Is Dr. Amy Acton the Pandemic's Most Midwestern Hero? Glamour Magazine Thinks So


  • The Ohio Channel

In an interview released today, Glamour magazine asks: Is Amy Acton the Pandemic's most Midwestern hero?

The story, by Ohio-based writer Sarah Stankorb, tees up the argument this way: "Ohio Governor Mike DeWine broke with the GOP, saved thousands of lives, and is earning record bipartisan approval. You can thank Ohio State Health Director Amy Acton for that."

In the piece, Stankorb examines the relationship between DeWine — a Republican career politician — and Acton, a frank, relatable medical professional and former organizer for President Barack Obama. She writes, "Ohio is where it is now—tenuously having flattened the curve and reopening in phases—because DeWine had the wisdom to heed Acton’s expertise and put her recommendations into action. And Acton trusted her intuition not just because of what she saw in the data but because she has, as she puts it, a 'danger meter that goes off quicker than the average person.'"

Stankorb touches on Acton's popularity, the fan clubs, the cartoons and the little girls who dress up in white lab coats pretending to be her.

She writes:

"In Ohio she’s become something of a folk hero for her frank discussion of what we do and do not know about coronavirus. Her state orders and emphatic, empathetic check-ins have helped Ohioans pace the transmission of the virus. In a representative appearance in the first few weeks of the pandemic, she acknowledged, 'We all…need to learn to live through something we’ve never dealt with before.' Acton has been called the real MVP of Ohio’s coronavirus response. Outside of the state, she’s a model for a quieter, unusual kind of leadership—the rare public health expert who has appealed to and been able to establish an alliance with a conservative governor."
She also discusses Acton's troubled childhood. The story talks about Acton's sexual abuse at the hands of one of her mother's partners, her time spent living in a tent, the kindness of strangers who gave her food when they saw she was dirty and hungry, the refuge and warmth of school, and how all of this goes in to her decisions when it comes to shutting down schools or ordering a shelter in place.

And Stankorb discusses the "Open Ohio" protestors — outside the statehouse and outside of Acton's home. Those who think Acton is telling half-truths or that the virus isn't real. Or don't like her because she is "a conspiracist’s triple threat—a scientist, a woman, and Jewish."

Stankorb writes:

Still, success in public health is complicated, Acton admits. In a doctor’s one-on-one interaction with a patient, the task is not simple, but it is straightforward: to help the person heal. But to keep entire cities or states safe, part of doctors’ job becomes communication and messaging, and in our disinformation age, that’s a problem.

“When we do a good job, when we knock it out of the park in public health, people don’t see it, because we’ve prevented something bad from happening,” (Acton) says. With Ohio controlling the spread of the coronavirus relatively well, there are people who believe the entire pandemic is a hoax and “that what’s going on in New York couldn’t absolutely be happening here in Ohio.”
Acton also discusses in her own words what it's like in the state's COVID-19 press conferences and the process of finding her own voice.

“I just hope anyone who reads this or listens to me realizes it’s a lifetime of becoming who you are and finding your voice and knowing where your compass is,” she says.

Channeling that basic instinct—and with the state’s case numbers and death rate guiding her—Acton will determine how Ohio navigates reopening businesses while also limiting transmission.

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