Message from Dean Wilkes
The following message was distributed to University of Virginia School of Medicine MD alumni and former housestaff on April 2, 2020.
I sincerely hope this update finds you and your loved ones safe. You are on the front lines of caring for patients under extraordinary conditions. Thank you for doing your work of healing.
At the University of Virginia, our health system leadership team is working around the clock to ensure that our patients and our health care teams are safe; this is our top priority. While we are all working beyond our capacity, our faculty and staff across the board are up to the challenge. Our leadership team, including our new EVP Craig Kent, MD, has hosted two virtual forums for the entire health system in order to update all 13,000 plus UVA Health employees and answer their questions. Given the need to maintain social distance and to interact with team members who are working remotely, these virtual forums have been an important way to communicate.
UVA Health has been diligently preparing for COVID-19 for weeks, well in advance of its arrival. Currently we are well stocked with personal protective equipment (PPE). We are also fortunate to have a newly constructed Bed Tower and are working to make additional beds available in Floors 3, 4 and 5 of our new facility. We expect to open 15 new beds by April 3 and the remainder in May. We are doing our part to conserve the use of PPE so that it is available when the expected surge of COVID-19 hits our region. We are also taking measures to expand our telemedicine capabilities to the ambulatory setting.
I am proud to say that UVA Health was the first medical center in Virginia to develop an in-house test for COVID-19. This is a tremendous achievement, and I want to give credit especially to Drs. Christopher Moskaluk and Amy Mathers for their work in developing the assay. Thanks to a generous $1 million gift from Charlottesville-based Quantitative Foundation, we have scaled up our testing. UVA Health is now offering its newly developed COVID-19 testing to five hospitals across Virginia and one in North Carolina, and Governor Northam has designated UVA as the Commonwealth’s test site.
We moved quickly to an online format for all students – in MD, PhD, MS, and MPH programs – and, at this point, no student should experience a delay due to this change in course delivery. In alignment with AAMC recommendations, medical students are not involved in direct patient care.
The education teams and our faculty as a whole have done a masterful job on a short time frame to implement this transition. The education team has developed (and continues to develop) alternative learning activities. For example, Marcia and Jim Childress created a two-week educational experience on the humanities/ethics of pandemics and did it within 72 hours – the complete course with learning objectives, learning activities, reflective writing, and assessment.
Our students are amazing. The Mulholland Society had set aside funds for a Match Day celebration. Since that could not take place, they asked for permission to buy gift cards to support community businesses that are closed and give them to fourth-year students, residents, and other care providers. They also will give a portion of the funds to a local charity that provides meals to healthcare providers. When we first got word that classes would move online and people were asked to limit their contact with others, they created this video.
As research laboratories gear down, only essential designated personnel will be allowed to work on site, none of whom may be graduate students. Research expenditures have been steady, indicating that investigators have been busy wrapping up projects before they went to skeleton crews for their labs.
We were delighted to see that NIH awards continued to increase in the last few weeks. We learned that the NIH and some other federal agencies are offering some relief for employees who are not able to work. The American Heart Association is allowing pay for up to 60 days for staff who cannot work in the lab.
Finally, I have to offer kudos to the IT and administrative staff who worked long hours to ensure many, many people were set up to work from home. In fact, it is remarkable – but not surprising – how people have come together under extraordinary circumstances. The care providers are working tirelessly and selflessly to prepare for an influx of patients. Despite the stress, everyone is focused on keeping themselves safe to help keep others safe. People are checking in on colleagues and offering encouragement and a kind word.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the School of Medicine, its students, and its programs. Just knowing that you care about our work gives us encouragement. You are important partners in our common passion for improving the health and quality of life for each person. Please stay safe in the weeks ahead.
David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science