Who’s Zooming Who?

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

The title refers to an Aretha Franklin song and the first time I heard it, I struggled to understand what that even means (it refers to checking someone out). Now it has a new meaning. I remember just a month ago, the FDA Board of Trustees had their first Zoom video call. It seemed like such a novelty then — almost like watching a Brady Bunch intro with squares of talking heads. Little did we know then that this novel way of communicating would now become the standard for so many of us.

In the last month, so much has changed thanks to COVID-19 and our response to it. The saving grace for us is that our technology is up to the task in most cases. My daughter needed to see a doctor for a minor illness. Thanks to telehealth, she “saw” the doctor and got a prescription called in the same day. My wife is a teacher and she has at least weekly and sometimes daily video interaction with her students via technology. I’ve even attended church services virtually through Facebook Live. A different world indeed.

This year, we had a few employees at the FDA who could work remotely. Now, everyone is setup with that ability. It’s a challenge to work remotely, but at least we have that option. There are a few things to remember in this new Zoom Age we’re in now.

First, remember to communicate with others. While social distancing may be around for a while, communication is still essential. I admit, despite my technology background, I like face-to-face communications better. There are so many obvious physical and non-verbal cues you can pick up on in person that are missed when the contact is virtual. However, we have to now relearn the art of communicating intent through texts, emails, phone calls and even through video sessions. Communication now is intentional and likely requires more effort, but do not cease to do it. When communication ceases, people are left to doubt, question and become fearful. Be honest, kind and as positive as you can be.

Secondly, get to those projects that have been “when I get around to it” things. For me, that means clean up my email inbox, organize our shared company file system and review our websites. I do these when they become emergencies, but seldom think of them when other things are happening. It allows you to stay productive and prepare for the time when we’re able to return to our new normal.

And lastly, do not lose your spirit of volunteerism. Dentists are caring and giving people. It saddens me that the Florida Mission of Mercy was postponed, but it was the only option. There are so many other ways you can volunteer. People still have needs. I’m helping my wife’s teacher friends with technology. I’m advising churches who are forced to go online how best to do it. I am assisting my daughters’ friends who now take all college classes online. I’m using my gifts to benefit others. I’ve always wanted to help others, and I’m not going to let COVID-19 stop me from doing just that.