Commitment in Our Community

Published by David B. Roth, MD, PhD, on June 17, 2020

Update from the Chair: Commitment in Our Community

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

Our region may have entered the Yellow Phase, but we have a long way to go. Moreover, the recent weeks have been traumatic, especially for Black faculty, students, and staff who live every day with the burdens of racism and bias. I want to emphasize that we must all challenge ourselves and look for ways how we can support communities of color. Personally, my commitment to you all is to live and to lead according to the principle of respect and compassion for all.

I have found solace in the recent displays of solidarity and the commitment in our community to actions that will have a lasting effect. This Friday, June 19, we commemorate Juneteenth by asking members of the Penn community to take the day off of their regular work as an opportunity to contemplate the historical significance of this day and how we can learn from our past to chart a more equitable path forward. For those parts of our work that cannot pause for the day, supervisors will work directly with staff to ensure that essential, life-preserving activities continue. All other Penn faculty and staff are encouraged to pause their work for the day to remember the meaning of this important holiday.

Last week we were able to enter Phase 1 in the resumption of research. I wanted to remind you again of the following important points:

Training: Each PSOM member is required to complete EHRS "Resumption of Research Training" through Knowledgelink. This includes important guidelines applicable to everyone, even if you are not a researcher.

Symptom Monitoring: This week we begin piloting (with less than 10% of our wet bench researchers) an application to automate symptom monitoring; until this is rolled out broadly, those coming to campus are asked to continue taking your temperature every day, confirming that it is below 100.0F, and verbally attesting your understanding of symptom-free screening to our security officers.

Research Support Areas: Like individual labs, many of our terrific ULAR, core facility, and research support partners have necessarily decreased their levels and intensity of work during these initial phases. As you develop staggered schedules to maintain 20% density, please coordinate closely with these entities. Specific information and resources are available on the EVD/Research website.

Our Department members have been tireless and unwavering in their commitment to bring about a gradual return to campus, including those in our community who continue to work productively from home. I want to acknowledge the valiant efforts of one group, the Path BioResource IT team, who have worked rigorously to create the University Laboratory Animal Resources (ULAR) "Victory Vivarial Scheduling" platform, which was launched in record time to facilitate the Phase 1 research resumption of services for the entire Penn community, including PSOM, the Penn Vet School, Arts and Sciences, and the Penn Dental School. The platform will be fully launched on June 22. You can read more about their efforts here.

On the HUP side, another reminder: For security staffing reasons, the only entrance where food deliveries will be permitted is at the Gates entrance on Spruce Street. No cash transactions will be acceptable and the name and phone number of the recipient must be clearly marked on the food order or the delivery will be turned away.

Finally, in addition to the general guidelines on social distancing, there is an important directive on any work-related travel. Please be aware that a prohibition on participation in all conferences, grand rounds, and other large professional gatherings in the United States or abroad remains in place through December 31, 2020, for the entire Health System. The University, PSOM, and Penn Medicine will continue to assess the situation regularly, but all work-related travel is not allowed at this point; we encourage you to continue participation in such events virtually.

I understand that all of these measures impact your professional planning and arrangements. In light of this, I found a recent New York Times article very instructive, in which more than 500 epidemiologists reflected on when to resume a range of everyday activities again.  

Many of you have been pushed outside of your comfort zones. Others have been making heroic efforts on behalf of others. Be sure to spend some time taking care of yourselves. This is a marathon, not a sprint -- so even in the face of all the change and the various pressures, we need to find a way to pace ourselves.

David Roth

David B. Roth, MD, PhD, is the Simon Flexner Professor and Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these blog columns are those of the authors or other attributed individuals and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Department, Penn Medicine, or the University of Pennsylvania. Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of medical advice or diagnosis.