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Beyond COVID-19

March 20, 2020

To Yale School of Medicine Faculty, Students, and Staff:

We named this monthly missive “Beyond Sterling Hall,” to convey that YSM extends far beyond an administrative building or our laboratories. Today I would like to convey the ways in which our faculty, staff, and students are rising above COVID-19 and share the work that is continuing to move us forward as a school of medicine.

First, our response to COVID-19 has brought out the best in our school—the caring, collegiality, and creativity of our people. I provide here just a few examples. Faced with a shortage of clinical tests for COVID-19, Dr. Marie Landry has developed a test in the clinical virology laboratory to increase dramatically our testing capabilities. Researchers in immunobiology have extended the test for research purposes. Dr. Chen Liu and the molecular pathology laboratory will further increase our capacity for clinical testing. Professor Daniel Colón-Ramos facilitated the sharing of reagents with colleagues in Puerto Rico to make testing available there. Students at Yale School of Public Health are performing contact tracing and students at YSM, faced with the cancellation of their clerkships, are engaging with faculty to stand up a new course on COVID-19 and pandemics. They have also volunteered to conduct literature searches for our teams, just as they would on the wards. Our education leadership team has created a virtual Second Look visit for our applicants, calling upon the collective efforts of our faculty to participate not only in this important admissions event, but also post-Second Look recruitment efforts. Clinical leaders huddle every morning to make tough decisions to ensure that we have the capacity to care for patients while protecting the safety of our faculty and staff. Earlier this week, Dr. Murat Gunel facilitated a call among over 20 Yale participants and colleagues in China to learn from their clinical experience and enhance our protocols for caring for COVID-19 patients. Our clinical researchers are pursuing hypothesis-driven treatment studies, just as our basic scientists and geneticists are studying the mechanism of viral infectivity and host susceptibility. Others such as Dr. Naftali Kaminski and Professor Carla Rothlin, co-chairs of the YSM Faculty Engagement Committee, have shared resources for our faculty and staff around faculty wellness. Our psychiatry team, led by Dr. John Krystal, is offering virtual stress and resilience town halls over Zoom that are open to all faculty, residents, students, and staff at the school and health system. These meetings, which take place twice daily, are designed to provide a way to connect, decompress, and reinforce skills to promote resilience in coping with the stress of supporting patients with COVID-19 and their families, as well as in dealing with the increased work and personal demands of the pandemic.

These are just a few of the efforts. Over the coming weeks, we would like to continue to share your good work. For this reason, we ask that you send additional examples and opportunities to this link.

At the same time, we are continuing our strategic efforts to realize our vision for the future of YSM. As you know, in February we reorganized the Office of Faculty Affairs as the Office of Academic and Professional Development. We have established a standardized process, coordinated through this office, for addressing faculty behavior and have begun to vet this process with such advisory groups as FAC (Faculty Advisory Council), SWIM (Committee for the Status of Women in Medicine), and MORE (Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion). The Program for Art in Public Spaces has submitted a draft plan for modifying how portraits are permanently displayed at YSM to better convey the richness and complexity of our history. We have revised our search processes for senior leaders to make searches more inclusive and to select for value-based leadership qualities, as well as for excellence. We recently announced the search committee for the chair of neuroscience, led by Professor David Schatz. I am also interviewing candidates for the role of deputy dean for research (basic science) to succeed Professor Michael Crair. In a meeting with chairs and center directors, we affirmed expectations around mentorship and career development for all faculty. In the last week, I have charged a task force with developing a plan for how we might implement institutional infrastructure to support physician-scientist development. I continue to (virtually) meet with small groups of faculty and staff who signed up for listening groups. These are incredibly uplifting meetings, as I get to know you and understand how talented and committed you are to our missions of discovery, teaching, and patient care.

We have much to do to combat this virus and to moderate its effect on our community. As we gird ourselves for the coming battle and its aftereffects, we will discover new ways to work together to advance discovery, learning, and health. Through your resilience and creativity, we will emerge a stronger school and community.


Nancy J. Brown, MD
Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine
C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine