Retired Doctor Answers Coronavirus Call

March 21, 2020

During these times, the message to all has been loud and clear – to practice social distancing – but Dr. Steven Lay heard something else:

A call to duty.

Dr. Lay, a retired ER doctor, didn’t want to stand by idly while coronavirus concerns were impacting the community. 

“I thought there has to be something for me to do. When I retired, I didn’t retire from life,’’ he said.

He reached out to Dr. Nishant  Anand, BayCare’s Executive Vice President/Chief Medical Officer, whom he had met previously, and offered his  help. They discussed telemedicine as a possibility, but when BayCare launched  drive-thru testing centers for COVID-19, it seemed like a perfect fit.

Dr. Lay, an ER doctor for 23 years with AdventHealth, toured the site at BayCare Urgent Care at Carillon on Thursday, and on Friday and Saturday, he could be found at Tent No. 3, where medical personnel took specimens from those who had screened as high risk for the disease.

“It does remind me of the ER,’’ he said. “ER people know how to adapt to a crisis. They  can handle disorganization and catastrophes."

“People are scared now. They’re feeling sick. They’re also concerned for their loved ones. It’s time for us all to be good neighbors.’’

That was part of Dr Lay’s motivation for volunteering at the Carillon site. He was born at St. Anthony’s Hospital and lives in Gulfport. He wanted to help his neighbors.

Dr. Lay, 61, has been retired since 2016. He had to do some convincing at home before he could begin volunteering.

“I lost my wife to cancer in 2014 and went through some topsy-turvy stuff,’’ he said. “I’m re-married now to a wonderful woman. She didn’t want me to do this at first. She wanted me to do the telemedicine.

“I’m extremely careful. I don’t feel vulnerable at all. I go home and take my clothes off in the garage. I put them in a bag in the garage. We haven’t had anyone in our home in eight days now.’’

The site at Carillon is one of seven BayCare has had up and running since Wednesday. In that time, nearly 2,300 cars have shown up and more than 1,300 people have been tested. The specimens are sent to a laboratory and results will be communicated to patients within an estimated five to seven days.

“This speaks to our mission of taking care of the community,’’ said Jim Cote, senior vice president of Ambulatory Services for BayCare. “Having Dr. Lay join us is also a great boost to our team members, who have been working so hard, to see someone want to roll up their sleeves and join them.”

The work spoke to Dr. Lay, too. 

“This is important,’’ he said. “We need to flatten the curve, to figure this out. To do that, we need data. We need to test a lot of people.’’

Dr. Lay plans to be back at the Urgent Care site at Carillon on Sunday, and whenever BayCare needs him. He also hopes to get credentialed to do telemedicine with BayCare.

It might not sound like retirement, but Dr. Lay loves being a clinician.

“I see this as my enjoyable hobby,’’ he said.

Dr. Anand welcomes the help, “Dr. Lay is a great example of how our community is responding in this time of crisis to help one another. We appreciate his service very much.”

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