April 3, 2020 by
Dean Richard L. Page
Dear Larner Community:
Was it only last week that the Governor ordered us to stay home/stay safe? The days blur together even as our world is changing rapidly. Many of us are adjusting to a life where we almost never go out, and interact with almost nobody in person. Yet thanks to technology, most of us are remarkably connected and much is being accomplished at home. In contrast to those of us sheltering in place, we must remember and thank those of you on the front line, caring for those in need during this unimaginable public health crisis.
In my effort to keep us connected, I want to let you know about some of the activities in our College and how we continue to do our part in terms of education, research, clinical care and service to our community.
Medical Education: The Office of Medical Student Education continues to support our medical students in meeting their medical education requirements, currently through remote non-clinical educational experiences. We are monitoring the clinical environment at our affiliate health care organizations and following the guidance of the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education to determine appropriate timing for students to return to clinical activities.
Research and Graduate Education: Graduate classwork continues to be delivered remotely, and most of our graduate students are working from home. Thank you to the LCOM research community for helping us to achieve the temporary shutdown of all nonessential research laboratory activities over the past week. Your dedication and responsiveness enabled the successful completion of this massive undertaking in a very short time frame. Out of 498 LCOM research personnel, 126 have completed the required application and review processes, and have been deemed essential. Among the essential designees are 51 faculty, 57 staff, and 18 students/trainees. It is especially notable that 55 of these individuals are directly or indirectly supporting COVID-19 investigation or testing.
Clinical Care: Our state is preparing for a surge in COVID-19 that is projected to peak in two or three weeks. Currently there are fewer than twenty cases in the UVM Medical Center. Patrick Gym has been converted to a 100-bed hospital currently slated to first treat suspected cases and then potentially care for those who are infected but do not require ICU care. In addition to those who are already on the front line caring for patients with COVID-19, we must give thanks to our healthcare providers from other specialties who are preparing for potential redeployment to care for patients during the surge.
This crisis has brought out the best of so many in the Larner Community:
The LCOM Cares Service Corp Task Force, made up of medical students, LCOM and UVM MC, faculty and staff, and a graduate student representative, has coordinated many activities, including:
- Collaboration with the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the College of Engineering, to coordinate interprofessional service efforts.
- In partnership with the Teaching Academy, a survey was launched this week and circulated to all students asking them to provide their contact information, availability, and prior experience/expertise in the event of a surge.
- Our LCOM student volunteers are supporting over a dozen community organizations.
- Coordination with the UVM Medical Center and Health Network on service needs and opportunities.
- Recently launched four initiatives in partnership with UVM Medical Center:
- COVID-19 Community Hotline (in collaboration with resident volunteer group);
- PPE Donations and storage in LCOM;
- Frontline Foods, a National Organization supporting local restaurants providing health care workers with food for long shifts;
- Patrick Gym Field Hospital preparations: student participation has begun and includes patient simulation drills, assisting with managing supply chain (which will be clean and located in the tennis courts), and delivering clean specimens on an as-needed basis to the lab at UVMMC.
A number of LCOM medical students are members of the Public Health Coalition and have developed a national Medical Student COVID-19 Volunteer Network which provides information about service opportunities for medical students throughout the country.
Over the past week, two of our medical students have been featured in the news related to their volunteer activities in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Class of 2021 medical student Hillary Danis was featured on NBC10 Boston/NECN in a story on "Help Needed: Vt. Gov. Calls All Hands on Deck to Aid Emergency Response."
Richard Brach '22 was featured in a local NBC5 story on "Desperate need for Meals on Wheels volunteers."
The issue of early graduation for the Class of 2020 has been raised by many, including class members. We are exploring early graduation options with Graduate Medical Education, UVM Medical Center and the state.
Town Hall on Tuesday Night: The term, “social distancing” is changing to “physical distancing”, with recognition that we must strive to stay socially connected. With that in mind, along with the fact that so much is happening so quickly, we will have a Larner Virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. We plan to provide updates from LCOM leadership and take questions by email in real time. We hope this time will work for many and I promise we will have other opportunities to meet (virtually) at other times.
In closing, let me again thank all of you for your support of the College and the patients who depend on us. As we each deal with the uncertainty of these times, and the fear that we all feel at times, please stay connected to those you love. Things will not always be this way. I’m confident that we have it in us to rise above this present challenge and thrive again together.
Richard L. Page, M.D.
Dean, The Robert Larner M.D. College of Medicine
The University of Vermont