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COVID / COVID-19 Updates

Updates

Additional information is available on the UC Coronavirus webpage.

June 7, 2021

Dean provides update regarding COVID-19

The following is an update on COVID-19 from Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean.

As the situation with COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic continues to improve, I want to provide you with the following update. The response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve.

The College of Medicine continues to strongly recommend that everyone receives vaccination for COVID-19. Vaccinations are available through many medical providers and pharmacies, UC Health and the Health Collaborative.

The use of face coverings is critically important indoors for unvaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated individuals can be outdoors without a mask unless it is in a crowded setting, in which case a mask should be worn.

Faculty, staff, students and visitors who have been vaccinated are strongly encouraged to continue wearing face coverings while in higher risk settings until a higher percentage of the community is vaccinated. This would include public areas of the college and other places where the vaccination status of individuals is not known. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their final dose of vaccine. Fully vaccinated individuals should also consider wearing a mask when outdoors in crowded settings where everyone may not be vaccinated.

All members of the UC CoM community must remember that the MSB/CARE complex is directly connected to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. UC Health policy states “In order to continue to provide a safe and healing environment for all, masks will be required in all public areas in UC Health facilities. A public area is defined by any space that patients and families access.” We all must remain aware of the protocols in place for our affiliates, including UC Health, CCHMC and the VAMC.

In-person meetings are now permitted; however, I suggest in-person meetings remain small (5 to 10 people) and continue following physical distancing of six feet. Unvaccinated persons are encouraged to continue attending meetings virtually; however, should they choose to attend an in-person meeting, they must wear a face covering.

It is important that everyone remains aware of the University of Cincinnati Return to Campus Plan. You can check here for additional guidance and updates.

Face coverings are one of the measures that help prevent the spread of infection. We must also continue to follow our hand washing and physical distancing practices. Thanks for your cooperation.

These guidelines are subject to change should conditions change.

Thank you for all you do for the College of Medicine!

May 24, 2021

UC Health COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center moves to new location 

The UC Health COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center will move into a new location on Tuesday, May 25. Vaccinations will now be provided in Suite 105 of the West Medical Building, 3120 Burnet Ave.

Previously, COVID-19 vaccinations were available at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

Individuals age 12 and older can receive a COVID-19 vaccine at UC Health as part of the State of Ohio’s distribution plan. It is not necessary to be an Ohio resident or a UC Health patient to schedule an appointment. All eligible community members are welcome—including all UC employees, faculty, students, family members and friends.

Patients arriving for vaccinations in a personal vehicle can park for free in the South Garage and proceed to the West Medical Office Building.

Advance appointments are encouraged to ensure a faster and more efficient experience. However, UC Health also offers no-appointment vaccinations for COVID-19 on certain days and times. The Pfizer two-dose vaccine is offered on all days and the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine is offered on certain days. Visit online for additional information.

April 12, 2021

Face masks still must be worn

The College of Medicine continues to follow the latest Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order issued April 5 and UC guidelines regarding facial mask wearing. All faculty, students, staff and visitors must wear face masks while inside College of Medicine and other university buildings. Exceptions to this include when an individual is alone in an enclosed area, such as an office, or when actively eating. Masks also should be worn when outdoors with other people and a distance of six feet cannot be consistently maintained. The state order allows several exemptions to mask wearing, such as for those 10 years old and younger and for certain medical conditions.

Those who have received COVID-19 vaccinations also must continue to wear face masks in public settings.

The country remains in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and certain areas are facing increases in cases, including the neighboring state of Michigan. Vaccines are currently widely available and everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated if they have not already done so. Visit the UC COVID-19 Vaccine Update page for additional information on vaccine availability at the university or the Ohio Vaccine Management Solution website to find vaccine availability near you. Vaccine information also can be found online for Kentucky and Indiana residents.

The College of Medicine continues to follow appropriate guidelines for face masks, crowd size limitations and distancing. As stated in the recent state order, all individuals in Ohio:

  • Shall wear face coverings at all times in any indoor location that is not a residence, while outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet and when using public transportation;
  • Should be in a group of no more than 10 individuals;
  • Should maintain at least six-foot distancing from other individuals; and
  • Should maintain proper handwashing or sanitation and routinely disinfect high-contact surfaces.

February 22, 2021

UC Cancer Center joins in letter urging cancer patients access to vaccinations

The UC Cancer Center joined with 125 other cancer centers and organizations last week to urge the Biden Administration and public health officials at state health departments to prioritize patients with active cancer and survivors of cancer when administering COVID-19 vaccines.

Addressed to President Joseph Biden and dated Feb. 17, the letter was initiated by the American Association for Cancer Research.

The letter stresses “we are compelled to underscore the urgency of prioritizing access to a COVID-19 vaccine for patients with active cancer and survivors of cancer. There is mounting evidence that patients with cancer are at increased risk of severe illness and death if they are infected with the virus. Certain survivors of cancer have a higher probability of infection and COVID-19-related death compared to the general population.”

“Patients with cancer who are in treatment often receive frequent in-person clinical care, which has the potential to increase their risk of exposure to the virus,” the letter continues. “Furthermore, certain patients with cancer are vulnerable to infection because of their weakened immune status, which is attributable to their cancers and/or their treatments. Clearly, vaccinating patients with cancer who are in treatment offers the best protection against the threat of contracting the virus.”

The letter concludes: “We sincerely hope that you and your colleagues in the administration will stress to all State Public Health Departments that patients with active cancer and survivors of cancer must be provided priority access to a lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine. We stand ready to work with you and your administration on this critically important issue.”

“In normal times, dealing with the diagnosis of cancer is difficult. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, stress for patients and family members has increased in magnitude. Patients are uncertain about therapy, side effects and their risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2. They worry about balancing the risk of their cancer returning/progressing versus the risk of infection,” says Syed Ahmad, MD, co-director of the UC Cancer Center and professor in the Department of Surgery. “Data continues to show that patients with cancer are at higher risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19. Furthermore, the case fatality rate for patients with cancer is around 8% to 10% and significantly higher when compared to the remaining population. Because of these sobering statistics, it is important for national leaders in cancer care and research to take a firm stand and protect our most vulnerable population.”

>> Read the complete letter

February 15, 2021

Edje to participate on CDC panel discussing COVID-19 vaccinations

Louito Edje, MD, associate dean for graduate medical education, has been invited to be one of four panelists discussing equitable COVID-19 vaccine access during a three-day Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) virtual forum beginning Monday, Feb. 22.

The National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine is organized by the CDC in support of the Biden-Harris administration’s National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. It will bring together practitioners from national, state, tribal, local and territorial levels who are engaged in vaccinating communities across the nation. Programming on Monday, Feb. 22, will cover the most effective strategies to build trust and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. The agenda on Tuesday, Feb. 23, is dedicated to using data to drive vaccine implementation. The final day of the forum, Wednesday, Feb. 24, will involve practical information to optimizing and maximizing equitable vaccine access.

Edje will be a panelist during a town hall titled “Building Bridges Between Public Health and Healthcare Systems to Ensure Equitable Vaccination.” The hourlong town hall begins at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24.

“Unless we approach or exceed a 70% vaccinated state of herd immunity, we will not climb out of this pandemic. That said, vaccine hesitant communities need to be vaccinated to get us all to 70%. This has to be a critical and urgent focus area for the good of all our communities or we may find viral variants evade our emerging and existing vaccine candidates,” says Edje, who has recently discussed COVID-19 vaccinations and minority communities with numerous local and national media.

The forum will include plenary sessions, practitioner town hall discussions and roundtable discussions. Participants can attend the entire forum or any portion that interests them.

>> Register for the forum by Feb. 16

January 25, 2021

Forrester featured in new Ohio Health Department PSA

Jennifer Wall Forrester, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and associate chief medical officer at UC Health, is featured in a new public service announcement (PSA) from the Ohio Department of Health. The PSA is titled “The Road Back” and touts the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the state and encourages people to continue to wear a face mask and physically distance. The PSA will soon air statewide and can be seen online.

January 19, 2021

Gatherings still limited to 10 or fewer

College of Medicine faculty, students and staff are reminded that the college continues to follow the state directive prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Any gathering of 10 people or less must be held in a room that can accommodate appropriate physical distancing for the number of people involved.

Even with these limits, Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, urges everyone to avoid close contact with people outside their households whenever possible.

“We are still in a precarious state with Hamilton County turning purple on Jan. 14 indicating severe exposure and spread. We need to continue following all guidelines including those of crowd size, working from home when possible and only leaving home for supplies and services,” he says.

Hamilton County currently is the only county in the state that is purple. As of Jan. 18, the county has had 40,656 cases of COVID-19 with 1,117 hospitalizations and 286 deaths.

Filak reminds everyone who must come to campus to continue wearing face masks and physically distance from others, limit visits to campus whenever possible, not hold face-to-face meetings and maintain appropriate hand hygiene.

“I know we have all grown weary of this, but we cannot let our guard down. We are several weeks into COVID vaccinations and expect increasing numbers of people will be receiving vaccinations every day,” Filak says. “We must stay vigilant and hopeful. Thank you for adhering to these rules and remaining safe.”

January 4, 2021

COVID-19 Conversations Podcast: Participation in vaccine trial

In September, Brett Kissela, MD, senior associate dean for clinical research, Albert Barnes Voorheis Professor of Neurology and chair of the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and chief of research services at UC Health, became a participant in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. He recently was featured in a UC video about his involvement in the clinical trial. He also was a guest on a podcast of the African Alliance, based in South Africa, to discuss why he chose to participate, his experiences, hopes and fears as well as what he wants others, globally, to know about the research process.  

 

>> Watch the video

> > Listen to the podcast

November 18, 2020

In-person Research Activities Continue with Safety First

As you know, the number of COVID-19 cases is surging. While we cannot control what restrictions will be put in place by the government, we must do everything that we can to protect ourselves and our research. As we continue to see an increase in the spread of COVID-19, we wish to remind everyone of the continued importance of prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of both research staff and study participants.

Approved in-person research activities may continue per their COVID-19 response plans. It is essential that researchers adhere to safety precautions.

Investigators should use their best judgment to limit any contact that is not necessary to ensure the safety of researchers, study participants and others. Please review your COVID-19 response plans with your study teams to ensure they are being properly implemented.

In addition, those involved in human subjects research are asked to help alleviate the burden on our nursing staff by consenting patients themselves, using proper personal protective equipment. We continue our commitment to our tripartite mission through our dedication to research — and we do so by being safe and smart. Thank you for your support.

Brett Kissela, MD

Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Research

 

Michael Linke, PhD

Chair, UC Institutional Review Board

November 16, 2020

Dean updates college on pandemic: ‘We are in a crisis situation’

Stressing that the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are straining local health systems and bringing them to the brink of being overwhelmed, College of Medicine Dean Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, urged faculty, staff and students Friday to “step up our game” and strictly adhere to coronavirus protocols.

“The reality is that we as a society have become fatigued and let down our guard. It’s understandable after nearly nine months, but it’s not acceptable,” Filak said during a virtual Town Hall update. “We now need to tighten up and strictly enforce mask wearing, social distancing, crowd size limitations, gathering in confined spaces, washing our hands and sanitizing our areas. And we need to do this both at work and in our everyday lives.”

“We are in a crisis situation and people are dying needlessly,” Filak added. “Our medical facilities and our staff are on the brink of being overwhelmed with COVID patients. And this affects everyone as care may not be available when it is desperately needed.”

Filak asked everyone to consider altering Thanksgiving plans and exclude family and friends outside each person’s home “bubble” as indications are that community-generated infections are far outpacing cases that are work-related.

“We need to lock ourselves down as much as we possibly can. We need to seriously consider limiting or forgoing Thanksgiving gatherings. I know that is painful for many of us, but COVID is still on the rise,” he said. “If my forgoing Thanksgiving dinner this year with my family helps in some way to save a life, it is worth that sacrifice.”

Filak also directed faculty, staff and students to work from home when possible, limit visits to campus and stop holding face-to-face meetings. “Even if the person is in the office next to you, the meeting should be virtual. We need to eliminate all unnecessary physical interactions. We have shown that we can remain in contact with people virtually and still successfully complete our work,” he said.

Joining Filak in the Town Hall update was Art Pancioli, MD, Richard C. Levy Endowed Chair for Emergency Medicine. Pancioli has been assessing the university’s testing strategy, both now and in preparation for the spring semester.

“Coming into the Jan. 11 beginning of the spring semester we are going to augment our mandatory testing to include requirements that students do receive mandatory testing and, in fact, those who fail to comply will indeed not be allowed to come back on campus. We have to ensure the safety of our student population.”

Pancioli reminded people that drive-through and walk-up COVID-19 testing is now available on the Medical Campus between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each Wednesday through Dec. 30. No scheduling is necessary, but participants need to provide pre-test information online before coming to the testing site.

Filak acknowledged everyone for their efforts throughout the pandemic.

“I again want to thank our faculty, staff and students – you all make a difference – and we have a lot to be thankful for and proud of. And we must not forget that. Our students – medical, graduate and undergraduate – continue to adapt to a different learning environment than they had envisioned just nine months ago. Our faculty continue with their research, teaching and clinical responsibilities. And our tremendous staff continue to support our activities and allow us to move forward.”

Also on Friday, UC Health announced several changes to ease current burdens on the health system from the recent increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. In a message from Richard Lofgren, MD, UC Health president and CEO, and Filak, UC Health has activated surge operations, reassembled incident command centers at all three inpatient sites and will:

 

  • Now require approvals before external patient transfers to an ICU;
  • Institute on Nov. 16 a 50% reduction of elective inpatient procedures and monitor outpatient elective cases for possible reduction; and
  • Immediately move patient appointments to telehealth and reduce non-time essential visits where appropriate and feasible.

>> Watch Friday’s Town Hall meeting

>> Read Friday’s UC Health message

November 9, 2020

COVID-19 testing to be offered weekly on Medical Campus

Beginning Nov. 11, the University of Cincinnati ​will offer COVID-19 testing at no cost to people each Wednesday morning on the Medical Campus. Testing is open to all UC students, faculty and staff and anyone who lives or works in Hamilton County. It is being offered by the UC Early Intervention Program in the Department of Emergency Medicine through the Test and Protect program, a partnership between Hamilton County, the Health Collaborative, UC, UC Health and four other local health systems.

Testing will be available between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each Wednesday from Nov. 11 through Dec. 30. No scheduling is necessary, but participants need to provide pre-test information online before coming to the testing site.

Testing will take place on the first level of Eden Garage. Those arriving in a vehicle should enter onto Panzeca Way on the west side of Eden Garage (between the garage and the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center) from Goodman Street and follow signage and direction from UC Police officers to the testing area. People arriving on foot should walk to the west side of the first level.

While there is no charge for the testing, health insurance information will be collected and payment will be sought from insurers. No one will be billed if their insurance does not provide payment.

The COVID-19 test used is a nasopharyngeal test administered by UC staff. Those with a positive test will receive a phone call from Test and Protect staff. Negative test results will be delivered via an email from covidtesting@uc.edu. Results will be available within two to four days.

Additional information on the Test and Protect program can be found online.

UC has been using strategic surveillance testing among students to help monitor trends and COVID-19 prevalence. Students randomly selected for testing can obtain COVID-19 tests at the Eden Garage Test and Protect location or at a Test and Protect location in the banquet room at Stratford Heights, 2634 Stratford Ave., Unit No. 16, which is open between 1 and 6 p.m. each Monday until Nov. 23.

Test and Protect is funded by Hamilton County through the CARES Act.

How are researchers responding to COVID-19?

Melanie T. Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research at the College of Medicine, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and a senior research career scientist at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, answers questions about how the College of Medicine kept labs churning despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“On March 17, we transitioned to working remotely. We sent out a call for proposals focusing on studying various aspects of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Researchers were given eight days to write the proposal. We received 29, reviewed them with notices of award to 11 chosen projects going out on April 8,” she says. “This is less than a month after the initial call. So this is record time.”

Watch the video.

 

>> Read more from Cushion

 

October 21, 2020

 

Recent increases in area COVID-19 cases

With recent increases in the number of COVID-19 cases throughout Ohio, the Tristate and the entire country, I wanted to remind everyone of the importance to remain vigilant in maintaining our important COVID Careful guidelines: wearing a face mask, remaining six feet away from others, frequent handwashing, limiting crowd size and staying home if you do not feel well. At this critical juncture we need to be more vigilant than ever if we are to mitigate the current increase in cases.  This includes both at work and in all other settings.

I applaud the efforts of the overwhelming majority of our faculty, staff and students who have been diligently adhering to the guidelines. However, I do receive occasional reports of concern about people not wearing masks or wearing them inappropriately, such as not covering the nose. There are particular concerns about eating when masks are off and there is a lack of necessary physical distancing.  We all must be extremely cognizant that crowd size, close contact and enclosed spaces are risk factors for the spread of the coronavirus.

It is the goal and intent of the University and the College of Medicine to remain open. We do not want to curtail research or to discontinue all in-person educational programs.  However, I do ask that you minimize these activities when you can for the present time. For example, the Dean’s Office will be cutting back in-person staffing to one Senior Associate Dean and one staff member in each day. I encourage everyone who is able to work from home to do so allowing us to maintain a limited number of people within College of Medicine buildings each day. This will continue to help keep everyone as safe as possible and control any spread of SARS-CoV-2. At this time, we have no plans to reduce the current level of research operations or in-person classes, but these remain options should there be a sudden increase of cases within the College.

I know many people are fatigued from the more than seven months of working from home and being separated from co-workers, family and friends. We all would like nothing more than returning to life as we knew it. However, we must continue to adhere to our COVID protocols. Everyone at the college has done wonderfully so far to successfully limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Please do not relent; please continue keeping yourself and each other safe.

Thank you for all you do for the College of Medicine, for our students, our patients and our scientific inquiry.

Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD

Senior Vice President for Health Affairs and Christian R. Holmes

Professor and Dean, College of Medicine

 

October 12, 2020

 

Edje leads by example as participant in COVID-19 vaccine trial

Louito Edje, MD, associate dean of graduate medical education and a UC Health family medicine physician, says she wants to help be a part of the solution for the COVID-19 pandemic as it has affected nearly every aspect of her professional and personal life.

“If there was anything I could do to help find a solution for the greatest pandemic in my lifetime, I was going to do that,” Edje says.

So she joined the Phase 3 clinical trial for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. UC is one of approximately 90 sites in the U.S. to host a trial for the mRNA-1273 vaccine developed by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases scientists and collaborators at biotechnology company Moderna.

“If I can help even one other person enroll in a trial that helps us come to a solution, if I’m able to answer questions, if I’m able to encourage someone else … I can’t do that in darkness,” she says. “You have to lead by example in the light.”

Her decision to enroll in the federally funded study was an easy one. Edje dedicates many of her working hours overseeing more than 700 resident and fellow physicians who train at UC Health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that means ensuring learners are safe as they provide frontline care. Edje also is a professor in the departments of Family and Community Medicine and Medical Education. She hopes her participation in the trial lends credibility to its safety in her patients’ eyes, especially those who belong to minority populations.

“As a Black woman, I need to be able to articulate the importance of the trial to my patients,” says Edje, who referenced the historical impacts of medical research on African Americans. “If I were a patient and having my doctor ask me to be in a trial, I would ask, ‘Why aren’t you in the trial?’”

Like millions of people across the globe, COVID-19 claimed one of Edje’s loved ones.

“The final push was when my stepmother passed away a couple of months ago from COVID,” Edje says. “She lived overseas, but it hit me more than I ever expected.”

The physician and associate dean has complete confidence in the safety of the trial.

“I travel at the speed of science—as long as the vaccine is developed at the speed of science, that’s the right speed,” she says.

>> Read more about Edje's participation in the clinical trial

 

October 5, 2020

 

Reduced staffing capacity in College of Medicine research labs lifted

Reduced capacity restrictions in College of Medicine research labs was lifted Thursday, Oct.1.

“Thanks to everyone for managing the reduction in research personnel that occurred over the past six months as well as the COVID-19 precautions that were enacted,” says Brett Kissela, MD, senior associate dean for clinical research.

Lab personnel must continue to abide by physical distancing requirements and minimize congestion in surrounding areas. Gatherings must be limited to 10 people or less and meetings must be held in rooms that can accommodate appropriate physical distancing for the number of people involved. Consumption of food or beverages during meetings is not permitted as it poses a potential transmission risk.

“Although we are increasing our capacity for research, there is still an expectation to minimize density by continuing to perform activities remotely and/or staggering schedules as much as possible,” says Melanie T. Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research. “If work can be done at home, that should be accommodated. Smaller labs that cannot accommodate physical distancing practice may have to stagger schedules of lab personnel. We ask that PIs offer latitude for lab personnel schedules that may need to accommodate child care or other issues.”

Cushion warns researchers that future confirmed COVID-19 infections within the college, individual labs and departments could result in closures or return to reduced density.

“It is in our best interest to ensure all precautions which kept us safe thus far are maintained to get our research engine at capacity. We must all be mindful that strict adherence is necessary to maintain full capacity and that we are all very much in this together.”

Cushion noted that the College of Medicine was one of only three UC colleges to meet the challenge from President Neville Pinto to increase annualized research holdings by 25% during FY20. The college actually surpassed that and ended the fiscal year with a 30% increase.

“We are grateful that you have been so productive during these past six months even with all the restrictions,” she says. “It is now our challenge to continue building upon what you have done over the past few years. It will be great to see everyone back. Masks up!”

 

September 28, 2020

 

Medical students publish paper on virtual residency interview process

Three College of Medicine students were co-authors of a paper recently published online about the upcoming virtual residency interview process. The paper, titled “Making Lemonade Together -- How Program Directors, Applicants, and Medical Schools Can Thrive During the Upcoming Interview Season” was published in the e-journal MedEdPublish.

Robert Daulton, Farzaan Kassam and Kevin Milligan are all fourth-year medical students. They were joined in authoring the article by Anna Berry, a fourth-year medical student at the Baylor College of Medicine.

The paper provides considerations and recommendations for program directors and medical students. “Program directors will look to sell their program using unvalidated methods. Applicants will make life-altering decisions using fewer data points than historically available. Medical schools will endeavor to advise their students as they gear up for breaking new ground,” the authors write. They add that if each party prioritizes teamwork and communication, the challenges of the upcoming cycle can be tackled and “turn lemons into lemonade.”

The authors conclude: “After a Spring afflicted by uncertainty, applicants are prepared for much of the same as we approach residency interviews. Despite being a technologically literate applicant pool, anxieties concerning internet failures, and implicit bias have established themselves as prominent concerns shared by applicants. Although it is not a panacea, clear communication may be the antidote for many of the concerns... Applicants will look to programs and home institutions alike for leadership as the book on virtual interviews remains to be written. Program leadership, applicants, and medical schools all want the same thing: a successful Match 2021. By working together, communicating effectively, and emphasizing equity, we can take the lemons at hand and achieve a desirable outcome.”

MedEdPublish is a highly visible, open access, specialist practitioner e-journal that enables academics, teachers, clinicians, researchers and students to publish their experiences, views and research findings relating to teaching, learning and assessment in medical and health professions education. Articles are published on a continuous basis following editorial screening.

 

September 14, 2020

 

COVID Check app launched in Apple Store

UC’s COVID Check app is now available in the Apple App Store. Users can login with Single Sign On. Android users can obtain the app in the Google Play Store.

The app includes a Daily Health Check to identify symptomatic individuals and assist the university’s contact tracing efforts to limit transmission (GPS tracking is not used). Watch a video to learn how the app works.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 21, students will need a Green Pass from the COVID Check app’s Daily Health Check to enter dining halls and the Campus Recreation Center.

Use of the UC COVID Check app allows leadership and health care teams to forecast and identify hot spots, rapidly respond to those in need, and make informed decisions to reduce risk to members of the UC community. The latest version of the IOS 13 operating system, available on most iPhone 6 models and newer, is needed for the app. 

 

August 31, 2020

 

UC COVID Careful Dashboard

The University of Cincinnati has begun posting a COVID Careful Dashboard as part of its COVID information sharing. The dashboard provides a snapshot of confirmed COVID cases among members of the campus community as reported to COVIDWatch@uc.edu. The reporting of aggregate data will allow the university to protect the privacy of students and employees while observing and understanding any campus trends around spread.

 

University Health Services requires that all members of the campus community, as well as campus visitors, self report to COVIDWatch@uc.edu in the event of the following:

 

  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, a positive test result for COVID-19 or is being tested due to symptoms suggestive of the infection.
  • Anyone with close contact with an individual confirmed to have COVID-19 by laboratory testing or with a presumptive diagnosis of COVID-19, meaning not tested but diagnosed by a physician as likely to have the infection.

 

  • Anyone living on campus in University Housing and having symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including flu-like symptoms with chills, muscle aches, diarrhea, cough, shortness of breath or fever. In addition, the sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste can be an early sign of COVID-19 and should be immediately reported.

 

  • Anyone returning from international travel, regardless of country traveled from.

 

  • Anyone returning from travel by cruise ship.

 

  • Anyone entering Ohio after travel to states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher for COVID-19.

 

The data reported represents positive cases among the campus community as reported to University Health Services by students, faculty, staff and visitors.

 

>> Visit the COVID Careful Dashboard

 

 

August 17, 2020

 

Aug. 14 virtual town hall meeting overview

Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, led a virtual town hall on Friday, Aug. 14 to update faculty, staff and students on the college's coronavirus response and back to school efforts. Among the key points he made were:

 

  • “I remain truly impressed and humbled to note the remarkable fortitude and resilience of you – our faculty, our staff and our students – as we work through this crisis,” Filak said. “We are doing our best to maintain as safe and secure a campus as we can under the current circumstances with Sars-CoV-2 and the coronavirus pandemic. Keeping our buildings open and continuing our operations rests with each and every one of us.” He emphasized that everyone must adhere to and enforce the appropriate use of facial coverings, maintain physical distancing, hand washing, sanitization of work surfaces and limitation on crowd size.
  • Much of our learning will be done remotely. Only those activities requiring in-person presence, such as labs, simulation and clinical activities, should be held on campus. Online learning should be utilized for didactic components and other activities that can be done remotely.
  • We are still following the principle of working at home whenever that is possible and it is up to the supervisors to determine who needs to be physically present on campus and who can work at home.
  • Everyone is responsible to do daily symptom and temperature checks before reporting for work and no one who is ill should come to work. “We will do everything we can to keep our buildings open, our labs functioning and our educational programs operational as long as we can do it safely,” Filak said.
  • Each unit has the responsibility to limit on-campus presence. Classes and meetings should be limited to 10 people or less and no activities with more than 50 people will be authorized at present. While there is some flexibility to go above 10, this will be highly monitored and restricted and will need clear justification and approval.
  • Filak thanked everyone for sacrificing to help with budget deficits caused by the pandemic and to preserve jobs. He noted the recent one-week furlough for staff, 10% salary reduction for senior leaders including deans and chairs in effect throughout FY21, 12% salary reduction for four months for clinical dually compensated providers, and clinicians with guaranteed salaries who volunteered for a temporary pay cut. He indicated that at this point in time there are no discussions about additional furloughs.

 

>> Watch the Aug. 14 town hall

August 14, 2020

Dean holds virtual town hall meeting

Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, provided updates on College of Medicine activities associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the start of another school year during a virtual town hall this afternoon. Melanie Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research also spoke providing an update on the college’s research activities.

For those not able to participate, the virtual town hall can be seen online.
College of Medicine Town Hall August 14

July 29, 2020

UC Answers: How are UC researchers tackling COVID-19?

“The only way out of the COVID-19 global pandemic is through science,” says Brett Kissela, MD, senior associate dean for clinical research at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and chief of research services at UC Health. UC researchers are playing a major part, working around the clock to study the coronavirus — from transmission to treatment and beyond — with hopes of ending the pandemic sooner than later.

>> Read more on what UC researchers are doing to combat the coronavirus

Study: spring school closures from coronavirus saved lives

A Journal of the American Medical Association study published online July 29, 2020, by College of Medicine faculty and researchers at Cincinnati Children’s noted that there was a temporal association between statewide school closure and lower COVID-19 incidence and mortality, although some of the reductions may have been related to other concurrent nonpharmaceutical interventions. The study titled “Association Between Statewide School Closure and COVID-19 Incidence and Mortality in the US” was led by Katherine Auger, MD, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics.

>> Read the JAMA study

July 28, 2020

UC ergonomics expert says work smarter at home

Workers across the nation have converted their basements, spare rooms, dining room tables or bedrooms into makeshift offices in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But few have much guidance when it comes to making these new spaces ergonomically safe, says Kermit Davis, PhD, a professor in the UC College of Medicine Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences. Davis runs both UC’s graduate industrial hygiene and occupational ergonomics programs.

>> Read more about how you can have a smart home workspace

July 24, 2020

Controlling inflammation in COVID-19 patients may lessen severity of the novel coronavirus

A University of Cincinnati researcher is trying to understand what occurs when COVID-19 invades the lungs causing the body’s immune cells go into overdrive. Steve Davidson, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesiology in the UC College of Medicine, is part of a team of scientists studying the body’s response when viral particles carrying COVID-19 enter the lungs, and the body — specifically its immune system — reacts in a catastrophic way. Immune cells flood and attack the lungs that they should be protecting, in what scientists call a “cytokine storm.”

>> Read more about "cytokine storms"

July 20, 2020

UC research: Immunotherapy safe for patients with COVID-19, cancer

Preliminary data from researchers at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center show that immunotherapy doesn’t necessarily worsen complications for patients with both COVID-19 and cancer. This data is being presented by Layne Weatherford, PhD, UC postdoctoral fellow, at the American Association for Cancer Research Virtual Meeting: COVID-19 and Cancer, Monday, July 20.

>> Read more about the study

July 15, 2020

UC COVID-19 research examines the safety and efficacy of immune regulating drug

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are testing a commonly used drug, called sirolimus, to determine its safety and efficacy in treating hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia in the trial. The research trial, called Sirolimus Treatment in Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia (SCOPE), will examine the Food and Drug Administration-approved medication that is most commonly used to prevent organ rejection in patients with kidney transplants. It is also FDA-approved for the treatment of a rare lung disease, LAM.

>> Read more about the study

July 14, 2020

COVID-19 may attack patients’ central nervous system

Depressed mood or anxiety exhibited in COVID-19 patients may possibly be a sign the virus affects the central nervous system, according to an international study led by a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine researcher. These two psychological symptoms were most closely associated with a loss of smell and taste rather than the more severe indicators of the novel coronavirus such as shortness of breath, cough or fever, according to the study.

>> Read more on the study involving Ahmad Sedaghat, MD, PhD, associate professor and director of rhinology, allergy and anterior skull base surgery, in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery < Read more COVID-19 may attack patients’ central nervous system

July 13, 2020

Watch Quarantunes Number 6

“Quarantunes: A Concert Series for UC & UC Health, Volume 6” posted on July 11 and includes performances by: Heather Christensen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education; Dead Centric, which includes James Leach, MD, Class of 1990 and a professor in the Department of Radiology; Jaasiel Chapman, community coordinator, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases; Juliana Dills, RN, UC Health nurse; Mark Eckman, MD, (pictured) Alice Margaret Posey Endowed Chair and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine; Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases; The Speak Easy Trio, which includes Tom Beck, PhD, professor of chemistry, Eric Evans and Sarah Johnson; Albert Weisbrot, MD, Class of 1975; and Andy Wells, MD, third-year internal medicine resident.

>> Watch the July 11 concert

July 12, 2020

Autoclaving, alcohol not the best options for disinfecting, reusing face masks

A University of Cincinnati researcher is advising against using two widely available sterilization methods to clean disposable surgical masks and N95 respirators for reuse in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Scarcity of personal protection equipment in medical settings has led many health systems to consider sterilizing and reusing masks developed initially as disposable items, says Sergey Grinshpun, PhD, director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Health-Related Aerosol Studies and professor in the UC Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences.

>> Read more about Grinshpun's study on decontaminating respirators

July 9, 2020

UC research sees decrease in emergency visits for stroke care

Immediately following the announcement of COVID-19 prevention measures in March, the Greater Cincinnati Tristate region saw a nearly 40% decline in patients coming to the hospital in time for emergency stroke care, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The researchers are calling for urgent public education to mitigate a potential crisis of stroke patients avoiding needed emergency care due to concerns about COVID-19.

>> Read more about how the pandemic has affected stroke treatment

June 17, 2020

UC, UC Health to launch Phase 3 clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and UC Health will host a Phase 3 clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a vaccine for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. UC is one of approximately 90 sites across the United States selected for the study, which will administer the vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 to volunteer participants and monitor its efficacy in eliciting an immune response that provides protection from COVID-19. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is funding the study.

>> Read more about the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial

June 8, 2020

Quarantunes Number 5 coming June 13
“Quarantunes: A Concert Series for UC & UC Health, Volume 5” will stream on Facebook this Saturday, June 13, beginning at 8 p.m. The concert will again be hosted by Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, who also will perform.

Performers will include Heather Christensen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education; the Creeky Knees, with Mark Eckman, MD, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine; Dead Centric, which includes James Leach, MD, professor in the Department of Radiology and Class of 1990; Juliana Dills, RN, UC Health nurse; The Speak Easy Trio, which includes Tom Beck, PhD, professor of chemistry; vocalist Lisa van der Ploeg; Albert Weisbrot, MD, Class of 1975; Andy Wells, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident; and Mark Williams, MD, PhD, (pictured) Class of 2002.

>> Watch the June 13 concert

Pharmacology lab makes personal donation of face masks
In early April, Hong-Sheng Wang, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Physiology, and several members of his laboratory decided to help improve the supply of personal protective equipment at the college and UC Health. Each made a personal donation and purchased 4,000 face masks from a Chinese manufacturer.

Following delays at Chinese customs, quality inspections and lengthy shipping backlogs, the blue face masks finally arrived in Cincinnati two weeks ago.

“The COVID pandemic is an unprecedented crisis. Back in early April we learned that UC Health was in urgent need of PPE, and we wanted to do what we could to help the clinical folks who were on the frontline fighting the virus,” Wang says.

Supporting the effort were Wang, Yamei Chen, senior research associate; Xiaoqian Gao, PhD, a former graduate student; Qian Liang, PhD, a former visiting scholar; Jianyong Ma, PhD, a postdoc fellow; and Sujuan Yan, a former graduate student.

This is the second contribution of PPE for Wang’s lab. In March, when an initial call for PPE was made by the college’s Office of Research, the lab donated all the gloves they had in the lab.

Wang’s lab studies the cardiac toxicity of environmental chemicals and the role of ion channels in cardiac physiology and diseases. The lab was approved for critical research and has stayed open throughout the pandemic.

June 4, 2020

June 4 virtual town hall meeting
Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, updated faculty, students and staff on return to work plans and other aspects of the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the college during a virtual town hall meeting June 4. Key points included:

  • There are currently nine different coronavirus-related trials active and enrolling at UC and more are expected. UC, under the leadership of Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, will be a site for a study for the Moderna vaccine as it enters Phase 3 trials.
  • The coronavirus pandemic is not over. “It is imperative that we continue to work at home when possible, follow appropriate safety protocols including face coverings, physical distancing, crowd size limitations, and sanitization processes as we gradually, and I emphasize gradually, bring activities back to campus,” Filak said.
  • The Return to Campus plan is currently in Phase I, which is bringing back research activities into the labs. “I want to recognize the tremendous effort of Melanie Cushion, assisted by Brett Kissela and Ken Greis, for developing the detailed plans that allows for the gradual resumption of research,” Filak noted.
  • The college will slowly allow more researchers to come back during June if rules – masks, physical distancing, minimum number of people in a facility and sanitization along with handwashing and other hygiene – are followed.
  • Phase 2 of Return to Campus in July will allow some administrative and education staff back in the college. Departments should be developing plans to assess the minimum number of people who need to be present to enhance the functioning of the unit.
  • Students, especially graduate students who require lab work for their degree, can return to labs this month, however, all physical distancing and crowd size numbers pertain to them.
  • It is the college’s intention in July to bring back students who are beginning their third year.

>> Watch the June 4 virtual town hall

June 1, 2020

Third-year students return to clinical activities June 1
Third-year students, pulled from their clinical activities March 17 to ensure their safety and to save personal protective equipment (PPE) that was in short supply as the coronavirus pandemic spread, are returning June 1 to clinical activities. The students, who last week picked up new PPE (pictured) in preparation for the return, have spent the last 11 weeks with other learning activities, such as small group discussions with clinicians, online cases and self-directed learning.

Pamela Baker, PhD, associate dean for medical education, says that curriculum leaders had to make some decisions on how best to use the next month for third-year students. “We worked with our seven clerkship directors to identify the core experiences that students will need to complete. We’ve compressed the normal timeline to ensure that they start their fourth-year on time,” she says.

Philip Diller, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for educational affairs, says local health systems have been very keen on having the students return. He particularly pointed to many new community physicians who have agreed to work with students. Diller cautioned that students will see a different environment when they return.

>> Read more about students returning to clinical activities

 

Quarantunes 4 concert available online
The fourth installment of “Quarantunes: A Concert Series for UC & UC Health” streamed on Facebook May 30 and is available for viewing. The concert was again hosted by Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases.

Five new performers joined the fourth installment of Quarantunes: Mark Williams, MD, PhD, Class of 2002; Brian Masterson, MD, Class of 2003; Juliana Dills, RN, UC Health nurse; UC College, Conservatory of Music alumna Jordan Stadvec; and Kenneth Shaw, professor of voice, UC College, Conservatory of Music. Past performers again participating in this concert are Heather Christensen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education; Mark Eckman, MD, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine; Andy Wells, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident; and Albert Weisbrot, MD, Class of 1975.

>> Watch the May 30 concert

May 29, 2020

Gradual reopening of College of Medicine labs
On Monday, June 1, we begin the gradual reopening of labs at the College of Medicine. This reopening will be done in a measured fashion to restart our research activities, but is not a return to work for all employees of the college.

For the last month, College of Medicine research leaders have worked collaboratively with UC research leadership planning the gradual reopening of UC research labs. Laboratory directors, faculty mentors and principal investigators have developed plans to reopen with student, staff and faculty safety, health and well-being as the most important considerations. Investigators wishing to begin reopening on June 1 should have prepared and submitted their reopening plans by now for review by the Dean’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Research. An overview of the university’s phased approach of reopening research labs can be found here.

I would like to stress, however, several important points concerning the College of Medicine lab reopening:

  • Any employee with symptoms that may relate to COVID-19 should contact University Health Services immediately at COVIDWatch@uc.edu and should not come to work.
  • All research activities that can be completed remotely (e.g., data analysis, report generation, lab meetings) must continue to be performed in a remote work environment.
  • Employees who meet the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) definition for those who are at higher risk for severe illness may request reasonable accommodations by contacting the Human Resources Department.
  • All employees must successfully complete a brief online information session administered by University Health Services to ensure awareness of CDC and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) guidelines before returning to campus.
  • Before coming to campus each day, all employees must complete a self-administered wellness check based on CDC and ODH guidelines.
  • Everyone entering CARE/Crawley, MSB and CVC buildings must undergo a brief health screening, which includes answering several questions about your health and having your temperature taken. Following this, you will be given a sticker which must be worn throughout your stay in the building. If you show up before a screening station is open, you must go to the screening station within one hour of its opening. Screening stations are located on the bridge from Eden Parking Garage to the Medical Sciences Building, CARE/Crawley Atrium and Kresge Auditorium lobby. Employees entering the Kettering Laboratory Complex, Vontz Center and on the Reading Campus where there are no screening stations should monitor their own temperature and follow the same guidelines that are being applied at the screening stations. Please see the Directions for self screening (PDF).
  • All employees must wear a face covering when in a college building except when eating or when alone in private space. Homemade face coverings are acceptable.
  • All employees must follow proper hand hygiene, use physical distancing (6 feet), and sanitation processes.
  • Anyone not following face covering usage, physical distancing, hygiene and sanitation protocols will be asked to leave the building and could face possible disciplinary action. Violations also may lead to the re-closing of the associated lab.
  • All areas must clean and sanitize their workplace settings throughout the day. These efforts will supplement cleaning and sanitizing activities that will occur after hours by our facilities staff. for specific directions.
  • Lab employees must stagger their reporting times to work so all employees do not arrive at the same time.
  • Labs should not have more than 25% of staff present in the lab at one time during the first two weeks of June. No more than 50% of lab staff should be present at one time during the third and fourth weeks of June. Physical distancing must be maintained at all times.

Students employed by UC faculty or other researchers may resume face-to-face work on June 1 at the discretion of the Principal Investigator (PI). All face-to-face experiential learning including co-op, internship, service learning and undergraduate student research, may resume under conditions listed. These individuals count toward the percentage of staff allowed in the lab.

As President Pinto outlined in his May 20 memo to the UC community, additional portions of our faculty and staff may begin to return to work during Phase Two of the reopening on Wednesday, July 1. Supervisors will determine the employees who will return on that date based on needs as well as the health and safety assessment for their respective area. In the coming weeks, I will provide additional information on the College of Medicine’s Phase Two return in July.

The last 11 weeks have been difficult for everyone, and we are all very eager to return to work and life as we knew it. Our return, however, will be to something very different from what we knew in early March. But I firmly believe that if we follow the steps outlined here, we can begin to successfully reopen our labs in a gradual, safe manner that protects everyone. Then we can turn our attention to other areas of the college. We will closely monitor the lab reopening and will not hesitate to reclose labs should there be a failure to follow protocols or other concerns arise.

I want to again offer my thanks and appreciation for all that you have been doing to continue your work from home to support the College of Medicine. Staying at home and physical distancing appears to have had a significant impact on keeping the number of COVID-19 cases much lower in Ohio than what had been anticipated. I remain hopeful that our reopening process will go smoothly and will be safe and successful.

Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD
Senior Vice President for Health Affairs
Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean

May 28, 2020

‘Watcher’ tracks coronavirus in Cincinnati and beyond
Two University of Cincinnati students have developed an interactive dashboard which shows COVID-19 cases and deaths in Greater Cincinnati and other major U.S. cities. Known as the COVID-19 Watcher, it joins a list of options available to the public to track the novel coronavirus.

Benjamin Wissel, a student in the UC College of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program, and Pieter-Jan Van Camp, MD, a doctoral student in the Biomedical Informatics Graduate program, developed their app during the spring when there were no options for tracking city data. Since then the New York Times has added this feature to their dashboard as well.

“People are connected and viruses spread through city infrastructures,” says Wissel. “Our app is especially relevant in places like Cincinnati, whose metro area is split between three different states. The public benefits from additional sources that can provide up-to-date COVID-19 data for the country, state, county and city level.”

Read more about the COVID-19 Watcher

May 27, 2020

UC study uncovers clues to COVID-19 in the brain
A study by University of Cincinnati researchers and three Italian institutions reviewing neuroimaging and neurological symptoms in patients with COVID-19 may shed light on the virus’s impact on the central nervous system.

The findings, published in the journal Radiology, reveal that altered mental status and stroke are the most common neurological symptoms in COVID-19 patients, which authors say could help physicians notice “red flags” earlier.

"Studies have described the spectrum of chest imaging features of COVID-19, but only a few case reports have described COVID-19 associated neuroimaging findings," says lead author Abdelkader Mahammedi, MD, assistant professor of radiology at UC and a UC Health neuroradiologist. “To date, this is the largest and first study in literature that characterizes the neurological symptoms and neuroimaging features in COVID-19 patients. These newly discovered patterns could help doctors better and sooner recognize associations with COVID-19 and possibly provide earlier interventions.”

May 13, 2020

UC researchers look at how COVID-19 affects the heart
Researchers are finding about half of all patients with COVID-19 admitted to an intensive care unit have heart damage.

“Patients with heart damage are at risk for life-threatening irregularities of the heart rhythm,” says Richard Becker, MD, director of the University of Cincinnati Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute and a UC Health cardiologist. “In some instances, the heart rhythm abnormalities will occur following discharge from the ICU and in other cases after hospital discharge.”

The troubling trend of heart injury for COVID-19 patients is why a team of UC researchers is using a $50,000 mini grant from the UC College of Medicine to understand how the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the pathogen of COVID-19, impacts heart cells. Sakthivel Sadayappan, PhD, the grant’s principal investigator, Becker and Donald Lynch, MD, are leading this effort.

Read more about how COVID-19 affects the heart

May 7, 2020

By the third day, most with COVID-19 lose sense of smell
A University of Cincinnati researcher says a study of COVID-19 patients shows loss of the sense of smell is most likely to occur by the third day of infection with the novel virus. Most of these patients are also experiencing a loss of the sense of taste.

The prospective, cross sectional telephone study examined characteristics and symptoms of 103 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 over a six-week period at Kantonsspital Aarau, a hospital in Aarau, Switzerland. Patients were asked how many days they had COVID-19 symptoms and also asked to describe the timing and severity of loss or reduced sense of smell along with other symptoms.

At least 61% of the patients reported reduced or lost sense of smell, says Ahmad Sedaghat, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the UC College of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and a UC Health physician specializing in diseases of the nose and sinuses, who was the principal investigator of the study. The mean onset for reduction or loss in the sense of smell was 3.4 days.

Read more about Sedaghat's research.

May 5, 2020

Requirement for employees and students to wear facial coverings
Out of care and concern for all members of our campus community and in accordance with a recent directive from the Ohio Department of Health, the University of Cincinnati will require all essential employees currently working on campus and during the summer term that begins May 11 to wear facial coverings in the workplace setting.

This requirement begins upon any essential employee or worker’s next return to the campus workplace and is in place for at least the summer term and may be extended further. In addition, any students living on campus or coming to campus for any reason are also required to wear a facial covering.

 

Facial coverings must be worn at all times except while eating or alone in a private room or office.

Employees or workers may seek an exemption from the requirement to wear a facial covering. Requests for exemptions may be emailed to Tamie Grunow, chief HR officer, at tamie.grunow@uc.edu.

The facial covering mandate may be found in the May 1 “Stay Safe Ohio” order.

At minimum, a facial covering should be cloth / fabric and cover the nose, mouth and chin. Facial coverings can also be made with a bandana. See more advice from the CDC on how to wear and position a mask.

May 4, 2020

UC Cancer Center leads COVID-19 studies
The University of Cincinnati Cancer Center is joining the international hunt to uncover knowledge about the coronavirus. UC is joining a consortium of 100 cancer centers and other organizations to collect data about patients with cancer who have been infected with COVID-19 and to make available information about this especially vulnerable population. Trisha Wise-Draper, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the UC College of Medicine, UC Health oncologist and medical director of the UC Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Office, is overseeing the local arm of the study, called CCC19.

Read more about CCC19.

ENT surgical videos supplementing residency training
College of Medicine otolaryngology surgeons have developed another way for their residents to experience surgical procedures since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has restricted their access to the operating room.

Brian Cervenka, MD, an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, has been videotaping procedures he performs in the operating room and anatomy lab. These are edited and supplementary images and text are added to aid in resident learning.

“It came out of realizing that the residents are not getting the operative experience at the same volume that they normally would because elective cases are being canceled. And the other challenge is the scarcity of personal protective equipment in having all residents attend a laboratory dissection course,” Cervenka says.

With the help of Thomas Hamilton, MD, one of the department’s chief residents, Cervenka has already recorded a live tracheostomy and neck dissection for removal of lymph nodes. Other procedures that will be recorded in the lab include thyroidectomy, parotidectomy, laryngectomy and rotational flaps, such as a pectoralis flap and supraclavicular island. He hopes to complete about eight videos, half in the operating room and half in the cadaver laboratory.

“This is my first time creating these videos, but Dr. Hamilton has been incredibly helpful. I found them extremely helpful in learning, especially in my fellowship,” Cervenka says.

Virtual group mindfulness meditation sessions continuing through May
The virtual group mindfulness meditation sessions offered by Barbara Walker, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and an integrative health and performance psychologist, will be extended through May 29. The sessions will be held at 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Each session is about 15 minutes and includes guided meditation, breathing techniques and visualization.

Walker has been offering the sessions since late March to help faculty, staff and students as the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic intensified.

Walker says she received numerous positive comments from participants and it was an easy decision to continue them. One UC professor wrote saying “Your meditations have been so wonderful, a spot in my day to connect with other human beings and look forward to even though I am in complete silence! It has allowed me to make my meditation practice much more purposeful.” Another participant said the sessions “have been a source of light and hope to me during this time.”

The sessions are available via WebEx.

April 30, 2020

Stroke experts offer guidelines for treatment during pandemic
Stroke researchers at the College of Medicine have released a new report recommending the proper protocol for delivering lifesaving treatment to stroke patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart and American Stroke associations, is timely as more data emerges that patients with COVID-19, even young, otherwise healthy patients, are experiencing strokes. The authors emphasize that diagnosis with COVID-19 should not prevent patients from receiving this time-sensitive treatment.

“Endovascular treatment for stroke involves the use of small catheters inserted from the groin or the arm into the blood vessels of the brain to remove a clot and restore blood flow to the brain,” says Aaron Grossman, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and a UC Health physician who is also the corresponding author on the report. “Opening a brain artery can reverse the effects of the stroke, and for some patients, leads to a quicker recovery time. In this current climate, the treatment presents challenges that doctors never previously needed to consider.”

Read more about Grossman’s research.

April 29, 2020

Faculty, alumni perform in ‘Quarantunes’ virtual concert; next concert May 2
Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, is not only one of the leaders of the efforts by the University of Cincinnati and UC Health to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, he also organized a group of physicians, residents and alumni to perform in a virtual concert on April 25.

“It’s really important to stay connected and find a little happiness each day. Music is a great way to reach the hearts of people,” says Fichtenbaum, who added that his daughter came up with the name for the concerts: “Quarantunes: A Concert Series for UC & UC Health.”

In addition to Fichtenbaum, the concert features Heather Christensen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education; Mark Eckman, MD, director of General Internal Medicine; Daniel Hoffman, MD, first-year internal medicine resident, and his wife, Marta Carron; Gregory Mecoli, MD, Class of 2010; Marc Mecoli, MD, Class of 2008; Albert Weisbrot, MD, Class of 1975; and Andy Wells, MD, a third-year internal medicine resident.

The second concert in the series will stream on the University of Cincinnati Facebook page at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 2 with the same performers. An additional act will be the Mudder Phudders Band, comprised of Ethan Adkins, Pablo Alarcon, Alex Feldman and Seth Reighard, all students in the college’s Medical Scientist Training Program.
>> Watch the April 25 concert.

April 28, 2020

UC and UC Health establish biorepository to collect samples from COVID-19 patients
The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and UC Health are collecting specimens from COVID-19 patients to be stored as part of the Cincinnati COVID-19 Repository (CCR) effort. The specimens will be used by researchers to learn more about COVID-19 and possible treatments and preventions for not only this disease but possibly diseases of the future. The concept of a repository came together in the latter days of March from discussions among researchers across UC, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and other organizations, according to Kristin Hudock,MD, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the College of Medicine.

“There was a growing consensus that we needed samples from these patients,” Hudock says. “There was a call amongst investigators across the entire campus including Cincinnati Children’s, UC and the Cincinnati Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center that we need to get specimens so that we can ask key scientific questions. We had multiple people with very different backgrounds who had never met each other and suddenly we had a unifying goal of ‘we’ve got to figure this out.’ It was a call to arms.”
Read more about the biorepository.

April 27, 2020

April 24 virtual town hall meeting
Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, updated faculty, students and staff on the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the college during a virtual town hall meeting April 24. He was joined by Melanie Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research, and Brett Kissela, MD, senior associate dean for clinical research, in answering questions. Updates included:

  • The college has established a biorepository for the collection of blood samples from COVID-19 patients for future research on the novel coronavirus.
  • In addition to the convalescent plasma clinical trial, two other clinical trials related to COVID-19 are underway and there may be up to eight trials started within the next two weeks.
  • The college is beginning to plan for reopening and is awaiting guidance from the university, scientific sources, the CDC and the state.
  • The college’s Office of Research is working with the university’s Office of Research on plans for a possible June 1 reopening of laboratories.
  • Some clinical rotations for students may restart as early as June 1. The college is working with clinical partners to assess their capacity and willingness to accept students back and any conditions that may come into play in addition to the availability of testing and PPE.
  • The college is exploring admissions criteria since all MCAT testing has been shut down through May. This affects the timeline for the application and interview process. At all levels – medical student, undergraduate, masters and graduate – we will need to prepare for the possibility that all interview processes will need to be virtual.
  • Faculty and staff should not be coming into college buildings without approval from their supervisors. For those who do, temperature checks and screenings are still being conducted when entering the MSB/CARE complex. Wearing face coverings, disinfecting work areas, physical distancing and good hand hygiene are essential.

For those not able to participate, the virtual town hall can be seen online.

Finding an alternate way for M3 students to gain valuable patient experience
Normally this time of year, third-year medical students are rotating through their clinical experience. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has halted that. To give students an alternative experience in internal medicine, LeAnn Coberly, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, created an option for students that also has provided a benefit for a group of patients needing a little extra attention while Ohio residents are under stay-at-home orders.

Instead of students only doing online case studies, Coberly arranged for 60 third-year students to contact potentially vulnerable patients by telephone, assess their diabetes control and work with attending physicians to provide some guidance to the patients.

“It occurred to me there are a lot of patients in need in our resident clinic and the students would be easily able to help. They’re very savvy clinically,” Coberly says. “We have about 1,800 diabetes patients in the clinic. I chose diabetes because of the implications of diabetes going uncontrolled through this time away from routine medical appointments.”

Coberly prepared a script for the students that outlined questions for them to ask each patient willing to participate. She says she has been impressed with the number of serious problems the students have identified affecting the patients, many of whom are medically underserved or socially disadvantaged. For example, students quickly discovered numerous patients who had run out of medications, had broken glucose meters or did not know how to use their meter. “The students are finding all kinds of things they can help with,” Coberly says. “The students are getting to talk with patients rather a computer and they’ve been able to help so many people.”

“It’s been a great learning experience,” says student Mara Nickel. “I’ve been absolutely surprised with the kind of barriers these patients have to health care and learning how to navigate the services that can help these individuals. It’s allowed us to find value during this unprecedented crisis and become part of the solution. In addition to critically thinking about medication changes or labs, we also need to think about how to implement these plans when access is an issue due to socioeconomic barriers and barriers from COVID-19.”

Nickel explains that students confer with attending physicians who approve directives, prescriptions and other assistance for the patients for the project, scheduled to continue through May. About three-quarters of the patients have agreed to speak with the students. They have even been able to connect some of the patients with “Cincinnati + NKY COVID-19 Match,” which pairs UC medical students with individuals at severe risk of developing coronavirus and in need of someone to pick up groceries, medications or deliver meals.

“It’s nice that it’s two student run organizations working together to get care for these patients,” Nickel says.

Coberly says the project has gone so well she is thinking about creating a telehealth elective for students in future rotations. “This could especially help patients who have difficulties with transportation and can’t regularly come into the clinic,” she says.

Interactive Dashboard Tracks COVID-19 Data by U.S. Counties, Cities, and States
A new interactive dashboard maps COVID-19 data from local to national levels. The COVID-19 Watcher, developed by College of Medicine students Benjamin Wissel and PJ Van Camp, tracks cases, deaths, testing volumes and rankings to inform people of outbreaks in their area. Released to the public on April 1, 2020, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) on April 25, 2020, the tool has already reached thousands of users in almost every U.S. state and 18 countries.

Around the world, coronavirus outbreaks have centered on cities—Wuhan in China, Lombardy in Italy, Madrid in Spain and London in the United Kingdom—highlighting a critical need for city-level data in the United States. Existing online tools with county, state and national data missed this important marker.

“We started the project out of frustration for not being able to see the data as we wanted it, and it turned out many people were feeling the same way,” says Wissel, an MD/PhD candidate in the Cincinnati Medical Scientist Training Program at the College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s.

By tracking the spread of the coronavirus at the city level, the COVID-19 Watcher helps us understand how the virus is directly impacting our communities. The dashboard works by merging county-level data from The New York Times and state-level data from The Atlantic’s COVID-19 Tracking Project with sources from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Every hour, the application checks for daily updates from these sources and automatically incorporates the data in real time. Users can compare cities to watch the effects of shelter-in-place orders and gain insights on what may come next. Rankings of the worst affected areas and plots of testing capacities highlight challenges faced in different areas. This data has even prompted some users to lobby for government officials to take action in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wissel and Van Camp, both doctoral students in the Biomedical Informatics program, have released the site code to the public. Crowdsourcing allows users to contribute their own ideas for improvements. As the pandemic evolves, the team plans to continue adding new metrics and features, such as the number of people hospitalized, demographic information, population densities, and maps.

April 23, 2020

Pilot grant from the College of Medicine helps research get started

An attack on the respiratory system causing severe cough and shortness of breath is what many of us associate with the worst effects of COVID-19. But a  UC College of Medicine physician-researcher says damage to the liver is also an area that needs more study. About 50% of COVID-19 patients in China and Italy saw inflammation of the liver, a characteristic of hepatitis.

“What was not clear early on was the danger of that liver injury,” says Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, Gould Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Digestive Diseases. “There have been individual reports of acute liver failure, but obviously most people that die of COVID-19 do so because of respiratory complications.”

Sherman is using a $48,000 pilot grant from the College of Medicine to examine the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the pathogen of COVID-19, in liver cells to determine patterns of injury and understand resulting innate immune responses.

Read more about Dr. Sherman's research.

 

April 22, 2020

Stopping the spread: Researchers target COVID-19

Brett Kissela, MD, the Albert Barnes Voorheis chair and professor of the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and senior associate dean for clinical research at the UC College of Medicine, says the clinical trial approval process is being expedited because of the urgent need to find treatments for COVID-19.

Read more about ongoing COVID-19 clinical trials.

April 21, 2020

Faculty, residents and students plan virtual concert

Saturday, April 25 A group of College of Medicine faculty, residents and students have banded together and will offer a virtual concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 25 for the college and UC Health community. The concert was organized by Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases. Fichtenbaum, an avid guitarist and singer, will host the concert and perform. Many of the people participating have played in past annual IvaDean Scholarship Fund Concerts. The concert is being call “Quarantunes – Concert Series for UC & UC Health.”

“The idea is to provide a morale booster to our broad UC Academic Health Center community. I think this might be a good thing given all that is happening. And it is all being done appropriately with social distancing,” Fichtenbaum says.

Some of the acts will be recorded while others will present live during the hour-long concert. The concert will be livestreamed on the University of Cincinnati Facebook page.

Fichtenbaum hopes that this will be the first of several concerts produced by the musicians.

April 20, 2020

Virtual town hall meeting set for April 24

Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, will lead a second virtual town hall at noon Friday, April 24. The session will be held to update faculty, students and staff on College of Medicine activities associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Joining him will be the college’s six senior associate deans. The virtual town hall will include time for questions and answers. It is extremely helpful to have questions submitted prior to the town hall so please submit your questions to comdean@UCMAIL.UC.EDU by noon, Thursday, April 23. Faculty, students and staff should expect an email invitation with directions on accessing the session via WebEx or telephone.

Honors Day 2020 going virtual

The College of Medicine will hold a virtual Honors Day at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 23, the same date and time the event was scheduled at UC’s Fifth Third Arena before the coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders caused the cancellation of the in-person event. The event will be pre-recorded and will contain nearly all the segments usually included in a live Honors Day event. Speakers will include UC President Neville Pinto, PhD; Senior Vice President and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean Andrew Filak Jr., MD; Laura Wexler, MD, professor of internal medicine, who will deliver the Honors Day Address; and a class speaker selected by the graduating students. The virtual ceremony is expected to last approximately one hour and will be posted at 10 a.m., May 23 on the college’s Honors Day webpage.

 

‘Wellness Moments’ helping people through troubling times 

Three weeks ago, Jennifer Molano, MD, and Dawn Bouman, PhD, began sharing twice weekly brief, uplifting passages they call “Wellness Moments” with their colleagues in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine to improve everyone’s well-being. One example titled “Spirituality” from Bouman (pictured left), a clinical psychologist in the department, read:

“Especially during times of uncertainty, many people find comfort and hope in spirituality. Whether in the shared community experience of organized religion or in an individualized and private manner, spiritual practices can foster a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, to deep meaning and purpose. Pause. Allow yourself space and time for spiritual practices which bring inspiration, strength, peace, regeneration, hope.”

“What started as an opportunity to highlight resources that we collected around the COVID-19 pandemic evolved into a chance to express thoughts around various themes of self-care, wellbeing and resilience,” says Molano, an associate professor and chair of the college’s Faculty Wellness Advisory Council and the UC Medical Center Graduate Medical Education Wellness and Wellbeing Committee. “With the support of our chair, Dr. Brett Kissela, Dr. Bouman came up with the initial idea to share these moments biweekly, and we decided together that she could share a passage during one half of the week and I would take the other. It’s been a lovely collaboration.”

Bouman says she was inspired by colleague Mei Wang, PhD, a clinical psychologist with UC Health. Wang has volunteered for months providing psychological support for medical providers in China since the start of the coronavirus outbreak there.

“I often share coping resources with others and definitely find this useful. All are experiencing many challenges and uncertainties now, so we especially want to support personal resilience. We’re all in email overload, so we try to keep this brief and practical, simple but powerful,” says Bouman.

Molano and Bouman wanted to give their colleagues a few words that might inspire them and strengthen their resilience during an increasingly dark time. Soon, Myles Pensak, MD, senior associate dean for clinical affairs, began including them in his messages to UC Physicians providers. Both say they have received many wonderful emails from colleagues thanking them for the Wellness Moments and indicating that they are appreciated and being shared outside the department.

Molano says she hopes “to encourage people to discover the small ways that they can promote their own wellbeing during the day and also just to let people know that they are not alone during these challenging times. We are here together, and we can find ways to work through the changes from this pandemic together.” Bouman added that she hopes to create “a sense of connection between all of us, knowing we are all in this situation together, albeit in differing roles, united for patient care.”

One “Wellness Moments” written by Molano reads: “Even during a time of physical distance, we remain connected. Virtually, yes. But also with a common purpose to take care of ourselves, our community, and each other. Reach out if you need support. Check in on others. Connect. And listen. You are not alone. We are not alone. Find comfort in connection.”

April 14, 2020

UC, UC Health to examine potential COVID-19 treatment

The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and UC Health are continuing their efforts in fighting the spread of the coronavirus by activating as a site to follow a research protocol from the Mayo Clinic to take “convalescent plasma,” or plasma obtained from those who have recovered from the virus, and administer it to the sickest patients with COVID-19.

On March 24, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began allowing researchers to request emergency authorization for the use of convalescent plasma which shows potential as a treatment for the disease.

“In initial cases, patients with severe COVID-19 who have been treated with convalescent plasma have shown improvement, but more research is needed,” says Dr. Moises Huaman, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine, a UC health physician and the local principal investigator on this protocol. “With no other approved treatment options currently available, this therapy is worth exploring, especially for the sickest COVID-19 patients.”

Read more about the convalescent plasma study.

April 13, 2020

Temperature screening and mask – MSB/CARE and other College of Medicine Buildings

Beginning at 7:30 a.m. on April 14 we will implement temperature screening for everyone who enters the MSB/CARE complex. All individuals who enter the building from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. are expected to comply with this screening. Read the Temperature screening protocol.

We do not have the resources at present to do temperature screening at other buildings on campus. Those individuals may go to the screening stations on the Eden Avenue bridge or on the E-level of MSB/CARE.  We do urge all individuals to periodically check their own temperature and request that, if you are ill, you stay at home.

In addition, we are strongly encouraging everyone to wear facial coverings while in College of Medicine facilities. We highly recommend you supply your own cloth covering when possible. Read this information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on cloth face coverings. We will have some masks available at the temperature screening station but need to do as much as we can to preserve personal protective equipment for our frontline clinicians and staff.

We want to reinforce that the use of cloth coverings and masks does not in any way diminish the need for social distancing (maintaining at least 6 feet) and appropriate hand hygiene. You need to be careful not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth when removing the face covering and to wash your hands immediately.

We strongly encourage the use of facial coverings in all College of Medicine related facilities.

These steps are being taken as precautionary measures and parallel the UC Health requirements for temperature screening and wearing a mask in all facilities. We are stressing this with MSB/CARE because of its connection to UCMC and the cross traffic between the buildings. 

Thanks to the entire UC Community for your heroic efforts in following the stay at home policies and social distancing. Come in to work only when necessary and as approved by your supervisor. The inconveniences of staying at home and adhering to social distancing have had a significant impact on flattening the curve. The good news is that we expect a much lower surge than was initially predicted. We cannot lessen these efforts yet, but look forward to the time when we can all be back together again.

Eleven COVID-19 studies funded 

Eleven College of Medicine researchers have received funding from the Special Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research Pilot Grant Program. Open to all Academic Health Center colleges, the funding was established to rapidly support the development of innovative studies that will contribute significantly to our knowledge of COVID-19’s biology or pathology and its population kinetics and have a significant impact on treatment or diagnosis and management of the infection or its prevention. The funding totaling $425,000 is from the UC Office of Research and the College of Medicine Office of Research.

“Within a matter of two weeks, projects were funded that range from establishing a standard method to test homemade masks; evaluate new treatments in COVID-19 hospitalized patients; a new system to screen candidate anti-COVID agents in cell culture; discovery of new drug targets at the molecular level; a web-based aggregation of COVID-research information; and investigation of the effects of the infection on the heart, respiratory system, and the liver. Awards ranged from $25,000 to $75,000. Stay tuned for the results of these stellar proposals,” says Melanie Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research.

The researchers and their projects selected for funding were:

  • Justin Benoit, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, “Renin-Angiotension-Aldosterone System Dysfunction and Laboratory Abnormalities in COVID-19”
  • Jiajie Diao, PhD, Department of Cancer Biology, “Single Molecule Study of Coronavirus Helicase”
  • Nishant Gupta, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, “Sirolimus Treatment in Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19”
  • Kristin Hudock, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, “Storming Cytokines in COVID-19: Associations with Respiratory Failure at UCMC”
  • James Lee, PhD, University of Cincinnati Libraries, Digital Scholarship Center, and Danny Wu PhD, Department of Biomedical Informatics, “Using Intelligent Text Mining and Summarization Methods to Address COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge”
  • Tom Leemhuis, PhD, Hoxworth Blood Center, College of Medicine, “T-cell Therapy for Treatment of SARS-CoV-2”
  • Yoshi Odaka, PhD, UC Blue Ash College, and Rhett Kovall, PhD, Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology, “Elucidation of SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 Protein Structure and Effect of Macrolides Rapamycin (sirolimus) and FK506 (tacrolimus) on ORF8 and FKBP7 Interaction”
  • David Plas, PhD, Department of Cancer Biology, and William Miller, PhD, Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, and Microbiology, “Interfering with SARS-CoV-2 Envelope-dependent Viral Entry”
  • Susan Reutman, PhD, College of Nursing, “An Improvised Worker Respiratory Protection Evaluation”
  • Sakthivel Sadayappan, PhD, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease, “Reversal of SARS-CoV-2-induced Contractile Dysfunction Mediated by Binding to ACE2 Receptor”
  • Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, “SAR-Cov-2 Virus and the Liver”

 

Virtual group mindfulness meditation sessions offered

Through the rest of April, faculty, students and staff can take part in virtual group mindfulness meditation sessions offered several times a day via WebEx. The sessions are led by Barbara Walker, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and an integrative health and performance psychologist. The sessions are held weekday mornings at 8:30 a.m., and Monday through Thursday at noon and again at 8:30 p.m.

Each session is about 15 minutes and includes guided meditation, breathing techniques and visualization. Walker has been offering similar sessions to members of her department since late March and was asked to expand the offering to the college and UC Health community as the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic intensified. “With all the changes and uncertainties that we are currently facing, practicing mindfulness meditation may help ease some of the burdens of one’s physical and psychological reactions to stress,” Walker says. “Practicing with regularity allows us to unplug for a moment, take a pause, and build awareness of our thoughts and responses.”

Studies have shown that meditation can improve focus, strengthens your immune system, help stabilize emotions, reduces stress, improve sleep, decrease depression, improve confidence and concentration, decrease anxiety, increase peace of mind, optimism and self-worth, decrease levels of cortisol, and decrease heart rate, blood pressure and hypertension, among other benefits. Walker added that while there are a number of meditation apps readily available, with so many people working from home, this is also an opportunity to connect with people and feel a part of a community.

McKay produces popular respirator fit test instructional video

The coronavirus pandemic has made an instructional video produced by Roy McKay, PhD, emeritus professor in the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences, very popular. The video provides step-by-step instruction on how to perform two respirator qualitative fit test procedures.

In the 54-minute video, McKay demonstrates how to conduct fit testing with sweet and bitter testing agents. He also provides instructions on donning and doffing respirators, preparing nebulizers and how to avoid common mistakes when using them, and employer requirements for recording fit test results. The video has been referenced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

“Because of QualFit Software, new fit testing software I developed designed to overcome common procedural errors, I was in the process of developing a comprehensive video to complement the software,” McKay says. “When OSHA heard about my activities, they requested I speed up the video production so they could reference it on OSHA and NIOSH websites. Simultaneously, UC Health emergency planning asked if our department was aware of a good video on this topic to help train their staff.”

McKay also has offered recommendations on how to conduct faster fit testing during a health crisis. <link to PDF “Just in Time Fit Testing Not What You Think it is Roy McKay v2.pdf”

McKay has been an instructor for more than 40 years and conducted research in all areas of respiratory protection. He has developed more than a dozen different continuing education courses on respiratory protection. He also has chaired American National Standards Institute committees on respirator fit test methods.

Watch the instructional respirator fit testing video.

The CoronArchive: documenting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

The Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions at the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library seeks to collect experiences from College of Medicine faculty, students and staff as they pertain to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This could take the form of journal or diary entries, photographs or other forms of media. These materials should in some way reflect how this virus is affecting individuals.

“A lot is happening surrounding the course of this pandemic and, although it affects everyone, it affects each person very differently. The Winkler Center wants to capture the diversity of experiences, document the present and preserve it for the future,” says Gino Pasi, archivist and curator at the Winkler Center. “At some point this pandemic will end and years from now, how people think, talk about and study it, will be done through what is left behind. This archive will be that resource.”

Pasi asks faculty, students and staff consider sharing their thoughts, memories, documents and media for posterity. All materials or questions can be emailed to the Winkler Center at mchhp@uc.edu or Pasi at  gino.pasi@uc.edu, or mailed to the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions, UC Libraries, 231 Albert Sabin Way, PO Box 0574, Cincinnati OH 45267.

Pasi warns that no material should include protected health information or violate patient and student privacy laws.

Doarn co-authors COVID-19 editorials

Charles Doarn, director of the Master of Public Health Program in the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences, has co-authored three editorials on telehealth and the COVID-19 pandemic

in the journal Telemedicine and eHealth. The editorials were “The Day the Earth Stood Still – COVID-19” and “Telemedicine and the COVID-19 Pandemic, Lessons for the Future” appearing in the May 2020 issue and “Telemedicine in the Time of Coronavirus” in the April 2020 issue. Doarn also serves as editor-in-chief of the journal. 

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the world. Teleworking and distance learning will create a new paradigm; and in health care delivery, telemedicine and telehealth have emerged as significant tools. The Trump administration has even relaxed many policy barriers to wider adoption. Each editorial, addresses how COVID-19 has helped reshape the argument and belief that telemedicine and telehealth can be the tools desperately needed to address all patients in this time of need.

Doarn also is the director of UC’s newest and one of the nation’s first graduate Telehealth Certificate Programs, a collaboration between the colleges of Medicine and Nursing.

Golnik gives COVID-19 webinars 

Karl Golnik, MD, professor and chair, Department of Ophthalmology, recently gave two webinars on COVID-19 reaching health care providers around the world. The title of both presentations was “COVID-19: Reducing Pandemonium in a Pandemic World.” On March 26 he presented to 2,000 ophthalmic technicians through the International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO). Golnik serves as Secretary for International Relations for the IJCAHPO. His second presentation on March 31 was to 1,000 ophthalmologists from 87 countries for the Cybersight website of Orbis, an international non-governmental organization which trains ophthalmologists throughout the developing world.

April 7, 2020

Effective Wednesday, April 8, 2020
The Subway restaurant in the Care/Crawley Building will be closed. It is expected to reopen after stay-at-home orders end.

April 6, 2020

PPE donations continue to come in
Donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to be made to UC Health. One significant cache of equipment came from the UC College of Arts and Sciences. Jack Hinders, senior laboratory associate in the Department of Chemistry, and Heather Norton, PhD, professor in the Department of Anthropology and co-Director of UC's Women in Science and Engineering program, on April 3 delivered 100,000 gloves, 1,500 laboratory gowns, 30 new pairs of goggles and 500 isolation face masks to UC Health. Donations came from the departments of chemistry, physics and anthropology.

Calhoun to lead set up of hospital operation at Duke Energy Center
Dustin Calhoun, MD, associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and medical director of UC Health emergency management, has been tapped by joint regional leadership, through the Greater Cincinnati Health Collaborative, to help lead the set up and implementation of a unified regional hospital at the Duke Energy Center. The center is expected to hold about 550 hospital beds and would treat patients with milder coronavirus symptoms and other medical issues. This week, Stewart Wright, MD, professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and associate chief medical officer at UC Health, will replace Calhoun in the role of sub-incident commander for UC Health.

April 3, 2020

Dean holds virtual town hall meeting
More than 600 faculty, staff and students joined Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, for more than 30 minutes April 3 for a virtual town hall meeting. He was joined by senior associate deans Melanie Cushion, PhD, Philip Diller, MD, PhD, Brett Kissela, MD, Alex Lentsch, PhD, Lori Mackey, and Myles Pensak, MD, and George Smulian, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases. Filak provided updates on the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the College of Medicine and fielded more than a dozen questions from participants.

For those not able to participate, the virtual town hall can be seen online. Due to a technical problem, the first several minutes of the town hall did not record. Read a transcript of the dean's opening comments Answers to questions asked during the town hall also are available on this page in the FAQ section.

April 2, 2020

Donation expands UC Health testing capabilities for COVID-19
Through the University of Cincinnati Foundation, an anonymous donor has funded the purchase of two pieces of equipment for the UC Health Precision Medicine Laboratory, which can be put to immediate use in accelerating in-house testing for the novel coronavirus responsible for the global pandemic. Two machines and their associated peripherals at a value of $170,000, as well a quantity of test kits for an additional $30,000, have been purchased and are en route to arrive at UC Medical Center within the next two weeks.

Dani Zander, MD, MacKenzie Chair and Professor of Pathology at the College of Medicine and chief of pathology and laboratory medicine for UC Health, says the gift purchased the GenMark ePlex® and the KingFisher™ extraction instruments and associated test kits.

“With the purchase and arrival of these machines, paired with the recent capabilities of our in-house instruments, we should be able to more than quadruple the number of COVID-19 tests that we can process in one day,” Zander said. “Also, with the GenMark, we will have the ability to run a rapid test for COVID-19, that will take about 90 minutes for a positive or negative result.”

Aside from testing for COVID-19, this equipment can be used for other testing purposes in the future, such as performing cancer genotyping that is important for determining cancer treatment.

April 2, 2020

Ohio stay-at-home order extended 
Amy Acton, MD, director of the Ohio Department of Health, today signed an amended stay-at-home order extending it through May 1, 2020.  Read the Full Amended Director's Stay at Home Order (PDF)

April 1, 2020

Food Service Update
Beginning Monday, April 6, 2020, Starbucks will be open weekdays from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. each weekday. Subway continues to be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

March 30, 2020

Dean to hold virtual town hall meeting
Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean, will hold a virtual town hall meeting at 11 a.m., Friday, April 3. He and several senior associate deans will provide updates on College of Medicine activities associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Faculty, staff and students should expect an email invitation with directions on accessing the session via WebEx or telephone. Questions for them should be submitted to  comdean@ucmail.uc.edu by 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 1.

UC Health begins in-house testing
Beginning today, the UC Health Precision Medicine Laboratory will perform in-house testing for COVID-19. The testing will be a modification of the assay developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for which an Emergency Use Authorization has been issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The anticipated turnaround time for this test is one to three days. In-house testing will initially be limited to inpatients and Emergency Department patients who are being admitted. The UC Health COVID-19 Core Team also is considering other groups for in-house testing. Specimens from healthcare workers and first responders will continue to be sent to LabCorp.

“Our pathology and laboratory medicine experts (Kelsey Dillehay-McKillip, PhD, assistant professor; Kurt Hodges, MD, associate professor; and Eleanor Powell, PhD, assistant professor, all in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine) have been working tirelessly to equip the UC Health Precision Medicine Laboratory to provide this testing,” said Dani Zander, MD, chief of pathology and laboratory medicine for UC Health and MacKenzie Chair and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the College of Medicine. 

UC Health also provides drive-thru sample collection by appointment only. Due to limited testing supplies, drive-thru testing is currently only available to health care workers and first responders.

UC medical students assist seniors amidst COVID-19 pandemic
A group of about 40 UC medical students are part of a free service program known as “Cincinnati + NKY COVID-19 Match” aimed at connecting younger healthy volunteers who have a lower risk for illness with individuals at severe risk of developing coronavirus and in need of someone to pick up groceries, medications or deliver meals.

Third-year UC medical students Cassandra Schoborg and Tommy Daley spearheaded the effort. They began thinking about ways to help as federal, state and local officials announced restrictions in daily life to protect public health. Schoborg, a Covington, Kentucky, native, was already assisting her grandmother by picking up groceries and other essentials.

Individuals who sign up as volunteers along with seniors participating in the program receive emails offering suggestions for the type of assistance that can be provided and how to interact to ensure all parties are staying within safety guidelines to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

While medical students form the core of the program it also is open to community members and has attracted about three dozen volunteers not affiliated with UC. To get involved visit the “Cincinnati + NKY COVID-19 Match” website or  read more about the program.

Hoxworth donation centers open 
Hoxworth Blood Center continues to need blood donors. Hoxworth is now asking donors to schedule all appointments at its seven blood donation centers and is not permitting walk-in donors so it can ensure appropriate social distancing. Additionally, all blood drives held on buses have been cancelled until May 1. Donations at neighborhood donor centers and blood drives held around Cincinnati will continue as scheduled.

Grand Rounds on COVID-19
Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, presented “COVID-19: Science, Reality and Hope” on March 18 in a Medicine Grand Rounds. For those who were not able to participate, you can view his presentation online

Warning on COVID-19 phishing attempts
College of Medicine information security experts warn to be on the lookout for email phishing attempts playing on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Phishing, which attempts to gain usernames, passwords and other information through fraudulent emails with links to fake websites, have been increasing in recent weeks. The emails often look real but there are usual warning signs, including an unfamiliar greeting, misspellings, poor grammar and sketchy return email addresses. Additional information and tips to avoid falling victim to phishing attempts are available online from UC Information Security. Anyone receiving such emails should forward them to  abuse@uc.edu.  

Striker Lecture canceled
The 11th Annual Cecil Striker Lecture scheduled for May 7 has been canceled. The lecture by Jack Gluckman, MD, professor emeritus, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, on Christian R. Holmes, MD, dean of the College of Medicine from 1914 until his death in 1920, will be rescheduled in 2021. The annual lecture on medical history is presented by the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions and the Cecil Striker Society for the History of Medicine.

March 25, 2020

Food Service
Subway will now be open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
 

March 23, 2020

 
Faculty, community respond to call for personal protection equipment
A March 20 message from College of Medicine research leadership to faculty seeking essential reagents and personal protective equipment (PPE) for UC Health physicians and staff on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle generated a large trove of donations. Not only did research faculty step up, but after sharing the request with others outside the college, so did people in the Cincinnati community.
The call for donations was led by Melanie T. Cushion, PhD, senior associate dean for research, Brett Kissela, MD, senior associate dean for clinical research, and Kenneth Greis, PhD, associate dean for research core facilities.
 
Lori Harris (pictured), interim director of the Harrison Health Sciences Library, pulled almost 40 N95 masks in addition to gloves and gowns from the library’s disaster preparedness kits and donated them to UC Health. Many basic science labs have also helped by supplying PPE and media for virus testing. Material will continued to be collected until Friday, March 27 and can be dropped off in the conference room in the Dean’s Suite, CARE/Crawley E-870.
 
Kissela also enlisted the help of fellow American Heart Association board member Steve Berke who further spread the word. Through Berke’s efforts, Great Oaks Career Campuses quickly gathered a minivan-load of masks, eye shields, gloves and other PPE for donation. Harry Snyder, president and CEO of Great Oaks, even helped by driving the materials directly to UC Health. Sycamore Community School District donated PPE and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College also has material to donate. Separately, Indian Hill Exempted Village School District supplied PPE.

“All the people who have contributed so far have been unbelievably kind,” Kissela said. “They want to do something to help and they had many supportive things to say for all of our health care workers. They clearly all got it; that getting infected could be life or death and that any infection is a risk to our work force.”
 
2020 Honors Day canceled
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the College of Medicine’s Honors Day ceremony, scheduled for May 23, has been canceled. Graduating students were informed March 21 that UC has postponed all spring commencement exercises. Given the timeline for graduating medical students’ transition to residency, it would be difficult for the college to postpone Honors Day until a later date. The college is committed to celebrating the Class of 2020, and has begun planning an alternate commemoration of this year’s class. Administration will work closely with Medical Student Association class co-presidents to gather ideas for an alternate celebration.
 
Inspirational message to third-year students
In an update to third-year medical students on March 20, Philip Diller, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for educational affairs, also offered students words of advice on their medical education during a suspension of their clinical experience due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
 
“Daniel Drake, the founder of our college was self-taught. He read the works of the masters of his time. He worked through the textbooks seeing both the forest and the trees of each discipline. He had a single teacher and no teams or hospitals at the start, and then four months of lectures at University of Pennsylvania. His approach of self-education still works,” Diller wrote.
 
He suggests that students review case descriptions, practice the skills fundamental to doctoring, learn the various roles of the clinical team and clarify their specialty choice. “Add to all this Aequanimitas,” Diller continued. “This word was the watchword of William Osler which he shared in one of his graduation addresses. It means staying calm in the midst of turbulent times.”
 
Read his inspirational letter.
 
Student service opportunities
College of Medicine medical students have created a website to list service opportunities available during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
 
“We hope to set up a sustainable system to support our community, now and especially when the press around all of this dies down,” says third-year medical student Alexandra Schoenberger.
 
The site lists opportunities such as screening people entering a UC facility, supporting local volunteer operations such as Adopt-an-Elder and Meals on Wheels, making blood donations and supporting health care providers with child care, petsitting and grocery runs.
 
Anxiety Help
Faculty, staff and students can find useful tips for managing stress associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD and additional tips for health care workers. Other available resources:

UC Health hospitals restrict visitors
Effective today, UC Medical Center and West Chester Hospital will not allow visitors on their campuses. There are two exceptions to this:
1) In cases where visitor restriction will produce an undue hardship for the patient or family; and 2) In cases where the restriction is detrimental to the care of the patient. In cases where a visitor is permitted with the permission of the nurse manager and/or medical director, they will be screened upon entrance. Only one visitor will be permitted.
 
Harrison Health Sciences Library closed
The Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library (HSL) will remain closed until further notice. HSL faculty, staff and student workers will be working remotely. Library users are encouraged to keep library materials, and fines will not be incurred for UC, OhioLINK or Interlibrary Loan items. Although the HSL will be closed, staff will still handle reference and research questions for students, faculty, staff and UC administrators. Leave a message at 513-558-1433 or click here to ask a question. Check the library websites for UC Libraries service updates.

March 17, 2020

Harrison Health Sciences Library Closing

The Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library (HSL) will close at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until further notice.  As we are all aware, these are critical times that call for each of us to do all that we can to continue to support our students, staff and faculty as seamlessly as possible, but also in a safe manner. HSL faculty, staff and student workers will work remotely.

Library users are encouraged to keep library materials. Fines will not be incurred for UC, OhioLINK or Interlibrary Loan items. Although the HSL will be closed, we will still handle reference and research questions for students, faculty, staff and UC administrators. Leave a message at 513-558-1433 or click here to ask a questionCheck the library websites for UC Libraries service updates.

Managing stress associated with the COVID-19 virus outbreak

Faculty, staff and students can find useful tips for managing stress associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD and additional tips for health care workers.

The UC Health Stress Center also may be of assistance. Call their confidential line at 513-558-5872.

UC Employee Assistance Program is available.

March 16, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impact to the College of Medicine

In response to the rapidly changing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the University of Cincinnati and the College of Medicine have altered operations in numerous ways to fulfill the missions of the college while protecting the health and well-being of faculty, staff and students and meeting our civic responsibility.

Faculty and Staff
  • Faculty and staff will transition to working remotely until further notice. Find further information and an employee FAQ.
  • All exterior doors to College of Medicine buildings will be locked 24 hours a day beginning Tuesday, March 17. Access will be available with your UC identification card. Any UC faculty, staff or student needing access but who currently does not have electronic access to these buildings can have it added to their UC identification card by calling UC Public Safety at 513-556-4925. Anyone without a UC identification badge will need to contact UC Public Safety to arrange access.
Educational activities

Educational activities will be conducted via remote learning through the end of the semester.

Effective Tuesday, March 17, clinical education experience for third- and fourth-year medical students is suspended until March 29. The college is working to develop remote alternate learning experiences for these students.

A virtual town hall for medical students regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) was held March 13 with Andrew Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean; Philip Diller, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for educational affairs; Aurora Bennett, MD, associate dean of student affairs; and Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine.

Research continues

Although under emergency procedures, the research mission continues to be operational. However, there are restrictions that must be enacted to protect personnel and maintain the integrity of our research infrastructure. Each college research laboratory must have an emergency preparedness plan to ensure both of these priorities. Clinical research also continues. Study participants who are taking study product that is treating a health condition will continue on their assigned study product and undergo study visits per their individual protocol. Visits for studies that do not involve a study product/medication or device should be postponed and/or conducted by telephone where feasible. Core facilities are planning to maintain some level of research continuity. Find detailed information on research planning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Clinical care

Beginning today, UC Health hospitals have implemented restricted access measures and updated visitor restrictions. At UC Medical Center, there will be only four public entrances: Main Lobby, Emergency Department, Ridgeway Visitor Entrance and Ridgeway Psychiatric Emergency Services Controlled Entry/Exit. Ambulatory locations, including outpatient buildings and physician offices, are being evaluated for restricted access and may implement future restrictions on a case-by-case basis. Visitors to UC Medical Center and West Chester Hospital must be over 14 years of age and will be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care and Bridgeway Pointe are not accepting visitors due to their high-acuity patient population. In order to proactively manage staff, supplies and space, the clinical leadership of the various departments has been working together to determine surgeries and appointments that can be postponed or cancelled.

Events Canceled

All upcoming College of Medicine events have been canceled or postponed unless they can be virtualized. Among those events canceled are:

  • March 20: Match Day celebration. Students this year will receive their match envelopes individually and learn their match on their own.
  • March 25: Opioid Symposium (may be rescheduled later in the year).
  • March 26: Hutton Ethics Lectureship.
  • March 27: Ninth Annual Internal Medicine Research Symposium.
  • March 28: CME Symposium: Multidisciplinary Management of Gastrointestinal Cancers.
  • April 3 and 4: Second Look event.
  • April 21: Fourth Annual UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute/Neurobiology Research Day.

 

Hoxworth Blood Center

Hoxworth Blood Center continues its operation as the demand for blood products continues. Hoxworth is not testing or screening for COVID-19, but does screen all donors to ensure they are healthy and eligible to donate. There is no known risk of transmission of COVID-19 through the blood donation process or from blood transfusions. Blood donations are needed. To schedule a donation, call 513-451-0910.

Food Service Starbucks will be open from 6 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each weekday. Subway will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The UC Medical Center cafeteria will be open daily. Many of the tables and chairs have been removed to promote social distancing.

College remains open

The College of Medicine remains open, reminds Filak. He encourages everyone during these stressful times to take care of themselves and one another and to pay attention to CDC guidelines with respect to personal hygiene, including hand washing, mass gatherings and social distancing.  

In a message to faculty, staff and students, Filak said: “I would like to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to all faculty and staff for your cooperation and efforts throughout this health crisis. You have been diligent in ensuring the continued operation of the College of Medicine, making certain that our responsibilities are met. I applaud how, through a very difficult and fluid situation, you have maintained our ultimate goals of enhancing and improving the lives of our patients, providing an excellent education for our students and conducting groundbreaking research. I also want to thank all our students for your understanding as we transform your educational experience to meet the demands of this unprecedented health crisis.”

“I could not be prouder of how everyone has risen to these challenges,” he added.

Contact Us

University of Cincinnati
College of Medicine

CARE/Crawley Building
Suite E-870
3230 Eden Avenue
PO Box 670555
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0555

Mail Location: 0555
Phone: 513-558-7333
Fax: 513-558-3512
Email: College of Medicine