CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – A doctor at UNC who recovered from COVID-19 is back to work not only to heal patients but also to help his fellow healthcare workers. He’s created an app to help healthcare workers and first responders monitor their mental health and find support.

Dr. Sam McLean experience fears common to healthcare works while he worked in the hospital’s coronavirus unit early in the pandemic.

“Fears of getting COVID yourself, or even much greater fears of giving it to someone you love,” he explained.

In his case, both of those fears came true. McLean caught the virus and gave it to his wife and son. After a few weeks, he and his family recovered. But, as the pandemic rages on, seeing people suffer and die of the virus continues to haunt healthcare workers.

“So many faces come to mind of people we cared for who didn’t make it, or all of the tragedies we’ve seen of people struggling to breathe,” McLean said. “It’s hard, and seeing the numbers rise is very difficult.”



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That’s why he created the Heroes Health app. The goal is to help health care workers and first responders monitor their mental health and find support. UNC researchers worked with Google and other universities to develop the app, which tracks mental health symptoms or concerns and connects health care workers with resources to help them cope. It also works in partnership with organizations like hospitals to give an overall picture of how healthcare workers are doing and what support they may need.

The app is free to healthcare workers and first responders.

“We had a burnout problem in healthcare prior to COVID, and if we don’t take care of ourselves and our communities, we will lose our single most sophisticated (and) precious piece of equipment in the hospital, which is our healthcare workers,” McLean said. “There’s a saying in medicine, ‘If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to take care of anybody else.’”