University COVID Action Network (U-CAN): Mobilizing Unified Response, Recovery, and Resilience

COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis. Inevitably, there are many gaps and needs emerging— this is where the breadth and depth of expertise and energy here at the University of Minnesota can help lead the response to the pandemic. A multidisciplinary group of faculty and external partners, part of an emerging One Health Innovation Lab at the University and supported by the Strategic Partnerships and Research Collaborative, have come together to establish University COVID Action Network (U-CAN).

Katey Pelican, DVM, PhD, the lead for U-CAN said, “U-CAN resolves to more efficiently and effectively leverage University expertise and energy to support our frontline leaders, faculty, students, and partners in order to strengthen our response now, and our resilience and recovery later.”

Do you need support in your COVID-19 response efforts?

If yes, fill out the U-CAN Response Request Form and the mobilization team will match you with volunteer experts in that area.

U-CAN is a grassroots coordination, collaboration and mobilization mechanism toward four major aims:

Supporting frontline internal UMN stakeholders in their priority needs.

U-CAN is linking university leadership, faculty, trainees and residents together to identify needs and gaps, and mobilizing teams to address those gaps where possible. Through the U-CAN website, they have created a virtual space where frontline members can support each other, share lessons learned, and mobilize help.

Supporting frontline external stakeholders in the State of Minnesota, the nation, and globally.

U-CAN has created a volunteer match and mobilization mechanism for University expertise to support community, state, national, and international needs with respect to COVID-19.

Developing and distributing just-in-time tools, educational materials, and approaches to support the response and recovery.

Those reacting on the front lines are identifying needs and gaps at a rapid pace, but often do not have the bandwidth to create and deliver important information and innovative solutions while providing front line response. U-CAN will create a supply chain to frontline responders that will increase the speed and effectiveness of the response and recovery.

Engaging U-CAN members to develop high-impact programs and projects to submit for emerging funding calls.

U-CAN is working with teams of faculty to brainstorm new ideas for potential research, education and outreach programs that will support a better understanding of COVID-19, and to establish new solutions to the many challenges ahead. U-CAN is supporting these teams to raise funds through competitive grants, and the recruitment of private sector and government funds for long-term program sustainability and growth.

Currently, over 331 faculty, staff, and students from all UMN-system campuses have joined the grassroots effort to support frontline workers at the University. So far, U-CAN efforts include creating new audience-specific educational materials; helping the Minnesota Department of Health to identify alternate materials and manufacturing capacity at the University for personal protective equipment; and aligning efforts to response, recovery, and resilience efforts across the University system.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint – and we intend to meet needs however they come to us. These will inevitably shift as we proceed, and we will adjust as needed,” said Pelican. “That is the beauty of engaging academic expertise – we represent an incredible diversity of expertise, and we can all be useful in this long road ahead.”

U-CAN’s co-lead, Dominic Travis, DVM, MS, has experience on the front lines of large outbreaks.

“It is difficult to be on the front lines AND organize and mobilize backup,” said Dominic Travis. “While clinical backup is in place, the vast resources in human capital beyond clinical areas and associated research, is not. I’m interested in being useful for the marathon parts of this,” said Travis.

Pelican recently finished leading a 10-year project working with over 85 universities in 16 countries building capacity for pandemic threats.

“U-CAN is starting at the University of Minnesota, but the hope is to expand to our sister academic institutions around the globe. I believe there is incredible power in academic partnerships supporting each other in solving problems and meeting needs in their own countries,” said Pelican. “We are already meeting the needs of external partners in U-CAN and intend to be a service to all people on the front lines of this struggle here in Minnesota and beyond.”

Questions on U-CAN?

Please contact Katey Pelican ([email protected]) or Dominic Travis ([email protected]).