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Like everyone in the medical community, Dr. Patrick Nolan was concerned when he saw the signs the COVID-19 pandemic was materializing. But as an internal medicine specialist with a focus on infectious diseases, he was expecting it.
“There has been concern about a pandemic for years,” Nolan said. “Then, in March 2020, there was a meeting of interested parties at Mobile Infirmary. At that time, no cases had been reported in our state yet but I think everybody saw the dark clouds looming. And I got started in terms of preparation and planning.”
Nolan, a native Mobilian and alumni of both Spring Hill College and the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was voted by Lagniappe readers as Best Doc to Kick COVID’s Ass in this year’s Nappie Awards. As the Mobile area was rocked by three waves of the virus in May 2020, July 2020 and January 2021, Nolan and his partners at Alabama Medical Group stayed abreast of the latest information and scientific research.
Founded in 1946, Alabama Medical Group is the largest independently owned, multispecialty medical clinic in Mobile. With more than 200 employees and three clinic locations, Alabama Medical Group has a team of physicians specializing in the areas of family practice, infectious disease, internal medicine, neurology, radiology, rheumatology and sleep medicine.
“Our initial concern was the fact that maybe the healthcare system would be overwhelmed, that we wouldn’t have enough ICU beds, ventilators or personnel, but thanks be to God that didn’t happen,” he said, although for a period of weeks in January, there were more than 100 patients in Mobile Infirmary’s COVID unit.
“Those were the stressful times,” he said.
Nolan and his partners began to administer monoclonal antibodies as soon as they were available, and the ensuing vaccine rollout was equally welcome, he said.
“I was one of the first to get vaccinated and it’s been amazing, the safety and efficacy and the rapid turnout of these vaccines,” he said.
But Nolan also warned in spite of his award, COVID’s “ass” has not yet been thoroughly “kicked.”
“Alabama is not very good right now in terms of vaccine acceptance, but I do believe it ought to be an individual choice,” he said. “That said, in our state, our level of protection is 30 to 40 percent. I do think there is going to be another surge and the Delta variant will be the predominant one.”
Nolan said although vaccination is a personal choice, if you are vaccinated, infection is less of a threat.
“The threat is for those who are not vaccinated,” he said. “I think the vaccine offers more protection than natural infection. If you had an early infection before the emergence of the variants, you’re probably well protected against that strain. But having the selective pressure of all we’ve done, this virus has evolved. So it seems the vaccine offers the natural immunity that occurs after infection.”
That said, Nolan was humbled by the recognition.
“I was doing my job as an infectious disease doctor, which involves applying the scientific knowledge as it evolves to the practical situation of patient care,” he said. “I think there were hundreds of medical personnel in the city doing their jobs, and a lot of them were higher risk than I was. I think I did my job and hundreds of health care workers in our community did their job, so I accept [the Nappie Award] for them.”
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