The invisible threat of SARS-CoV-2 has upended life on the planet. Unprecedented in our lifetime, the pandemic is triggering waves of loss – of jobs, of celebrations (including in-person graduations), of social connectedness and, worst of all, of loved ones.
As the magnitude of the crisis spread, and stay-at-home orders became common across the globe, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus community responded, launching a multi-front attack on the virus. Whether caring for patients in our hospitals, creating “homegrown” antibody tests in our labs, providing public health information to our communities, or developing a coronavirus test in our backyard, the CU Anschutz community is rallying to the front lines of the battle against the pandemic.
The “Our COVID-19 Fighters” series strives to tell this remarkable story by highlighting the many ways CU Anschutz is helping patients and the wider community during the crisis. The pandemic has brought our campus’s missions of research, patient care, innovation and education into extremely sharp focus, and our talented, pioneering and dedicated people are rising to meet the challenges on multiple fronts.
We hope you enjoy reading about their amazing work, and we welcome your continued story ideas. Please share them here.
Putting their heads and labs together, several groups of researchers (photo at top of page) from across the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are working to build a “homegrown” antibody test. Once they do, they say, they are equipped for dispersal to all corners of the state and can help lead the way in corralling the novel coronavirus in Colorado.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic is stretching many healthcare professionals thin, Natalia Gayou is rallying on the front lines, along with her colleagues at El Paso County Public Health. A 2016 graduate of the Colorado School of Public Health, Gayou, MPH, CPH, is a communicable disease epidemiologist at the Colorado Springs-based organization.
Since COVID-19 took over his world, Marc Moss, MD, lingers in his patients’ rooms a little longer. The critical care pulmonologist works even harder at earning his patient families’ trust and answering every question they have about their loved ones’ care. And when the stress becomes too much, he takes a walk, re-energizing through the slew of yard signs thanking front-line workers for their sacrifices.
“Sew with love” is the slogan of the Thimble Army, a group of CU Dental students who have dedicated their free time away from remote learning to sewing masks for local healthcare workers. The Thimble Army, along with staff members at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, are doing their part to make up for the national shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE).
While the COVID-19 pandemic made its invisible march across the globe, lights glowed around the clock inside the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine (CCPM) Biobank Laboratory on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Over eight days in mid-March, the team in the lab, directed by Kristy Crooks, PhD, and Stephen Wicks, PhD, developed a molecular test to determine whether a person was infected with the coronavirus causing COVID-19.
Chancellor Don Elliman welcomed 2,000 guests to a live panel discussion titled “Life on the Front Lines of COVID-19 with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus” on May 7. The discussion featured campus leaders who shared new insights on our rapidly accelerated approach to clinical trials, shifts in patient care and engagement, and how partners across campus are working together more seamlessly now than ever before. Answering questions from Elliman and audience participants, the panel demonstrated the campus’s expertise and its leadership role in addressing the pandemic.
When CU Nursing PhD student Brittni Goodwin, MSN, RN, realized there weren’t enough N95 masks for her colleagues at area hospitals, she went to work to get the needed supplies. Like many healthcare professionals, Goodwin felt the need to help co-workers who were being stretched so intensely during the COVID-19 outbreak. “It’s a bit like survivor’s guilt. I felt I wasn’t doing enough,” said Goodwin.
As the coronavirus pandemic grows, so does the reliance on health care workers around the world. From social media salutes to neighborhood parades, the world is finding innovative ways to applaud the efforts of the medical community on the front line of the fight against COVID-19. The public, and the news media alike, generally identify the front line fighters as being “doctors and nurses.” But there is another critical, yet often unknown, member of the health care team in every COVID-19 intensive care unit – doctors of pharmacy.
A University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine faculty member is using his background in engineering to help alleviate the country’s shortage of ventilators in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Thomas Greany, DDS, who received his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering, was approached about whether he could build a field ventilator that would provide essential respiratory support for multiple patients simultaneously.
Herd immunity to a germ occurs when enough people become immune to minimize the spread of the virus. Immunity occurs either through being infected naturally or through vaccination. Can we stake our hopes of conquering COVID-19 on herd immunity via widespread infection? “No,” came the resounding answer from a panel of experts at a recent Department of Medicine Grand Rounds through the School of Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
When Captain Taylor Allen, BSN, RN, arrived in Denver in March for an internship with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) before entering CU Nursing’s Master’s program, she never thought her Army experience would be in demand. Boy was she wrong. “The day I arrived, Colorado declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19,” said CPT. Allen.
Haley Cehura remembers being nervous entering her first COVID-19 patient’s room. During the procedure, which took three hours, she began feeling a little weak. When she finally left the room, her eyes welled with tears. “Why am I so worried?” she wondered. “This is what I do.” As a veteran critical care nurse, Cehura had often thought to herself while caring for patients: “What if this were my family member? What if this were me?” But this time was different.
Colorado is no stranger to disaster, with its devastating floods and record mass shootings. But living through the COVID-19 pandemic, an invisible threat with no known end in sight, creates a whole new set of challenges – especially when you can’t hug your neighbors. A social distancing mandate – as people lose their jobs, their savings, their graduation dreams or, worse, their loved ones – adds a new element to a crisis that experts predict will result in a major mental health fallout. Researchers on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have launched two international surveys this month in hopes of building better responses to these unprecedented stressors for the future.
For the past two months, healthcare workers at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital have mounted an unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since admitting their first suspected COVID-19 case, their work has been focused on overcoming challenges in the setting of rapidly evolving evidence. “A lot of this stuff is gut feeling,” said Kelly Bookman, MD, explaining practicing in the new “evidence-free zone” of COVID-19 and why staff began having some severe patients spend hours on their stomachs.
We hope you enjoy reading about the amazing work of our CU Anschutz colleagues and students, and we welcome your continued story ideas. Please share them here.