An Interview with Dr. Ranney: RI Women of the Year

By: Amanda Dronzek

With COVID surging through America at a higher rate than ever, it is absolutely crucial that the vaccine is distributed to as many people as possible. The pandemic has been trudging on for over a year now, disrupting the lives of every single person in this world. As more and more healthcare workers are vaccinated, there is hope that more doctors will be able to care for their ailing patients in the hospitals. This virus has not just affected those who have been infected, but it has also halted the amount of sick patients who seek immediate medical care to enter the hospitals. COVID has caused people to fear for their lives, and not go to see medical professionals for treatments due to the risk of catching the virus. Other sick children and adults who don’t necessarily fit the criteria for immediate care have also been pushed back from getting the attention they need.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet with Rhode Island’s woman of the year, Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University. She is the director for Lifespan Center of Digital Health at Brown and currently, she has been a source of hope for millions of Americans. Her segments regarding the coronavirus on the national news network have shown people how to tackle this virus as best and as safely as possible. Recently, Dr. Ranney was named RI’s woman of the year in 2020, a well-deserved award mainly for her incredible work on COVID-19, and the other projects she had been working on with digital health. “I was totally surprised, I mean, I had no idea that I was getting the award. I was completely shocked.” After receiving a few congratulations messages from colleagues and friends, Ranney learned that her dedication and diligence had paid off with this rewarding accomplishment. 

Being a frontline healthcare worker, Dr. Ranney was able to receive the first round of the coronavirus vaccine, and it was even broadcasted on national television. “After the first one, I had a little bit of a sore arm but that was it.” With no other side effects on round 1, the vaccine proved itself to be perfectly safe. When asked about the second round, Megan said the second vaccine definitely felt worse. “I just feel a little bit under the weather. I’ve got a little bit of a headache, I feel a little tired, I feel a little achy. Nothing horrible.” Megan also stated on the air that the symptoms showed after receiving the vaccine mean that it is in your system and your body is responding to the shot, thus making you immune to the virus. Fatigue after a vaccine is completely normal, even expected, and shouldn’t be a major concern. According to Dr Ranney’s segment on the national news from Saturday, January 9th, she said around 70% of people do experience side effects, and the best thing to do is take a day off afterwards.

For the healthcare workers who have yet to be vaccinated, day-offs seem to be quite a ways away. As of right now, Dr. Ranney said the biggest issue surrounding the hospital overflows is that many of the staff are getting sick, which means fewer doctors are able to help patients. “Even those who have gotten our second shot aren’t fully protected yet,” explained Ranney. The risk of catching the virus or just generally falling ill, combined with a lack of beds for patients has put an unbelievable amount of pressure on healthcare workers. Thankfully, field hospitals have opened up beds for COVID patients, which has given doctors the opportunity to move these patients out of the hospitals and have other people come in for medical emergencies that are not related to the virus. Hospitals have been overflowing around the world for nearly a year, as the winter months have not been kind to the front line staff. When looking at the future of COVID and how it will be handled once the vaccine has been fully distributed to everyone, Dr. Ranney is hopeful that things will return to normal around the middle of the summer in 2021. 

Right now the priority is to vaccinate healthcare workers, teachers, and high-risk people, which leave children out of the loop. Those under 16 will not be vaccinated until around the spring/summertime, and Ranney believes that it may take longer for life to go back to the way it was in 2019. On top of that, there have been some distribution issues in America due to a lack of resources, which can also back up the process of returning to a normal life. “I think that the virus is gonna change a lot of things about our society forever. I think we’ve seen the value of wearing masks; there hasn’t been much flu this year and so I’m hopeful many of us will keep wearing masks and learn to stay home when we’re sick.” Ranney’s main concern regarding COVID is that the virus will mutate. In certain parts of the world such as the UK and South Africa, it has already mutated, but studies have shown that the vaccine is effective for this specific strand. However, there is not just one strand of COVID. Meganfears the current vaccine may not hold up against these future mutations, which would demand America to create another, more effective vaccine for citizens. 

The long term effects of the coronavirus are unfortunately not going to immediately vanish once vaccinations are distributed worldwide. Many people may continue to wear masks, stop shaking hands, and stay home from work with something as miniscule as the common cold. As much as we yearn to go back to a high functioning and normal society, it will take copious amounts of time and effort to restore what we’ve lost since this virus has entered our lives.

Currently, Megan Ranney has been most known across the country for her work on attacking COVID-19. Although, before the virus and during times when she is not focusing on COVID, Dr. Ranney has been researching how to use digital technology like apps and social media to help prevent violence and mental health problems. Working out of Brown and Lifespan, Megan shares her excitement for the future of this project. COVID may be the main focus of the world as of right now, but the damage this virus and society in general has had on adults and children is astronomical. Being educated on mental health is crucial in today’s world, and should not be overlooked. Following this project, Dr. Ranney also works specifically in managing gun violence across America. “It’s really exciting, and growing, and working to, you know, help change risk, and hopefully change the events going forward.” 

Life has not been easy for anyone this past year, and it sure won’t get any easier until the COVID vaccines are distributed and hospitals can return to full staff and operating capacity. Thankfully, there are people like Dr. Megan Ranney, who can provide a sense of security and hope for the future of COVID’s spread, and predict when we can hug our friends and family again.