In the News 

(May 2020) Reporters locally and nationally turn to the School of Medicine for expertise and research news. Here are examples from near and far.

Marc Moss, MD, professor of medicine and head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, was quoted in the Colorado Sun in March with remarks from a news conference with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis: “The COVID patients we are treating are on average in their 40s and 50s and some are as young as 19 years old. Many of these patients were healthy with no other preexisting conditions. This pandemic can affect anyone.”

Adit Ginde, MD, professor of emergency medicine, was quoted in The New York Times in March, in an article about whether it is useful to wear masks in public. “I still believe that masks are primarily for health care workers and for those who are sick to help prevent spreading droplets to others,” he said. “However, I do believe that for limited circumstances when individuals must be in close quarters with others, a correctly positioned mask or other face cover for a short duration could be helpful.”

Haley Desjardins, MD, a first-year surgical resident, talked in March with 9News, the Denver NBC affiliate, about doing surgical consults with the emergency department and her concerns that younger people need to take the risk of coronavirus more seriously: “We’ve seen this infection hit the younger population in a way that we don’t typically see the influenza virus or some of these other viruses we tend to associate with the elderly population.”

Sean O’Leary, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, in March explained to Colorado Public Radio the rationale for stay-at-home orders to confront the threat of coronavirus. “We’re all in this together, the more we can practice social distancing, we really need to do our best with that,” he said. “The more we do that, the more slowly this virus can spread.”

Stephen Cantrill, MD, visiting associate professor of clinical practice of emergency medicine, was interviewed by Kaiser Health News for a March article about his role in helping write the first national crisis standard of care recommendations for states to use as a starting point. “The overall goal is to do the most good for the most people,” he said. “This is a way of trying to give some structure, some uniformity and some clarity to those very difficult times.”

Jeffrey Wallace, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics, told Colorado Public Radio in March that restricting access early is a lesson Colorado learned from outbreaks of coronavirus at nursing facilities in Washington state. He expressed concern that staff may not have enough paid time off if they become sick. “These are not great paying jobs. These are stressful jobs, and if there are other factors going on in their lives that make it hard for them to come to work it’s going to be a big strain. Government policies and announcements included having paid leave for these people so that they can take care of themselves and not be out for extended periods.”

Jean Mulcahy-Levy, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, was consulted by the ABC affiliate in Denver to explain how chloroquine, which was considered a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. “[What] chloroquine is doing is blocking the recycling program and therefore blocking building supplies essentially for cancer cells or infected cells or arthritis cells,” she said in March, explaining that the drug is safe. “I’m currently using it in pediatric brain tumor patients.
I wouldn’t choose to do that if I thought it was a dangerous drug. We think it’s safe enough to use on kids.”

Shanta Zimmer, MD, senior associate dean for education and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, was interviewed by The New York Times in March regarding the effects of coronavirus on teaching, including the School’s decision to suspend clinical rotations for at least four weeks. “The most important reason is actually to help preserve PPE,” she said, referring to masks and other protective equipment, “and to let the important front-line providers have access to that.”

Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and director of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, described to National Public Radio the need for hospitals to review how to prioritize patient care if there’s a resource shortage. “This is a worst-case scenario that we’re talking about,” he said in March. “We hope we never get there, but we have to get ready for the worst. And it would be irresponsible not to be getting ready right now because of what we’re seeing in other places around the world where things really have gone very, very badly and where they have run out of equipment, supplies, staff, space, people. So we need to be prepared for that.”

Sean O’Leary, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and an executive member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases, told The New York Times in March: “We’re in the midst of something that no one alive has really experienced before.” With schools closed, parents and guardians need to adapt some rules, such as limitations on screen time, he added. “I think, for better or worse, what’s going to happen is the limits on device time are going out the window.”

Saketh R. Guntupalli, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, explained to the Denver Post in March how preparations for COVID-19 patients was changing clinical care decisions. “Normally in our practice we do like 15, 16 major operations a week,” Guntupalli said. “That has probably been cut in half. We still operate on the most urgent patients, such as ovarian cancer patients. That’s something that can’t wait. But, if the surgery can wait, we’re asking the patients to wait. They’ve been very understanding. We’re using a lot of telemedicine like Zoom or FaceTime, so we can really interact with our patients to keep them out of the hospital and manage their risk.”

Halea Meese, a fourth-year medical student, talked to the Denver-based Fox affiliate in March about how students rallied to community volunteer projects to assist with coronavirus response after the cancellation of Match Day events. She said a “nerve-racking” week was “transformed into excitement over being able to have all of our students helping out and being able to be useful at a time when we feel our health system and our community really needs us.”

Thomas Campbell, MD, professor of medicine, offered advice in March to cancer patients about COVID-19. “It’s important that people with cancer or other chronic illnesses be vaccinated for influenza and take these precautions to protect themselves not only from COVID-19 but also from influenza and other respiratory illnesses that circulate this time of year,” he said on the CBS affiliate in Denver.

Darlene Tad-y, MD, associate professor of medicine, explained to the Denver Post in March the effort to write guidelines for prioritizing coronavirus patients for the Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee. “There may be dire circumstances where our resources are unable or are insufficient to provide optimal care to everyone. Should we reach that moment, I hope community members will feel we have done our due diligence in using the utmost sense of fairness and ethics in what we write.”

Jacob Fox, a fourth-year medical student, was interviewed in March by the Denver-based Fox affiliate about volunteer efforts by students to provide aid during the coronavirus pandemic. “A lot of doctors I’ve worked with say there’s three really memorable days in medical school. The first is when you first see your cadaver your first year in medical school, and then the second one is your Match Day, and the third one is your commencement, your graduation. And we’ve just had those second two kind of taken away from us,” he said. “I think that’s kind distressing and disheartening for a lot of people, but for me that’s been superseded by the feeling I get when I see all my classmates standing up to meet this moment.”

Adit Ginde, MD, professor of emergency medicine, explained how vitamin D helps the body produce antimicrobial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. “If you don’t have adequate vitamin D circulating, you are less effective at producing these proteins and more susceptible to infection,” he told The New York Times in March. “These proteins are particularly active in the respiratory tract.”

Daniel Pastula, MD, MHS, associate professor of neurology, talked to the Denver Post in March about how hospitals in mountain communities were running short of protective gear and other resources need to care for a higher volume of patients. “We’re kind of near capacity in the mountains,” he said. “Anything we can do to slow this down that’s reasonable, we should consider.”

Chris Nyquist, MD, MSPH, professor of pediatrics and medical director for infection prevention and control at Children’s Hospital Colorado, told the Denver Post in February that providers need to be conscious of their use of face masks. “One of the challenges is, nationwide and internationally, there’s limited supplies for the masks, so it’s really important for people to use them appropriately,” she said.

Richard Zane, MD, chair of emergency medicine, told Colorado Public Radio in March that limited personal protective equipment could mean limited treatment for patients. “Under no circumstances are we going to put a healthcare provider in a position where they have to do something dangerous, period. We’re going to do everything possible to protect them, including not putting them in positions where they’re not protected. So having enough healthcare providers is paramount.”

Jason Persoff, MD, associate professor of medicine, discussed wait times for COVID-19 testing with Colorado Public Radio in March. “We have seen a large surge in patient numbers who are being ruled out for COVID, but test centers locally and nationally are so backlogged, turnaround times are now approaching a week.”

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