Letter from Dean Reece to all UMSOM Faculty and Staff
As this time of such uncertainty continues, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We are living in an unprecedented season that is experienced by all of us across the state, nation, and indeed the world. We anticipate that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to challenge us for at least several more months. Though I have been sending you my weekly videos and other email updates, I thought it was important to give an overview of how this pandemic has impacted all aspects of the School of Medicine, especially as we have altered almost all aspects of our school to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our faculty, staff, trainees and students. In addition, we have made drastic reductions in our patient care activities in order to accommodate the increase in COVID-19 patients. Each mission area has been affected differently.
We have now transitioned all of our education programs to online learning. This has been challenging, but the education offices across the medical school have worked tirelessly on ways to address the needs of our students. We have had to cancel all of our student events, including Match Day, Scholarship and Awards Ceremony, student banquets, and all in-person graduation ceremonies. However, our talented team of faculty and staff members have worked hard to ensure that all students (medical, allied health and GPILS) fulfilled graduation requirements and as appropriately recognized for their hard work.
Our current research activities have been severely restricted, with some exemptions for those of the most critical nature, including research on COVID-19 efforts. Many of our faculty members, particularly in the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, the Institute of Human Virology, and the Institute for Genome Sciences – although not exclusively, are involved in COVID-19 related research, such as vaccine trials, clinical trials to study the efficacy of the antiviral therapy, as well as many other research projects. There are many departments and investigators collaborating on COVID-19 research and have already submitted tens of million dollars of grants to the NIH.
We have been working extensively with national and international news media since the early days of the crisis to ensure that our faculty experts are featured prominently in COVID-19 news coverage -- providing timely health and medical perspectives to national and international audiences, and describing UMSOM’s direct involvement in testing, treatment and vaccine development for Coronavirus. Highlights of media coverage on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CNBC, BloombergTV, Washington Post, New York Times, PBS, and others can be found at https://www.medschool.umaryland.edu/news/coronavirus/
UMSOM COVID-19 Media Coverage:
The School of Medicine is making every effort to contribute to the slowing of this pandemic, and many of our physicians are caring for the hundreds of COVID-19 patients who are coming to the University of Maryland Medical Center for care. In order to ensure physicians and facilities are readily available during this global pandemic, we have significantly reduced non-urgent, non-emergent and elective outpatient care at nearly all of our 60 statewide locations as well as inpatient care at UMMC/UMMS. This was done most collaboratively with our hospital partners. We have also implemented a physician re-deployment strategy led by Dr. Tony Lehman, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, and Dr. Raj Sarkar, Director of SOM Faculty Group Practice Operations.
Working with the hospital leadership, we have expanded our in-patient COVID-19 testing within UMMC, but also introduced an innovative collaboration between our Institute for Genome Sciences and our Department of Pathology for robotic high throughput testing for up-to 1,000 patients per day now and in the next several weeks, up to 20,000. We are also involved in the planned development of a joint Johns Hopkins University/University of Maryland field hospital at the convention center.
The significant decrease in our practice plan activities has created a 50-70 percent reduction of clinical revenues in most specialties over the last quarter of this fiscal year resulting in significant financial challenges for the School of Medicine. Across the nation, Schools of Medicine and Medical Systems have been impacted similarly, some have had to make significant financial adjustments. As you know, during this current year I have determined to hold firm that our short-term approach must be to preserve jobs and base salary through FY20. This decision required a multi-faceted approach including federal stimulus money, Medicare advance, University support and some of the SOM modest reserves. For FY21, we are working collaboratively with SOM Chairs and Directors on a financial plan that will involve opportunities for cost reduction at multiple levels as we begin to transition back to increasing patient care activities.
This is a brief summary of the impact COVID-19 has had on the School of Medicine. I will continue to keep you fully informed and engaged through weekly “Maryland Medicine Frontline News” and other forms of communications.
Thank you for your very hard work, endurance, and resilience during these challenging times. Most importantly, please take care of yourselves and be safe.
My warmest personal regards to each of you.
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