The Showcase Magazine - Salutes

Throughout the pandemic, Watchung Pediatrics has been at the forefront of caring for the children and families of our community. Two of their newest pediatricians, Dr. Alexander Marcus and Dr. Kandy Bahadur, explained the incredible safety measures that Watchung Pediatrics has implemented to protect patients and staff as well as additional screenings instituted during well visits to combat food insecurity.

Dr. Alexander Marcus describes how everyone at Watchung Pediatrics is taking every precaution in order to keep their patients safe. He mentions how all staff are required to be double masked at all times. Social distancing measures have been implemented. Good hand hygiene is stressed and additional hand sanitizing stations have been set up around the offices. Dr. Marcus states “staff members undergo a symptom screening daily and anyone with COVID-like symptoms is sent home immediately in order to reduce risk”. Additionally, Watchung Pediatrics separates the sick visits from the well visits, in fact, the Warren location has a separate building next door just for sick visits. Families are screened for COVID-19 over the phone the day before their appointment and at the door upon arrival. Dr. Marcus specifies that “high-risk families, those who fail the screening but still need to be seen for a well visit, are isolated in certain exam rooms with specific precautions that are separate from the rest of the offices”. In addition to implementing strict safety measures, Watchung Pediatrics is doing their part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. He states, “We are administering rapid and/or PCR COVID testing on patients who need it and we also offer family members, who are not our patients, the opportunity to get rapid tests”. Dr. Marcus discusses how proactive testing of patients and family members who are worried about exposure helps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

While parents might be worried about coming into their offices during the pandemic, Dr. Marcus explains the importance of routine well visits. He affirms that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages families to adhere to routine schedules even during the pandemic”. Well child visits include essential developmental and behavioral screenings which are vital for children as well as routine vaccinations. Dr. Marcus discusses how vaccines are vital in protecting children and delaying vaccinations puts them at a higher risk for developing disease. Dr. Marcus mentions “Watchung Pediatrics follows all guidelines from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics”.

Routine well child visits also allow for screening of social determinants of health, including food insecurity, which has only worsened with the pandemic. Dr. Kandy Bahadur, the program coordinator for nutrition and food insecurity at Watchung Pediatrics, describes how “it is important for pediatricians to follow up with patients regularly in order to screen for food insecurity; due to the pandemic, we are identifying a lot more families who are experiencing food insecurity”. Food insecurity means “access to adequate food is limited due to constrained resources and a family’s source of food is threatened because they do not have enough resources to buy the nutritionally adequate food they need to thrive”. Dr. Bahadur states a positive response to one or both vital screening questions indicates food insecurity and

should prompt a clinician to ask additional questions. She says that even though it is a sensitive topic, it is extremely important to discuss because 11.2 million children, or every 1 out of 7, are at risk for hunger because of food insecurity, based on a Feeding America study and this number has only increased with the pandemic. She reminds us that “it is important to universally screen all patients because hunger hides in many different ways and you cannot tell hunger just by looking at someone”. The providers at Watchung Pediatrics want to do everything they can to keep the children and families of our community healthy and well.