Magazine

'A Journey Like No Other'

– USF RESPONDS: COVID-19 –

USF Health experts share reflections on unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Dr. Christian Brechot

Dr. Christian Brechot

“I believe that two very important lessons should be remembered from this pandemic:

  • The importance of diagnostics: Therapeutics and vaccines are obviously very important but diagnostics is at the heart of the surveillance and control of epidemics; this has been underappreciated and we need to reinforce our capacity to very rapidly react. As an example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations has been shaped after the Ebola crisis in 2014-2015. It merges large foundations (Bill & Melinda Gates, Wellcome Trust), governments, industrial partners, WHO, etc., and aims to prepare in advance vaccines for known viruses and to rapidly react to new viruses (such as presently COVID19). We should think of similar organizations in the future for diagnostics.

  • Harmonization of the public health strategies. A major hurdle in the present attempts to control the COVID-19 pandemic has been the lack of consistency from one national policy to the other, or even at the state and county levels in the USA. Significant progress in Global and One Health epidemics has been achieved after the SARS-CoV-1 and Ebola, yet we need to work on much more efficient mechanisms for coordination, including performing in advance ‘scenarii’ that should allow us to evaluate and anticipate all aspects of the problems (including economics, behavioral etc..).”


Dr. Christian Bréchot
Professor of Medicine
Senior Associate Dean for Research for Global Affairs in the Morsani College of Medicine
Associate Vice President of International Partnerships & Innovation, Morsani College of Medicine
President of the Global Virus Network

 

Dr. John Sinnott, MA ’74

Dr. John Sinnott, MA ’74

“I learned that courage, the primary virtue, was essential to function as a physician in a time of plague. Courage to demand clinical trials, to push yourself to learn every day about a complex adversary, to always maintain your humility and humanity in the face of nature’s worst.”

Dr. John Sinnott, MA ’74
Chair, Department of Internal Medicine,
Morsani College of Medicine
James Cullison, MD, Professorship in Medicine, Internal Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine

 

Dr. Kami Kim

Dr. Kami Kim

"Even in a time of uncertainty, it’s amazing what a motivated team of health-care workers and scientists can accomplish. Although COVID-19 is far from over, I’ve met and worked with a huge number of amazing people who are eager to pitch in to prepare our community.”

Dr. Kami Kim
Professor of Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine
Director, Division of Infectious Disease & International Medicine,
Department of Internal Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine

 

Dr. Marissa J. Levine

Dr. Marissa J. Levine

“Public health emergencies of this magnitude are some of the most complex issues we face as a society. At times like these, people will rise to the occasion if they see a need, receive clear and unifying messages from leaders, are educated about what they need to know and what they can do, and are guided as to where to receive reliable updated information with regularity. As we enter these uncharted waters together, it is a true test of our values and grit to envision our world on the other side of the calamity and learn from the evolving science and experience and adapt moving forward. It is in this context that USF has critical roles to play as an institution of advanced learning, a provider of health care, a leader of creative and innovative solutions and a valued community partner.”

Dr. Marissa J. Levine
Professor, College of Public Health
Director, Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice

 

Dr. Seetha Lakshmi

Dr. Seetha Lakshmi

“It’s been a journey like no other. As an epidemiologist, I train for outbreak and pandemic management. However, it is hard to imagine that any amount of training would have prepared us for a pandemic of this speed and magnitude. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, I have witnessed displays of immense solidarity and courage in my colleagues and in our community at large. We came together as a collective conscience despite being physically separated. Lastly, as a physician, a mother, a wife and a friend, I have mourned the loss of physical presence during first breaths, joyful tears and final goodbyes. As we look to the future for hope and near normalcy, we march on. We are prepared to provide the best care for the community, every day and every step of the way, no matter what new challenges come our way. Together we have overcome unprecedented challenges that were once unforeseeable and unimaginable; together we will overcome this invisible enemy.”

Dr. Seetha Lakshmi
Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease, Morsani College of Medicine
Associate Hospital Epidemiologist, Tampa General Hospital

 

Donna Petersen

Donna Petersen

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been correctly characterized as a public health crisis, which means it requires a coordinated public health response. What has been reinforced to me in this situation is how much the public health system relies on the public to achieve its aims. Without any native immunity, treatment or a vaccine, our only tools are education, engagement and persuasion, all designed to secure the cooperation of the public. We’ve witnessed incredible resiliency and ingenuity – just look at the number of people making masks, finding new ways to celebrate life events, and finding new ways to connect on social media. Many people have heeded the stay-at-home orders and are wearing face coverings on their limited outings. On the other hand, people are understandably frustrated and growing angry at the consequences of those orders. We can never forget that health and the economy are inextricably linked and that we need both to thrive as a society. COVID-19 is a formidable foe, but if we can mobilize the collective strength of our communities, we will defeat it.”

Donna Petersen
Senior Associate Vice President of USF Health and Dean of the College of Public Health

 

Michael N. Teng

Michael N. Teng

“What I learned from the COVID-19 is that there are three essentials for fighting a pandemic or any other disaster: leadership, communication and charity. Strong leadership, with a clear view of the facts, paves the way for well-constructed and forward-thinking plans for all the phases of reaction and recovery. Our Tampa Bay leaders deserve credit for their response to COVID-19, the effectiveness of which is shown in our relatively lower case and fatality numbers compared to other regions in our state. Good communication between policy officials and the public is important for both explaining to the community at large the extent of the issues and the reasons for the measures taken in response. It also gives the public more confidence that the leaders know what they are doing, especially when they call for stringent measures like social distancing. Finally, charity on all levels is paramount. Charity is not merely donations; charity is treating each other with respect, helping when you can, and believing the best of people until proven otherwise.

Fighting COVID-19 has underscored the incredible array of talent that we have on our faculty. This dire situation has brought together researchers and health-care professionals to focus on finding solutions. Our 3D-printed nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs, which were designed and lab tested in less than two weeks, are a perfect example of the possibilities when our faculty work as one in a collegial and efficient way. Now, with the help of our amazing medical students, we are able to provide our clinical affiliates with NP swabs to ease the shortage of commercial NP swabs.”

Michael N. Teng
Associate Professor of Molecular Medicine, Morsani College of Medicine
Associate Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Science, Taneja College of Pharmacy