‘To me, health is not just about seeing your doctor once a year and checking the boxes’

Courtesy of Lucy McBride ’95
Lucy McBride ’95 remembers looking at the CNN homepage in January and seeing a story in the bottom corner about a disease that would come to be known as COVID-19. The story was interesting to the internal medicine physician, but it also seemed so far away. When a patient who had recently been in China came to her presenting symptoms soon after, McBride sent her to the emergency room. 

“I felt bad because I sent her to the ER when normally you take a sick patient into your office and you see them,” McBride says, noting that she still doesn’t know if that patient actually tested positive for COVID-19. “As you know, we didn’t have much information on it — even physicians. … We just weren't prepared for any testing, or we didn't have any protocols or [personal protective equipment].”  

As it became more clear that the virus presented a “clear and present danger” here in the U.S., McBride says, she was following the news reports just like everyone else and trying to make sense of all of the news and information that was coming out. 

Given her medical knowledge and connections in the industry, “I felt this obligation, in a way, to transmit information — digestible, real-time, fact-based information — to whoever wanted to listen.” 

Just like that, McBride became an email newsletter writer. She began sending a daily email (now twice per week) with the latest data, information from news reports, and answers to questions from her patients. She also shined a light on how mental and physical health can interact and affect each other. 

The newsletters feel like you’re reading the transcript of a conversation with a cool doctor — McBride keeps the tone conversational and free of hard-to-follow medical jargon. “OK, team. It’s time to regroup,” she starts off one newsletter. “It’s been six bleeping months of this!” She has shared the inspiring story of one of her COVID-19 patients, explained the importance of the flu vaccine this year, and detailed why everyone should be wearing masks. 

The response from readers has been positive, overall. One reader wrote to McBride telling her, “I'm a tough nut to crack — if you can reach me, you can reach anyone.” 

McBride says she doesn’t think the COVID-19 pandemic is going away soon, and neither is her newsletter. Yet, her newsletter is no longer going to focus solely on the pandemic: She says she wants to help her readers think about their own physical and mental health in a broader way. 

“To me, health is not just about seeing your doctor once a year and checking the boxes,” McBride says. “The big takeaway is that we need to think about health in a much broader way than we currently do, that the pandemic provides us a moment to reimagine what health and healthcare look like.”