Doing our Part in the Fight Against COVID-19

By John J. Reilly, Jr., MD

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(October 2020) When the pandemic took hold earlier this year, the members of our School of Medicine community stepped forward to do their part.

Jake Fox was completing his fourth-year of medical school training last spring when in-person learning was suspended.  

“I was supposed to start a palliative care rotation on Monday, and I can’t, and I won’t get those skills,” he told a New York Times reporter in March. “That said, what we are doing is very purposeful. Doing something meaningful now supersedes that disappointment.”

Instead of the usual training, Jake was one of more than 300 student volunteers from our campus to provide aid at hospitals, elder-outreach programs, and the local Salvation Army. Some were on hand to accept donated cleaning supplies and other items at a drop-off site set up in the parking lot of the Broncos football stadium.

Meanwhile, our faculty prepared to provide extra help in UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital for the expected extra patients.

Tyler Anstett, DO, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine, and Kasey Bowden, MSN, FNP, assistant professor of medicine and associate clinical director of hospital medicine, helped coordinate efforts that prepared providers who mostly work in outpatient clinics for shifts in the hospital. More than 100 physicians and advanced practice providers responded to the call for help.

Our laboratory teams looked for ways to address shortages of personal protective gear.

One example: With printers from the lab of Caley Orr, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Tyler Johnson, who was second-year student in our Modern Human Anatomy program, produced headbands for protective face shields. Caley said, “We’re just one of the cogs in the wheel doing our little part.”

Our campus also is participating in the major national clinical trials to test potential vaccines.

In July, the School of Medicine announced that with our partner UCHealth we are recruiting 1,000 qualified patients into a clinical trial for the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine. The emphasis of this vaccine trial is on demonstrating its efficacy in people who are most at-risk for contracting and becoming ill from COVID-19. Thomas Campbell, MD, professor of medicine, is a leader of that effort.

Our campus also was an early leader in using convalescent plasma as an experimental treatment to treat some who were sick with COVID-19. Kyle Annen, DO, assistant professor of pathology and medical director at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Blood Donor Center, led those efforts.

While we are still far from a resolution to this pandemic, we can draw inspiration from our colleagues who are putting in the extra effort that is required to improve the health and quality of life for others. The pandemic has tested the systems we have built to serve society, but through hard work, intelligence, and resilience, we are contributing to make our conditions better.

We remain grateful for your support and we look forward to calmer times when we can gather again to celebrate the School of Medicine. I hope you and your family, friends, and colleagues remain safe and healthy.

 

With warm regards, 

John J. Reilly, Jr., MD
Richard D. Krugman Endowed Chair
Dean, School of Medicine
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
University of Colorado

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