Southern Hospitality On The Front Line of COVID-19

Southern Hospitality On The Front Line of COVID-19

Words by Erwin M. Davis II

Doing an interview in the food-court of the mall isn’t how I like to conduct business. However, with COVID protocol still in place all over the region, the options for traditional meeting spots were limited. As I perused the gallery of face-covered conversations and socially-distant strides, I found myself wondering the strangest thing: can you break your butt-bone?

Enter, Mackenzie Smith; a 23-year-old lady of the South and one of many irreplaceable front-line workers in today’s intensely demanding medical field. Mackenzie works as a pediatric orthopedic medical assistant at one of Chattanooga’s largest hospitals. An alumni of Georgia’s Mercer University, she in the middle of her second year in the role. Much like her former cohorts, she finds herself in the middle of an uphill battle with managing her job as a care-giver while balancing on the electrified-cable that is the coronavirus outbreak.

Smith says that dealing with the current situation can be stressful and enlightening for members of the medical community, “It’s brought everyone to the forefront of importance, because at the end of the day our goal is to help the patient.” Although the country is on the back-end of the initial outbreak, hospitals can still face challenges as they adhere to local and state regulation for distancing. “Our patients are put in positions where they are the most safe and protected,” she says, “We’ve done everything possible to ensure that, above all else, they are taken care of and kept out of harms way.” Mackenzie says that the pandemic can make it difficult to give the personable-care that is needed in every situation, but credits her southern roots with her ability to connect no matter the medium.

“I think—and I hate how cliche it sounds but—southern hospitality during times like these is so valuable,” she says as she ignites the conversation with her infectious smile, “I truly believe that being from the South and having that sense of genuine compassion for how someone’s day is going is a huge part of helping patients feel comfortable even over a zoom or Skype call.” Mackenzie also credits her coworkers’ willingness to work as a team at all times as a defining trait of southern medical care. “We’re all a team. Everyone is important and every part of the process is crucial to ensure the patient’s safety.”

She echoes this sentiment in a recent essay she’s written for her Occupational Therapy studies, “Throughout the experiences that I have had within my life, I have the opportunity to interact and form relationships with numerous other human beings from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and livelihoods than that of my own. I feel that these experiences have shaped my perspective on a personal basis as well as professionally when it comes to daily living, as they not only expose me to various aspects of different cultures that I am unfamiliar with, but they also allow for me to expand my understanding of the individual and their circumstances.”

Mackenzie is one of the many individuals fighting the ultimate fight as we begin to rebuild our medical infrastructure after a year of COVID. She, like her contemporaries, does not let the circumstances of our world alter her view of what is important: people helping people. If the ear-to-ear grin and squinted-eye-smile weren’t enough to show you that she truly loves her job, then her response to my question at the end of our conversation should: “Yes! It’s called a coccyx and you can, indeed, break your butt-bone.”