May 6, 2020—Dressed in a full hazmat suit, Angeli Maun Akey, M.D. ’93, approaches a car parked in front of her internal medicine practice, North Florida Integrative Medicine. At the steering wheel is one of the 6,000 patients she and her team of four health care professionals treat, who has driven up to receive COVID-19 testing. The test takes a few minutes, and the patient drives off to await their results.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the nation in March, Akey recognized the need for a safe method to test her patients, many of whom have health issues like hypertension and diabetes that make them more vulnerable to complications should they contract the virus. She developed drive-through testing procedures, and out of the 104 patients that have driven up, five tested positive for COVID-19.
Akey — who’s been in private practice in Gainesville for the last 21 years — says ensuring the health and safety of her patients is her top priority, and the 80-hour weeks she’s been working over the last two months are a testament to her care for her patients. In addition to COVID-19 testing, Akey has created personalized health plans for her most vulnerable patients.
“I love my patients. I’ve grown to know them over the years and have seen them through marriages, divorces, retirement, everything in life,” says Akey, who serves as a physician and the medical director for North Florida Integrative Medicine, Ageless Medical Solutions and FIRRIMup™ Doctors. “When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, I moved into protective mode. I’ve seen terror in my patients’ faces. I try to be a light in the darkness.”
Each week over the last two months, Akey has held a virtual town hall meeting during which she responds to questions and concerns submitted through phone calls or an email inbox specifically set up for COVID-19 queries.
“Our team was experiencing a high call volume and a lot of confusion. I didn’t want there to be a barrier between the questions my patients had and the science and advice we could offer,” Akey says.
When Akey realized that many patients shared the same fears and confusion, she decided to present information in a more definitive format: her book “Kick COVID-19 To The Curb: The Go-To Guide For Fortifying Your Immune System” was published this month as an e-book and audio book. Co-written with a colleague, Kathleen O’Neil-Smith, M.D., the book covers topics like the virus that causes COVID-19, the body’s immune system and how it can be fortified to combat viruses, a guide to self-monitoring symptoms and the steps to take if you become sick.
In the book, Akey often uses analogies to help patients make sense of the complex science involved in viral transmission and immunity.
“These are everyone’s questions. To answer these questions, I used stories to make this understandable for non-STEM audiences,” Akey says. “For example, your body is a castle and you are king of the castle and must protect it.”
Akey has long held a passion for caring for those in need. During her time as a UF medical student, she and other students from the class of 1993 helped established the College of Medicine student-run free clinic. Today the Equal Access Clinic Network continues its original mission of providing free care for Gainesville’s medically vulnerable and underserved.
Akey says the love for practicing medicine runs in her family. Her mother, Alicia Maun, M.D., now retired, worked as a physician at the UF Student Health Care Center for decades. Her brother, Noel Maun, M.D., Ph.D. ’95, is an oncologist in Venice Island, Florida.
“My mother has always been my role model as a doctor. She taught me that your day doesn’t end at 5 p.m. You’re available to patients. Lately, I’ve felt that need to be a mother hen to my practice,” Akey says. “Medicine is about loving your patients and being committed as a professional to staying up to date on the science. You bring those two skills together to practice the art and science of medicine.”