Grinnellian Covid Experiences - Robin Cook Kopelman ’95

“I feel for my patients who are in health care or work in grocery stores. Their fear is palpable.”

June 24, 2020 — Robin Cook Kopelman ’95 is a perinatal psychiatrist and women’s mental health specialist in private practice and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.

Robin Cook Kopelman ’95
    Robin Cook Kopelman ’95

I did telemedicine for almost four years, providing specialized women’s mental health services in northwestern Iowa. Recently, I made a transition to private practice and was excited to be returning to providing in-person care.

On Tuesday, March 10, my son, a first-year student at Grinnell, texted me that students would not be returning to campus after spring break. Grinnell’s early response was a catalyst for our group being prepared to hit the ground running with telehealth before it became a necessity. At the time we thought we were being cautious, but really, it meant we were ready to do telehealth when it seemed an important option just a week later.

I miss seeing patients in person in my office. Having experience with telemedicine has really prepared me for this [moment]. I know how to troubleshoot technical problems; I know how to set up my background; and, specifically for my field, I know how to accommodate for not being able to see the patient’s entire body and losing the input that your sense of smell provides.

Because I work with patients in their homes, their connectivity isn’t always the best, so we run into more disruptions than in our usual care, for sure. My favorite disruption, though, isn’t a bad one — I love seeing my patients’ children and pets.

For many, the pandemic has been a welcome slowing of a busy life that created a different kind of stress for them. This is especially true for my patients who are anxious about leaving their house or being around people. Others don’t feel so alone, now that “everyone is anxious.” This shared experience can be unifying and equalizing.

Read more stories about Grinnellians facing COVID-19 head-on.