NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For Nashvillians and many in the midstate, Dr. Alex Jahangir was a voice of reason during the pandemic. For others, he was the face of government overreach and overreaction. Now more than two years into this COVID fight, the trauma surgeon wrote a book — "Hot Spot: A Doctor's Diary from the Pandemic" — chronicling his experience.
Dr. Jahangir recently sat down with NewsChannel 5’s Carrie Sharp to talk about the book and reflect on his role as part of Davidson County’s Covid-19 Task Force. He said the book was born from a collection of notes he kept during the first year of the pandemic.
“About a year and half in, I went back and started reading through some of the stuff I had written, and I had forgotten so much of the stuff I had personally done and experienced,” he said.
And there was a lot.
Particularly a lot of time spent in the media spotlight. Prior to COVID, Jahangir said he had done just one or two interviews, primarily about athletes who had broken bones. Now, he estimates he’s done as many as 800. But in the beginning of the pandemic, he admitted, not all went well.
“The second-ever press conference was that Friday, and it went horribly. I remember leaving that room and thinking 'what the heck have I gotten myself into?'"
But one press conference turned into many more and Jahangir — later the chair of the Metro Public Health Department Nashville and Davidson County — took on a new role to guide the city's pandemic response.
“Yes, of course, there is that impostor syndrome. I'm not the infectious disease doctor, why am I leading this response? But I think most of us would say this response wasn't an infectious disease response in isolation. It was a crisis management response.”
In his book, Jahangir writes of his three marching orders from Mayor John Cooper.
“I always want you to be honest with me. I want the science to drive it, and be transparent with the public,” he said.
It's a directive he felt he lived up to in what has been a very long, uncharted journey — one that did not come without critics and even some close calls. Jahangir wrote of receiving an award for his leadership from the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. to only be berated and chased from a Nashville bar — by its owner — on the very same night.
“He felt liberated to make his verbal statements to get really angry and throw me out of the bar and follow me out in the parking lot,” he said.
Jahangir said he recognized the pain caused by the pandemic and admits there were mistakes made by the task force.
“I think we could have done better around our new American community, which hurts me a little bit because I’m one of those guys. We didn’t initially do the outreach to the community that we needed to, to provide some of the resources that could have prevented the morbidity and mortality that happened in that community,” he said.
As Jahangir guided the city's COVID response, he never stepped away from the operating room at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It’s where he’s most at ease. But his eyes remained on COVID. He believes the worst of the virus is behind us but worries about the pandemic’s lingering effects on society.
“The entitlement to not be civil, of not believing in science. Those are threads in our fabric of society that I don’t think we need to be pulling on,” he said.
"Hot Spot: A Doctor's Diary from the Pandemic" is available now for pre-order.