The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty to the world. Many were turning to health experts for answers, and one reassuring voice was JABSOM Assistant Clinical Professor Dr. Theresa Wee. The 1979 JABSOM graduate didn't just offer medical guidance. Through blog posts, she combines her practical healthcare expertise with personal encounters of loss, resilience, and the guiding presence of faith. Her readers related to her experiences and found comfort and solace in her posts. Now that the worst of the pandemic is likely behind us, Dr. Wee published "My Covid-19 Diary: Practical Tips and Scriptures for Improbable Times from an American Doctor". We sat down with Dr. Wee last week as she shared her goals for the book.
Q: The basis of the book was to reminisce on the blog posts that so many found comforting. What made you decide to start journaling your experiences during the pandemic?
A: The COVID-19 world pandemic lockdown was unprecedented, and no one knew how long it would last. When we first locked down, I wanted to stay in communication with my patients, families, and loved ones. On March 23, 2020, when Governor Ige ordered the first lockdown, I published my first daily blog on social media. I found it comforting to journal my thoughts and decided to do it for one month. I posted it daily, and soon, a growing number of people became regular readers. Some even told me they would wait for it daily, like the Star-Advertiser. I was encouraged to continue writing daily blogs and never ran out of things to write about. I would share an experience, thought, or concern I had that day and say, 'Hey, this is my solution or action I'm taking, which might be helpful for you as well.' I always ended the blog with an uplifting tip or message. I leaned greatly on my faith and shared a scripture from the Bible every day that was comforting for me through these very dark times.
Q: You ended up doing this from March through December of 2020. When did you decide this should become a book?
A: I didn't realize that the publisher of my first book," The Happy, Healthy Revolution- A Working Parent's Guide to Achieve Wellness as a Family," was actually one of my regular readers. In January 2021, she urged me to turn my blogs into this book. I never planned on writing a second book, but many readers encouraged me to do it. After the arduous task of editing, the book was finally released in 2021. Many readers have expressed to me the comfort and help they have received from this book, and I now hope to share the book widely with readers of all ages.
Q: Even though this book chronicles your thoughts and feelings during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, what are some of the takeaways we can still utilize today?
A: We all have good times and dark times. I'm hoping that people can pick up this book at any time and find it helpful or encouraging. There are many valuable tips on maintaining physical health, managing stress, and nurturing mental wellness amid trying times. If you're going through a hard time, you can pick up the book and find some solace and comfort in knowing that maybe there's something much more beyond this life. Perhaps there is something greater than we can even imagine. I want people to know that there is always hope. There's always tomorrow, and not to give up on life today. Adversity may knock us down, but we should not surrender and get back up again.
Q: Your writing style is well-rounded. You offer medical insight, but you also humanize it by talking about your own personal experiences. Then, you add a little sprinkle of spirituality. Is this the recipe for success?
A: I'm a medical doctor, but I'm also a regular human being going through this journey we call life. So, in this book, I shared my feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes that perhaps you may have had. There seemed to be death and suffering all around us, but I looked forward to sharing my blog and special scripture each day. This book is also my testimonial of how God has been by my side through the worst time and loss in my life. My husband and business partner, Dr. Stephen L. Wee, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on June 11, 2010, so I understand the fragility of life. Life can be taken away from you in an instant, but once you understand that, then you begin to learn how to live life fully, and that's what I wanted to convey. We're all in the same circumstances, but we're the lucky ones who can still live on, and we need to be that beacon of hope for other people.
Q: You graduated from JABSOM in 1979, and as an Assistant Clinical Professor, you are still connected with us today, passing along the knowledge you received here to all of our up-and-coming physicians. Can you share the joy you get from doing this?
A: I always look back fondly on my education and training in Hawaiʻi and have so much gratitude to the many people who helped to mentor me when I was in high school, pre-med, and finally, as a JABSOM medical student. I feel that it's now my time to mentor the next generation of physicians of Hawaiʻi.
Q: You also started the very popular Walk with a Doc, which inspired the Walk with a Future Doc. What made you take on that project?
A: The "Walk with a Doc" program is a worldwide program that began in Ohio by a Cardiologist, Dr. David Sabgir, in 2009. It is now in over 35 countries with nearly 600 groups around the world. The purpose of this program is just to get the community healthier by educating, empowering, and getting them to exercise more. As a pediatrician, I have seen the increasing obesity epidemic affecting our nation over the years. I encourage my families to take that first step no matter how overwhelming it feels. My free Walk with a Doc program is for people of all ages and fitness levels. The best part of this program is we get to socially reconnect and be outdoors again in nature while learning a new health tip every week. I've been meeting weekly since 2015, every Saturday at Central Oʻahu Regional Park from 8 to 9 AM, near the tennis courts. We also have a Walk with a Future Doc, where the community can meet and walk with JABSOM students and faculty every fourth Sunday of the month at Kakaʻako Waterfront Park. Additionally, the Family Practice Residency Program at Pali Momi Medical Center started its Walk with a Doc Program last year, and they meet every first Tuesday of the month from 7:3-8:30 AM at the Neal Blaisdell Park in Aiea. Please check out any of these walks and take that first step towards better health today.