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2021 12 People: Dr. Robin Trotman

Ready for Combat

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There was a point during Dr. Robin Trotman’s education when he wasn’t certain of the path in medicine he would follow.

It wasn’t until his residency at the University of Missouri in Columbia, that his focus crystallized. He credits Bill Salzer, an infectious disease professor at the time, and others at Mizzou for the powerful impact on his career.

Trotman describes them as “extraordinary clinicians, the we-can’t-find-out-what’s-wrong kind of guys, and that appeals to me,” he says.

Trotman, 48, says in addition to solving medical mysteries, he’s drawn by the diverse variety of issues he sees.

But nothing in his career compares with being an architect of CoxHealth system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and serving as one of seven doctors on Gov. Mike Parson’s advisory panel to establish policy and prepare for the surge.

Trotman says his alarm bells starting ringing after the first case was reported in January. He turned to a friend in Washington, whom he describes as a thought leader in the field.

“We were in prep mode, and he was swimming in it,” Trotman says.

Trotman essentially shut down his practice in the spring to turn his full attention to preparing Cox for what was coming.

The first order of business was establishing an incident command that would bring together the leaders of various departments.

“We always have a rolling agenda of items that have to be dealt with,” he says.

In the beginning, it was all about prepping employees, securing personal protective equipment and staying on top of the science, he says.

In hindsight, he says the hard stuff really wasn’t so hard – they got needed equipment, more space to treat patients and met other tangible needs.

“I’m gifted with incredible hospital leadership,” he says. “I’m not operating under a carte blanche setup, but I’m blessed with having the resources I need. That’s a major luxury.”

The hardest thing turned out to be intangible.

“The biggest problem that I’ve seen so far is public mistrust of science and health care and misinformation that is so easily and rapidly deployed,” he says.

Trotman says the pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities in American society.

“We’re learning in real time that engendering trust and public sentiment is crucial for the next battle that we have to face,” he says. “We have to learn from this, and we can’t have a divided population when our goals are shared. We all want to go to football games. We all want to eat Mexican food. We all have the same North Star, but we have to learn how to not become so divided.”

Trotman expresses hope for the time ahead.

“I want people to have hope and see the end in sight,” he says.

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