Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Wildfires, The Pandemic, And Public Health


Healthcare professionals must work with the community they serve, focusing on open dialogues and communication. This will help citizens deal with unforeseen challenges.

This summer, I traveled to Greece for both work and leisure. While flying during a global health crisis felt disconcerting, it didn’t compare to what I experienced during my time in Greece. The locals said the wildfires were the worse they’d seen in over a decade. The proximity of the fires to rural villages, as well as to my own hometown, created a surreal and frightening experience.



The pandemic was still present, and locals were working to mitigate the spread of the virus. But such action was executed under a literal blanket of daily smoke and smog from the nearby wildfires. Preparing for evacuation, reviewing what to take and what to leave, and daily community gatherings discussing emergency plans; this was the reality of the situation. The fires threatened thousands of Greeks, not just with their lives, but with their cultural identity. Homes, towns, and archaeological sites were all threatened.



The viral pandemic and the local wildfire epidemic were equally threatening and competed for attention daily. What did I learn during all of this? That Mother Nature doesn’t pause. She’s in full force at all times. While the viral pandemic has had much of the spotlight, the main thing I learned this summer is that one public health crisis doesn’t stop just because another arises.



The preparation to evacuate due to fire for many Greeks came on the heels of an active pandemic, and in some regions, active high rates of COVID-19. Therefore, all healthcare professionals must work with the community they serve, focusing on open dialogues and communication, in order for citizens to be prepared for anything and everything. Promoting health, preserving communities, and reaffirming cultural identity; all of these can be accomplished with public health communications and collaboration. Medicine is a public trust; it must be so against all health crises that threaten the very public medicine is determined to protect.




This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.