From the Baseline to the Front Line: Dr. Shyam Shivdasani

Scott Sode | April 08, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced much uncertainty across the country, but one thing it has unequivocally reaffirmed is our respect and adoration for the many officials and health care providers dedicating their lives to keeping others safe. In our new series From the Baseline to the Front Line, we’ll honor members of the USTA Eastern community who also happen to belong to that heroic group. Here we speak with Dr. Shyam Shivdasani (pictured, with wife Shaleen), who saw some of the earliest patients in New York at his internal medicine practice in New Rochelle.


What can you tell us about your experience on the front lines of this epidemic?

Dr. Shivdasani: I’ve been a general internal medicine physician for the last 25 years. It’s been a very hectic time ever since the initial cases started. The epicenter was in New Rochelle, about two miles from my office. I’m so glad the governor [Andrew Cuomo] was able to reinforce a tiny containment area around that epicenter fairly quickly. But ever since [this began], we’ve had people come in with dry cough, low-grade fever, chills, body aches, loss of taste and smell. Some have actually had photophobia, or intolerance to light. We’ve been able to direct a lot of these patients to the board of health in our local community, where they can do COVID-19 testing. Patients with shortness of breath or high-grade fevers, we direct to the hospital.


What should people know about COVID-19?

Dr. Shivdasani: The coronavirus is a droplet infection, but it can linger on surfaces for days—that’s very important for everybody to understand. The average cough can produce 3000 droplets. When we sneeze we can generate 40,000 droplets. The virus can transfer on hands, face, nose, mouth and eyes. It can stay alive for as long as 24 hours on cardboard, up to three days on stainless steel and plastic, and four days on glass surfaces. That includes cell phones. We have to be very careful and make sure we regularly clean our cell phones.

How else can people help?

Dr. Shivdasani: Well, a main focus should be good hygiene. We should be washing our hands for at least twenty seconds numerous times throughout the day. And most important is maintaining social distance which means standing at least six feet or three arm lengths away from each other. Staying at home is key. We must reinforce that on a daily basis. Follow the rules laid out by the government: Only go out for essential needs.


While tennis players are following those rules and staying home, what are some ways they can stay healthy and active?

Dr. Shivdasani: I really think that it is imperative we practice good mind, body and soul coordination during stressful times. Things like yoga, meditation, listening to music, singing…these are all really good relaxation techniques. My wife is actually leading online meditation courses to help some people in our community achieve inner peace. [We also should] make time for physical activity. Lift weights, use the elliptical or stationary bike. Any exercise you can do in front of your television is good. My son has actually been very innovative—he’s developed a mini tennis court on our patio, and we have some small racquets and balls. So we’ve been playing some “mini-tennis”. That gives us some stress relief.


You’ve been an avid tennis player since you were five years old in your native India. What has motivated you to keep playing throughout your life?

Dr. Shivdasani: [When I was a kid] we spent our summers playing tennis at The Cricket Club of India in Mumbai. [I learned] with a wooden racquet! Tennis really helps me clear my head when I have demanding days at work. A good game definitely gives me clarity. I have a good group of tennis friends…we’re a wonderful tennis family…so it’s great for my social life [as well]. My wife and both of my boys—who are now young men—enjoy it too. It’s really a wonderful sport, a sport for life, and I hope to continue playing as long as I am alive on this planet.


USTA Eastern thanks and proudly supports health care professionals for their service. If you know somebody in the USTA Eastern community who should be recognized in "From the Baseline to the Front Line", please contact us.

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