Dr. Michael Szabo

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Michael Szabo is an emergency physician at University Health Network in Toronto and a lecturer in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr. Szabo has over 20 years’ experience providing front-line medical care. He also has an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University.

Dr. Szabo has an interest in preventative health care and the business case for corporate health and wellness. He is the former medial director of Magna International and has extensive experience with providing executive and concierge health care as well as expert medical second opinions.

Why it’s best to avoid getting COVID-19

“Why are we forcing everyone in society to abide by public health measures like masking, physical distancing and limiting their social contacts?” “Isn’t it better for all low risk people to get infected so we can achieve herd immunity?” “High risk people, or those who are concerned, should stay home but we should let all others get back to their normal lives to keep the economy going.” “Facts, not fear” These are some of the many statements I have read on social media and in my own social circles. We are living in a very difficult time. Yes, that’s the understatement of the year. Many of us are frustrated by having to adhere to the public health measures of hand washing, avoiding indoor spaces, avoiding social gatherings, wearing a face mask and physical distancing. It is not easy to live our lives this way. It all happened so suddenly. We…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 8: Staying The Course by Dr. Michael Szabo

Summer is officially in full gear now. Isn’t it great? Warm weather is here! Backyard barbeques, long walks outside, swimming and picnics. But we all know it isn’t completely like old times, there’s still a little something different, right? COVID-19, the pesky little virus we’ve come to know all too well, is still around. In Canada, we’ve done very well to minimize the spread of this virus. The majority of us have done an excellent job at following the public health guidelines to physically distance, wash our hands, avoid others if we are unwell and to wear a mask when appropriate. We look to our neighbours in the south and can see what occurs when the guidelines aren’t followed, and we don’t want that to happen to us. However, it’s tough to believe that we need to be vigilant when most of us don’t know people who are getting infected and we hear…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 7: Being Patient in a Challenging Time by Dr. Michael Szabo

Remember back in early to mid-March when the reality of COVID-19 was sinking in? Before that point, we knew it was an issue of concern, but we didn’t think it was much to stress over. However, we slowly began to realize that the virus was spreading in the community in North America. We heard horror stories from hospitals in Italy, where health care staff were overwhelmed. We began to see the same thing happening in New York City. All of a sudden, it changed, and our lives were altered dramatically. We immediately went into lockdown. We didn’t leave the house unless absolutely necessary. March Break vacations were cancelled. Restaurants and stores were shut down. Schools were closed. We started working from home. We carefully wiped down our groceries and washed our hands obsessively. I listened to a podcast recently where one of the speakers likened it to what happens when someone…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 6: Wearing masks properly by Dr. Michael Szabo

The decision by public health authorities on whether or not to recommend the use of face masks was a difficult one. One of the biggest reasons was that educating the public on how to safely wear a face mask is challenging, because of the many details involved. During my recent forays into the public, here are the top 5 issues I have seen with people wearing masks:  Pulling the face mask down over your chin.  This is probably the number one mistake.  After wearing a mask while outside for a walk or going to the grocery store, you may need to talk to someone more clearly, eat or just “want a break” from it – so you pull it down over your chin. By doing this, you effectively contaminate yourself with any virus particles that were on your mask prior to that. The rule is once you put your mask…

[Battling COVID-19 Episode 5] A Vaccine for Coronavirus: Are We There Yet? By Dr. Michael Szabo

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented effort by scientists around the world to develop a vaccine. Vaccines are important to protect us where the risks of natural infection are significant. COVID-19 is a more deadly and dangerous virus than the flu. While we still do not have definitive data on the true risks of infection with COVID-19, one can safely say that places like New York City or Italy have never seen a flu season similar to what they are currently going through. Since mid-March, more than 60,000 people have lost their lives in the United States due to COVID-19. It is important to note that this has happened despite the institution of public health measures like physical distancing, quarantines and self-isolation. If not for these, thousands more would have died. Is Allowing Natural Infection a Good Option? One way to protect the population is to allow…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 4: Why we need to keep physical distancing By Dr Michael Szabo

In Canada, our efforts to flatten the curve are going well. Thankfully, we haven’t seen the same surge of cases that hit New York City, Italy and Spain. Don’t get me wrong, those of us on the front lines here have seen a lot of cases, but so far, our health care system hasn’t been overwhelmed. While our good fortune has much to do with our heeding of public health guidelines, collective uptake of physical distancing rules and staying home as much as possible, I’m still a little worried. There is something about our human nature that concerns me. At times, public health strategies can become the victims of their own success. Vaccines are a great example. The incidence of diseases that were once part and parcel of everyday life has been greatly reduced, and in some cases, eradicated completely with the advent of vaccination. As we don’t see these…

[Battling COVID-19 Episode 3] Face Masks in a COVID-19 World: To Wear or Not to Wear? By Dr. Michael Szabo

Should we wear a face mask when out in public right now? It’s a question many people have since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its new recommendation that people wear face masks when leaving their homes. Canada’s chief public health officer has echoed the recommendation. There is confusion because the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada had initially suggested that face masks not be worn in public. The flip-flop in recommendations has triggered many questions. It’s important to understand that, in a complex and evolving situation as this, it can be quite difficult to set a firm policy. As the situation changes, the risks and benefits of recommendations are constantly re-evaluated. In a way, it’s reassuring that agencies aren’t being rigid and are revising their guidelines based on the best available information, with the goal of keeping us all safe. However, the reason behind…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 2: From the Front Lines with Dr. Michael Szabo

With the increasing number of COVID patients presenting themselves to hospital emergency departments across Toronto, it’s a regular occurrence for me to come across several suspected cases while I’m working. Most are well enough to go home, but some are so sick that they need to be admitted. I find myself checking in on the test results of patients I have sent home, breathing a sigh of relief with each negative and feeling a knot in my stomach with each positive. The challenge with being an emergency doctor is that we see a lot of the bad outcomes. They are our reality. During a pandemic, it begins to feel to us like “everyone is dying” – but not everyone is. In fact, the majority of people recover from the virus. The increase in positive results will not only usher in a new reality but hopefully will reduce my own anxiety…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 1: From the Front Lines with Dr. Michael Szabo

Recently, I’ve been working quite a bit in the emergency room of the hospital where I’ve served as a staff physician for the past 20 years in downtown Toronto. There are many positive things happening at the hospital: Everyone is working together to prepare for all the challenges that lie ahead. We’re all connecting with co-workers in ways that are meaningful and inspirational. The strength of the human spirit is alive and well. And we know that we will get through this difficult time and be better for it.We’re starting to see a number of cases of very sick patients with COVID-19 at the hospital. Yes, most of them are older folks over 70, often with chronic health problems. But I’m going to be real with you. We’re seeing some young and otherwise healthy people becoming very sick – sometimes, critically. It’s important to realize that these cases are rare…

Let’s Talk about the Real Flu

I saw a post on Twitter the other day and it really made me laugh. It truly hits the mark on the reality of having a bad case of influenza (“the flu”). The flu is nothing like a typical cold or mild upper respiratory infection. It is not a stuffy nose, sore throat, and some mild muscle aches. You are sick. And I mean really sick. You can feel like you were hit by a train, or the other analogy I hear all the time is feeling like you were hit by a transport truck. You have a bad cough. Your muscles hurt so much you can barely walk. You just want to lie in bed all day and you begin to feel like you will never be “normal” again! I have even heard people tell me they think they are dying. Misconceptions about the flu A big problem is…