Dear UMSOM Community:
I am sure you are aware of Governor Hogan’s Executive Order that requires all residents of Maryland to stay at home, except for essential activities. The Governor continues to emphasize that we are still just at the beginning of this crisis in Maryland. While the State has been taking the lead with early containment efforts, we are now at a critical point. Each of our actions can lessen the expected surge in cases over the next few weeks.
As we now extend our telework period until the end of April, I am keenly aware of the stress and strain, and the feelings of isolation, that this may create for all of us in the UMSOM community. Therefore, I encourage each of us to make every effort to remain positive, optimistic, and focused on goals we have set for ourselves individually and collectively. Stay connected with each other as often as possible. Consider setting goals for specific projects each day and take pride in their accomplishment. Go outside and take a walk periodically if you are able.
We are fortunate to have experts in wellness and mental health in our community who can advise us. My video message this week will feature John C. Allen, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, who will talk directly to our students about maintaining strong mental health during this difficult period. Jill RachBeisel, Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Psychiatry, will address all of us about how we can keep a positive mindset, and remain alert, productive and effective in continuing to enhance our UMSOM mission areas. Next week, I will discuss how each of us can begin planning and preparing for our rebound and success when the COVD-19 crisis is over.
Update from UMB/UMSOM
Following Gov. Hogan’s Executive Order, UMB President Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, announced the extension of the episodic telework period until at least the end of April. He noted that there will be a further update no later than April 15. The announcement included some stress-reduction tips from Stephanie Knight, MD, FAPA, who is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at our School of Medicine. To read Dr. Knight's tips, Click Here. Additionally, UMB provided resource information for those feeling increased anxiety because of the crisis and its disruption to your life, UMB offers counseling resources through our Employee Assistance Program (667-214-1555) and the Student Counseling Center (410-328-8404).
Working with Dr. Jarrell, I appointed a small group of researchers to determine appropriate exemptions for restricted research, allowing critical research to continue. A similar process was used for graduate student research exemptions.
Update from UMMS
UMMS President & CEO Mohan Suntha, MD, also announced an extension of the telework policy for all non-clinical staff whose work responsibilities allow them to work remotely through the end of April. "Our UMMS leadership team is committed to taking measures to protect you and your families during these extraordinary times," Dr. Suntha said. In addition to telework, he added that the UMMS leave policy for this situation is designed to reduce the burden and anxiety of any members of our workforce who may become ill with COVID-19 while taking care of patients or those who have to be quarantined.
Working with Ms. Alison Brown and UMMC leadership, UMSOM clinical faculty developed a major institutional and faculty surge plan, and prepared a faculty redeployment plan, to manage the anticipated increase COVID-19 patients.
Faculty Research and Involvement in COVID-19
Matt Frieman, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UMSOM, Stuart Weston, PhD, a post-doctoral research fellow in Dr. Frieman’s lab, and their colleagues continue important research on testing potential new therapies to treat COVID-19. They published a data review this week on the research site BioRxiv that reviewed the potential of 20 FDA-approved drugs to treat COVID-19 infections using cell cultures. They found 17 of the 20 had potential for inhibiting the virus when tested on cell lines. They found the best potential for treatment with hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate, two drugs approved to treat malaria, which are now in clinical trials.
Jonathan H. Chow, MD, MD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at UMSOM, Michael A. Mazzeffi, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, and Michael T. McCurdy, MD, Associate Professor, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, published an important paper in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia that makes the case for using a drug called angiotensin II over conventional drugs to treat COVID-19 patients who go into septic shock. Using this treatment could reduce the number of days these patients spend on ventilators and potentially save lives. Efforts are underway to launch a study to be led by Samuel Galvagno, DO, PhD, MS, Professor of Anesthesiology at UMSOM and Medical Director of the Multi-Trauma Critical Care Unit, to determine whether angiotensin II should be the treatment of choice for these patients.
Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, FIDSA, the Myron M. Levine, MD Distinguished Professor in Vaccinology, and Director, Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD), is part of a leadership team working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to test vaccines and therapies at sites across the country. CVD is part of NIAID’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit Network, one of nine sites researching vaccines and other therapies for COVID-19. The first Phase 1 trial of a vaccine began in Seattle, and Dr. Neuzil continues to work with infectious disease experts on the launch of additional trials.
In addition, CVD’s Karen Kotloff, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Head of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Division, and Justin Ortiz, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine-- are the principal investigators on a trial to study the efficacy of the antiviral therapy, remdesivir, for treating COVID19. Wilbur Chen, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and an adult infectious disease specialist and David Marcozzi, MD, MD, MHS-CL, FACEP, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Head of the Incident Command for the University of Maryland Medical System, are both serving on Governor Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 response taskforce. They are advising top state officials about the illness, treatment and containment.
Stella Hines, MD, MSPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is providing important expertise on the protection of health care workers responding to surge capacity and shortages of equipment. On March 30, she was a speaker in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webinar on Reuse and decontamination of N95 respirators.
James Campbell, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, is providing guidance to pediatric practices across the country on COVID-19 related issues. He has spearheaded the development of the Kids & COVID-19 website, a resource for pediatric caregivers including pediatric practices, parents and others. The site is being used by practices across the country as well as state and federal health policy organizations. Visit the new site at
I would like to extend a final reminder for everyone to stay where you are. Governor Hogan is very clear in his recent Executive Order, stating: “This is a deadly public health crisis—we are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home, we are directing them to do so. No Maryland resident should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention, or for other necessary purposes. A person who knowingly and willfully violates this Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both. This Order remains effective until after termination of the state of emergency and the proclamation of the catastrophic health emergency has been rescinded, or until rescinded, superseded, amended, or revised by additional orders.”
I will close with some words of encouragement to be strong and resilient. Use your time in meaningful and productive ways that will allow you to keep pace. If you remain focused and postive, we will all rebound quickly and regain our forward momentum!
E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore
John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor
Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine