When it comes to baseball and COVID-19, the goal is the same: make sure you are safe at home.
No one knows that better than Dr. Phillip Coker ’06.
Coker was a four-year standout for the College of Charleston baseball team, finishing with a .366 average over 221 games. He recorded 289 hits, including 51 doubles, three triples, and seven home runs with 116 RBIs and 74 stolen bases. He was named to the All-Southern Conference second-team selection three times and is a member of the College of Charleston baseball program’s Wall of Fame. Coker’s career is also highlighted by the honor of being the only back-to-back CoSIDA Academic All-American first-team selection in program history.
Nowadays, Coker, who majored in chemistry at CofC before earning his degree in medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina, is helping in the fight against COVID-19.
As an emergency medicine physician at Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Tampa, Florida, Coker is on the front lines of Florida’s fight to test and treat the ever-increasing number of people exposed to the coronavirus.
On a typical day, he examines around 25 people and determines if their symptoms are mild enough for them to self-quarantine at home or if they will require immediate hospitalization.
It is hard and very dangerous work.
“It’s no question that COVID-19 has made work more challenging,” he says.
Recently, Florida has seen a huge spike in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. The state has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of people getting tested for the virus. While it’s good news that more people are getting tested, it also presents a different problem.
The higher testing numbers have resulted in a huge backlog of cases that labs are trying to process. As a result, some people are waiting more than a week for their COVID-19 test results.
“It’s been challenging for patients to have to wait for days to finally get the word on whether or not they have the virus,” says Coker.
Another problem facing Coker is the workplace itself.
“There is always a risk that when you go to work, you could end up contracting COVID-19,” he says.
Coker personally knows several doctors and nurse practitioners that have tested positive for the virus. He says the threat is always in the back of his mind.
And he’s unsure when life will get back to normal. Like most medical experts, he knows a vaccine will be key to ending the pandemic. Currently, there are nearly two dozen possible COVID-19 vaccines that are in various stages of testing around the world.
When that day finally arrives, Coker says he will be excited about no longer having to worry about social distancing. He looks forward to having his 16-month-old son play with friends again and taking the entire family to sporting events.
“I really look forward to doing family things again,” he says.