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UMN Campus Public Health Officer Updates on COVID-19

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD Campus Public Health Officer COVID-19 Rapid Response

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COVID-19 Update April 6, 2020

Today we mark a significant milestone. Exactly one month ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Minnesota. In the health sciences, we have seen a phenomenal response in education, research, and clinical care. Virtual campus efforts are highlighted below:

College of Veterinary Medicine
The ZONE—a space where DVM students can practice clinical procedures—has been renamed “ZONE at HOME.” Clinical Skills Laboratory faculty are leading Zoom-based sessions to show how commonly-available materials can be used to create practice models at their remote locations (e.g., catheter, T-port, leg, and vein models). With funding, faculty hope to equip clinical teams with head-mounted cell phones to transmit Zoom sessions to students in anesthesia and surgical rotations. This will allow students to integrate their didactic learning and gain experience making decisions, while receiving immediate feedback from faculty.

School of Nursing
In-person simulation has been adapted to a Zoom model, with groups of two to eight students interacting with actors trained to be patients, or to a small-group, interactive discussion model that works from prerecorded videos. Instructor-led, larger group debriefings follow to discuss the many elements needed to care for a variety of patients. Upcoming virtual simulations will focus on medical surgical nursing and a clinical encounter with a diabetic patient. These allow students to learn and practice interviewing, assessment, and decision-making skills.

School of Dentistry
Dentistry coursework has gone virtual, and all preclinical and clinical education has been suspended. The school has contributed most of its personal protective equipment to hospitals, except that which is needed to keep its emergency dental clinic open. Free continuing dental education is being offered to students and professionals across Minnesota through April.

College of Pharmacy
Via virtual campus, students are attending classes, building study groups, having coffee chats, and holding tutoring sessions. Teaching faculty are sharing best practices, tips, and ideas for online education, while clinical faculty are holding patient care appointments via telehealth. Support also comes in the form of wellbeing activities like online meditation sessions, regular Zoom meet-ups, and social activities like bingo, karaoke, and Bring Your Pets to Zoom.

School of Public Health
Remote options for public health applied practice experiences are being coordinated through the virtual campus. Resources include Zoom drop-in hours for career and professional development, and a Canvas site for admitted students that is populated with more than 50 student-created videos. Community wellbeing is being built through webinars, faculty-hosted online community gatherings, a new podcast, virtual book clubs, and more.

Medical School
Students not yet able to provide care have organized to provide childcare for faculty and staff needed to respond to the crisis. Additionally, educators across the school have created many new electives to educate students on COVID-19 response, including an elective for students who want to help on the front lines. This curriculum for 3rd and 4th year medical students is intended to equip them with the ability to help clinical staff at M Health Fairview throughout the patient surge now and in coming weeks.

In alignment with President Gabel's announcement that all upcoming summer term classes will be delivered through alternative instruction methods, we are also extending the limitations on in-person experiential learning, including clinical rotations, until further notice. Exemptions to these limitations must be approved by the Campus Public Health Officer. Exemptions for rotations this summer need to be approved even if you have received an exemption for a similar rotation this spring. Exemption requests can be made by clicking on the "Ask a Question" button on the CPHO website.

The first month has demonstrated how quickly we can adapt, reconfigure, and reprioritize to meet the needs of our community. They have also reinforced that the true value of this University is its remarkable people. Know that your efforts―from sheltering at home to providing front-line health care―are deeply appreciated. Our work together will help alter the course of the pandemic in this state.

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Campus Public Health Officer (CPHO)

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