Lee helps fight coronavirus through family medical practice

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In the madness of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ben Lee (12) has been helping everyone he can. Lee spent his spring break assisting his mother at Scarsdale Integrative Medicine (SIM), his family’s medical practice.

The practice is located in Westchester County, a region with over 14,000 cases of coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

SIM, which practices both functional medicine and primary care is owned by Lee’s mother, Dr. Joon Lee. The practice has become significantly busier since the virus began to spread, Ben said. “There are people who are concerned they have corona, and there are people who actually do have corona. She both tests for [coronavirus] and she also treats those patients,” he said.

Before the beginning of break, Ben had only worked in his mother’s practice once. Then, he had helped because his mother wanted him to get work experience, he said. However, once break started, Ben began to work nine to ten hours a day at the practice.

Ben’s primary job is to do the bookkeeping for the office. He has been “tracking receipts and making sure that everything gets documented,” he said. Ben is freeing up work so that other people who have to treat patients don’t have to do the more menial tasks, he said.

His job is important to the practice because many of its workers have been calling in sick and are unable to do their jobs, Ben said. Keeping up with the influx of patients from the virus has not only been difficult for the doctors but also for the people behind the scenes, he said.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the workload has dramatically increased for all employees of SIM. Because the practice is a small business, it has constantly been understaffed during the pandemic, Ben said. For example, SIM’s receptionist lives in New Rochelle, which has been a “containment area” since March 12, and has been unable to work.

The New York State Department of Health has advised against medical practices treating COVID-19 patients due to fear of staff safety, but SIM remains active in helping with the crisis. By keeping her practice open, Ben’s mother is saving those with the virus from having to seek treatment at overcrowded hospitals. “She’s willing to go and risk her own safety to try to make the community better,” Ben said.

Since HM Online began, Ben has spent less time helping his mother in order to complete his schoolwork, he said. He has continued to help the practice while at home by writing and editing COVID-19 webpages and managing emails. To allow his mother to focus on her work, Ben has taken over some of the household responsibilities as well, like taking care of his five-year-old brother, he said.

If the condition of the pandemic gets worse, Ben believes that his mother will be faced with a difficult decision, he said. It is possible that the severity of the virus could reach a point where she would have to temporarily shut down the practice to protect its staff and her own family. “There will have to be a certain line drawn between where you put the safety of your family versus what you do for the community,” Ben said.

Though no one knows how this pandemic will turn out, Ben feels obligated to continue helping. “I think that when everyone tries to do their part at the medical level, at the bare minimum I can do things like making sure that documents are kept in the right order,” Ben said. “Everyone can do their part, and I’m just trying to do mine.”