Masked doctors wear pictures of themselves to connect with patients

HANFORD, Calif. -- Safety is the number one priority for doctors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but safety equipment like masks have had an unforeseen consequence: they're having a harder time connecting with their patients.

A program called Faces Behind Masks is trying to fix that.

"It helps them make that connection with us," said Dr. Gurvinder Kaur, who works at Adventist Health in Hanford. She and other doctors at the site are wearing portraits of themselves on top of their personal protective equipment to let patients see their faces.

"We're used to establishing trust between us and the patient using not only verbal communication, but nonverbal communication," Dr. Kaur said, saying that a lack of trust can lead to issues with following treatment directions. "The patients are best able to trust us when they can see us."

According to their website, Faces Behind Masks began in Israel and is now active in 35 countries. When Hanford printer Bret Brakeman heard about the initiative, he wanted to bring it to Central California.

The website automatically generates a label, sends a PDF to me, grab those, download them and run them four on a sheet," Brakeman said at Art Print Services in Hanford. "We give every doctor at least 50 stickers... I've probably got enough stock to do 120 doctors worth."

Brakeman was able to work with other suppliers to get supplies donated for the stickers and he donates his time, meaning the stickers are completely free for Adventist Health. Brakeman says that was an easy decision though; his wife has been cared for at Adventist Health multiple times and he's had surgeries there as well.

"It just seemed like a great way to try to contribute a little bit," he said. "A smile goes a long ways."

The ability to connect with them and hear their life stories... I think every time I see patients, I grow as a person. It's very gratifying," Dr. Kaur said.

The stickers are currently being created for providers who care for COVID-19 patients at Adventist Health hospitals throughout the Central Valley. To learn more about Faces Behind Masks or to get involved, click here.