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Heroes in the Community: Dr. Steven Gilchrist from Novant Health

Gilchrist a "Coach" in Fight Against COVID-19

By Sam Perley

Dr. Steven Gilchrist works as a lead physician at Novant Health Steelecroft Primary Care, and like everybody else in the medical community, his work life has been completely upended in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. But Gilchrist is also taking on another role to help his patients better understand and navigate these uncertain times. 

“I’m a big sports guy and I’ll tell all my patients to look at it like I’m your coach,” said Gilchrist. “This is a partnership. I can’t win if you don’t play. That’s our attitude, particularly with Novant. We’re guns slinging, we’re not shying away, we’re not backing down from the virus because we have to win and we will defeat it. We need all the players on the team to play their role which means that we are serious about the stay-at-home policy.”

Originally from the northeastern area of North Carolina, Gilchrist and his wife, Tisha, relocated to Charlotte 13 years ago after living in Virginia Beach. “We found Charlotte and we were like, ‘This is it. This is our home,’ he said. Gilchrist has been with Novant ever since and is currently working day and night on the front lines to get a handle on the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“My day-to-day has been flipped upside down from left to right and side to side,” he explained. “On a daily basis, we used to take care of very sick people, very healthy people all together and try and make the world a better place. Right now, we’re in straight survival mode for those who need us the most. We still have the responsibility of taking care of patients that we normally would see in the office. Some of us are on the video live taking care of patients from their homes. If there’s an emergency and we have to see you in the office, we will.” 

He added, “My day-to-day includes anything from seeing a really, really sick kid that absolutely needs to be seen today to swabbing somebody for coronavirus in the parking lot. It’s super unpredictable and we’re just grateful we can provide a service to the community. We’re going to still stay committed. If we have to meet you in the parking lot to give you an extra swab, we’ll do it. If we have to work on you on a Saturday which we’ve started doing now, we’ll do that. Whatever you need at this unprecedented time, we are committed and we’re well-trained for it.”

Gilchrist says that dealing with the coronavirus itself isn’t so much the issue, but rather the strain it puts on the medical community in conjunction with non-COVID-19-related situations.

“If it was just coronavirus and coronavirus only, we could probably do that with our eyes closed,” he stated. “Just give us enough equipment and the right testing tools and we’ll take care of it. Our biggest challenge is taking care of the rest of the community because they have questions. They have diabetes, general illnesses, allergies. Our operating rooms are still operating only on emergency basis only.”

“I think our community has grasped staying home and letting the virus die down. I think we’ve done a really good job with that. This is a mentally and physically grueling challenge. I always wondered when I was in training why in the world they were making us work 80 to 120 hours a week. That should not happen, but now I see why. 

Gilchrist was in his sixth season as a Swarm 365 member before the NBA halted play on March 11 and like many in and around the organization, can’t wait to see what lies ahead for the Hornets.

“I was super excited about this season, but probably more excited about what’s to come in the future,” he said. “Our guys are just high energy. I can’t say enough about Devonte’ Graham and how he has stepped up. To see him come from the G League to one of the premier players in the NBA, it’s just amazing. I can say the same thing for about four or five of the guys. I think there was a buzz in the city about the Hornets and how they’re showing up. This was probably the most exciting Hornets team I’ve seen in the last five years.”

Sports play a huge role in the Gilchrist family, which also includes 17-year-old son Jalen and 11 and 8-year-old daughters Kennedy and Raegan. But like many in this new stay-at-home normal, the five are finding ways to stay busy and in some ways, make up for lost time in the process. 

“This is a bittersweet time for us because my son is a high school senior and he’s getting ready to transition on over to college. With my career, I’ve worked a lot and coached him a lot, but these are those last few moments before he goes away. We’re catching up on video games, working out, riding bikes, baking pizzas. There’s probably never going to be another time in our life, my kids’ lifetime or even my grandkids’ lifetime when we’ll see the world stop for three or four months. We’re filling the time, but we definitely miss sports, especially my Hornets.” 

Hornets basketball and other sports will eventually return and with first responders like Dr. Steven Gilchrist fighting daily against the pandemic, they’ll be met by a safer, healthier community when they do. 

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