About 17 months ago, when Dr. Wint Hun started reading news reports about a coronavirus spreading out of China, and eventually throughout the entire world, she knew she’d be called up to bat at work soon.
At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, the young doctor and La Cañada Flintridge resident works as an infectious disease specialist; since March 2020, she has been a member of the hospital’s infection prevention team to help isolate the coronavirus only to the patients who arrive with it and protect the institution’s health-care workers and other patients. Hun also utilized her expertise at Adventist Health Glendale as well as Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, where she has served as a consult and on-call physician.
And most recently, Congressman Adam Schiff selected her to be among the 2021 Women of the Year for his congressional district, listing her alongside other health-care professionals, volunteers and even Barbara Ferrer — the Los Angeles County director of public health. The congressman hosted the recognized women at a luncheon in LCF in July.
“It was an honor to be there,” Hun said, “and it was a great opportunity to meet all the other outstanding women from our congressional district.”
Schiff, in his announcement, lauded his selections for shouldering the many burdens of the pandemic and highlighted them as remarkable women who work tirelessly to make their communities better.
“Dr. Hun’s fearlessness and expertise emboldened USC Verdugo Hills Hospital’s team, giving them courage to battle the healthcare crisis,” he said. “She was also an indispensable resource to the Infection Prevention team, as it developed rapid isolation and testing protocols to keep patients and staff safe.”
At USC-VHH, Hun and others had to quickly mobilize to develop protocols for isolating COVID-19 patients from the remainder of the hospital’s patients, followed by what to do after interacting with those patients. She said she often had to practice the latter, especially during the multiple surges in caseloads that L.A. County experienced.
“During the surges, I’m seeing 40-50 COVID-19 patients a day,” she said. “Basically, I managed all of the medical treatment and make sure all this medication is necessary for the patients. We’d also go see the patients and offer reassurance to them, which is important. Going to talk to them is really important. I spent a lot of time with patients.
“I would say I saw a majority of the patients there at that time,” Hun added.
What has weighed especially heavy for Hun throughout the crisis, she said, was that she and nurses were often the only people patients could see — and sometimes they were the last.
“It was heartbreaking for the patients and their families, who could not be with their loved ones during their last days,” she said.
Hun was born, raised and educated in Myanmar, growing up in Yangon, the capital. She came to the United States to begin her internal medicine residency at New York University, which she finished in 2015. She relocated west to do her fellowship at UC Irvine. After finishing that in 2017, she joined USC-VHH on the recommendation of a friend at the fellowship.
“Everyone in the hospital is like a family,” she said.
Hun and her husband have lived in LCF since 2018, and she said she appreciates being able to find the small-town atmosphere in the metropolis of L.A.
“We love it here because it’s very peaceful and all of the neighbors are very cheerful, kind and helpful to each other. It’s a small town — quiet and peaceful — and I like that,” she said. “Over there — in Yangon — it’s mostly like New York. We all live mostly in apartments.”
At USC-VHH, Hun worked with other specialists like Mary Virgallito and Patricia Sung to establish infection control and prevention protocols — “USC Verdugo Hills has a very good infection control team,” she said. She added she’s hoping that the current rise in caseloads being caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus fizzles out in comparison to prior surges, which may be possible thanks to vaccinations.
“We were really light for the last few months. The last four or five weeks, we started having patients again and every day. I really recommend everyone get the vaccine to make sure it won’t be worse during the wintertime,” Hun said. “Among our hospitalized patients, over 90% are unvaccinated. We received some breakthrough infections, but overall, they’re doing very well, their hospital stay is very short and they have a better recovery.”
Speaking of those vaccines, the success of the mRNA inoculations produced by Pfizer and Moderna — which utilize a standardized platform that, when combined with a spike protein from the virus, create the treatment — may revolutionize the field, Hun said. The ease of the platform meant that researchers had synthesized a vaccine within weeks of sequencing the coronavirus’ genome, and the positive results from these doses seem to be encouraging additional research for other diseases.
“There are a lot of other vaccines they’re working on for mRNA platform,” Hun said. “We’re hoping in the coming years we can have some more mRNA vaccines.”