Latest News

San Diego County CMO vigorously leads COVID-19 response team


A colleague’s perspective

Kristi L. Koenig, MD

Dr. Kristi L. Koenig

Kristi L. Koenig, MD, medical director of emergency medical services for the County of San Diego, characterized Dr. Yphantides’ management style as collaborative. “Under his leadership, we have the perspective of ‘just focus on patient care, get it done, be creative, work together as a team,’ ” said Dr. Koenig, who coedited the textbook, “Koenig and Schultz’s Disaster Medicine: Comprehensive Principles and Practices” (Cambridge University Press, 2016). “He’s decisive and he’s responsive. You don’t have to wait a long time to get a decision, which is very important right now because this is so fast moving.”

Dr. Koenig, who has worked with Dr. Yphantides for 3 years, said that she routinely feeds him information that might help the team navigate its response to COVID-19. “For example, if I see an idea for how to get more [personal protective equipment] and feed it to him, he might have a contact somewhere in a factory that could make the PPE,” she said. “We work together by my reminding him to keep it within the incident command system structure, so that we can coordinate all the resources and not duplicate efforts.”

He uses his personal connections in a way to implement ideas that are beneficial to the overall goal of decreasing morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Koenig added.

Predictions for San Diego County

Dr. Yphantides said he considers San Diego to still be in the calm before the storm and that he is working hard to “board up his community.” The county CMO is also trying to prepare the health care delivery system to optimize its capacity, of doing interventions with hopes of lowering the curve and enhancing the capacity, he said.

When the storm hits, “it’s going be brutal, because we’re going to lose life,” Dr. Yphantides said.

“I am praying that maybe by some of our efforts, instead of a Category 5 storm, it’ll be a Category 3 storm,” he remarked.

The future of health care

Dr. Yphantides views the COVID-19 pandemic as “an absolute game-changer” in terms of what the future of health care delivery will look like in the United States. “Whether the right word is the ‘Amazonification’ of health care, or the ‘Uberization’ of health care, I don’t know, but the essence of how we deliver care is radically being transformed literally before our eyes,” he said. “I would encourage my colleagues to embrace that” and take care of their people by doing whatever it takes under this unprecedented paradigm.

Meanwhile, Dr. Yphantides braces for a potential surge of COVID-19 cases in San Diego County in the coming weeks. He honors the memory of his dad, and he expresses thanks for his mom, who cares for his two teenaged daughters while he helps steward the region’s response to the pandemic.

“Without my mom I could not function in the way that I’m currently functioning,” he said. “So, when you add all of those factors up, and wrap it with a bowtie of sincere love and passion for my community, there’s a fire that’s burning inside of me right now.”

[email protected]

Next Article: