, who co-edits each book with experts—some from Mass General, some not—in each field. “When we looked at the kind of information available to this audience, we found no one-stop shopping. It was tough to find material that was trustworthy, timely, readable and understandable. Our books educate people in a way that’s not available online.”
For Stern, the multidisciplinary approach to each topic is second nature, he says. Having been a consultation-liaison psychiatrist for decades, he practices at the intersections of psychiatry, medicine, neurology and surgery. “Usually I’m on medical and surgical inpatient units working with patients, family members and hospitalists,” he says.
Based on his experience, Stern knew that patients facing a new (and sometimes frightening) diagnosis seek answers not only to medical questions, but also to questions about how it will affect them mentally, socially, and otherwise. “We found this to be particularly true for COVID-19,” says Stern, who co-edited the book with Jay A. Fishman, MD, associate director of the MGH Transplant Center, and Yelizaveta Sher, MD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford. “Moreover, there has been a deluge of information – and misinformation – so we thought it important to lend expert voices to the subject.”
As knowledge about COVID-19 advances, Stern and his co-editors will plan an update to the book. Also in the works: two dozen more books, on conditions ranging from chronic kidney disease, to irritable bowel syndrome, to back pain.
“Our aim,” says Stern, “is to empower patients and to improve communication among patients, family members and health care providers.”