Resilience in times of crisis

Unprecedented events are unfolding and it is difficult to wrap one’s mind completely around the rapidly evolving landscapes being shaped by the current coronavirus pandemic. The potential impact on University of Iowa Health Care is uncertain. However, as I look at how we have responded so far, I feel a tremendous sense of hope. There is no doubt that reports from around the world and here at home paint a picture that could stoke anxiety. There is also no doubt that we could face very serious challenges in the days, weeks, and months ahead that will require us to maintain intense focus and will tax our problem-solving abilities and our resources. But here is what I know: we are ready for this. We are professionals, trained experts in handling exactly these kinds of crises. Our response so far and will continue to be not to panic but to rise to this challenge. We know that our institution has weathered severe crises in the past, whether it was in 1918, 1929, 1941, and many others in the years in-between. The strength and the resilience of the University of Iowa has always been found in the confidence that its members place in each other, in our ability to support one another and to trust in the wisdom and skill that each of us possesses. I have full confidence that we will come through this having learned many lessons that will make us stronger than we already are. Please carry this message with you if you are beginning to feel exhausted or losing hope. We will get through this together, as a team, just as we have in the past. Our role as caretakers of the public health has always been to be a light that does not dim, one that our neighbors and our loved ones depend on us to shine, to reveal a path toward safety. You have trained to be that light, you know what to do, and I am so proud to stand next to you as we push these shadows back.

COVID19At the time of this writing, there are more than a dozen Iowans statewide confirmed to have tested positive for the virus, but the limited testing in the United States, the lessons learned from other nations, and the World Health Organization’s pandemic designation earlier this week all tell us that these Iowans are likely not the last. I commend UI Health Care leadership for their guidance, preparedness, and caution. Everyone is encouraged to bookmark this comprehensive and regularly updated page on The Loop, as well as the University of Iowa’s information page. Although many events that take place in classrooms such as Grand Rounds have been canceled, in anticipation of this, the department has established the ability to stream Grand Rounds remotely to the desktops of our faculty and trainees. Visits by external speakers to campus may be canceled, but lectures by local speakers will be streamed remotely. Each Thursday a little before it begins at noon, a video-streaming link will arrive in your inbox from Lori Strommer, allowing you to join virtually and safely. Next week’s Grand Rounds will be delivered by Dr. Jorge Salinas, our hospital epidemiologist and member of our Division of Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Stanley Perlman in Pediatrics, a world authority in coronavirus. Dr. Salinas, who must be sleeping about two hours a night right now, asked me to pass on the hotline as well. If you have specific questions about COVID-19, contact the Program of Hospital Epidemiology at 319-356-1606, paging 3158. We are also maintaining an Internal Medicine-specific resource page for faculty. One other message I will repeat here is the recent call for volunteers to staff our telemedicine and influenza-like illness (ILI) clinics. We are still gathering names of those who can fill four-hour sessions in ILI clinics that will be open 7am to 7pm Monday through Friday and 7am to 5pm on the weekends. If you are interested, please let Dr. Kim Staffey, Vice Chair for Clinical Programs, or your division administrator know. So far, my understanding is that the response of our staff and faculty volunteering to help run these clinics has been overwhelming.

Although the seriousness of the current situation merits the focus of our attention, many normal activities are still continuing. Next week is Match Day and we have at least one surprise lined up to recognize and celebrate the occasion as we announce who will be joining us in June. In addition to celebrating our new residents, we will also continue to celebrate the achievements of our colleagues as we always have. It was with equal measures of pride and sadness that we watched Dr. Pete Snyder accept the role of Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Development in the Carver College of Medicine, taking over for Dr. Lois Geist, who was herself recently promoted to Associate Provost for Faculty at the University of Iowa. Dr. Snyder has served diligently as our Vice Chair for Faculty Development and there are likely few in this department who have not relied on his counsel and guidance navigating the promotions process. Earlier this week, an article in the Daily Iowan featured quotes from Dr. Don Heistad and Dr. Mike Welsh, both of whom echo the thoughts of many of us on what Dr. Snyder has meant to this department, the college, and the University of Iowa. As we take up the difficult task of filling Dr. Snyder’s dependable shoes, the department will consider the range of talent that exists both within and outside the institution.

denisezangAnother recent arrival from outside the institution has hit the ground running. Our clinical department administrator Denise Zang, whose start was announced last month, has been making her way around the department meeting with many of you and with the hospital and collegiate leadership. I hope that you are all making her feel welcome and satisfying her curiosity about the inner workings of our complicated health system. It is worth pausing for a moment to express my gratitude to the many administrative personnel of this department, keeping the lights on and all our “trains running on time.” Your dedication and resourcefulness in the face of a huge bureaucratic structure, keeping our faculty, providers, and trainees compliant with required documentation and myriad compliances, are of exceptional value to this department. I have noted before that we are one of the leanest departments in the college, which speaks to your efficiency, given that we are also the largest department. Many of these members who do so much will now fall under Ms. Zang’s direction. She brings with her a significant amount of experience in a variety of care-delivery models and academic departments, so I am certain that her fresh perspective and sharp insights will serve the department well as she gets up to speed. I am grateful that she took the time to answer a few questions about what she has discovered so far and where we will be headed next. Welcome, Denise!


About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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