Important Links and Tips

Published by David B. Roth, MD, PhD, on April 01, 2020

A collection of informative, illuminating, useful, creative, or random links and tips around the current COVID-19 crisis from the Chair and the Department community.


A short video with the proper handwashing technique by an Indian chef is especially helpful.

A graphic from the Washington Post, showing simulations of virus spread in various circumstances, demonstrates why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially (see graphic) and shows the need to “flatten the curve.”

I encourage you to listen to this story by Mathew Beshara, a minimally invasive surgeon in the gynecology department at Penn, who contracted coronavirus very early in the pandemic.



Anne McClain, an astronaut and Army Lieutenant Colonel with significant experience on the International Space Station, provides some useful tips on living in confined spaces for long periods of time.

Others have offered individual stories of courage and action in these historic times. The sister of our own Dr. Una O'Doherty, for example, is a community organizer in Queens, NY, who created a COVID Care neighborhood network in her own hard-hit community.

Dr. Sigal Barsade, a Wharton Professor of Management, offers important insights in the Harvard Business Review as a "way to help us manage a different type of contagion," namely, to focus on positive emotions that create a "contagion we can control."


Many, many of you have asked how you can help. I am very grateful for these offers. For information on donations, please visit the Penn Medicine coronavirus donations page.

Please take social and physical distancing to heart: if you feel sick, call your supervisor and stay home. Our Dean Jameson, along with six other Medical School Deans, emphasized this in a New York Times op-ed article as well.

In a matter of days, the new Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens was created to expand and accelerate SARS-CoV-2 research at Penn, CHOP, and Wistar.

A nice basic primer on COVID-19 by Dr. Rizwan Sohail of the Mayo Clinic. Of course, given the rapid developments, the data could be a little out of date, but it is a useful summary and good reference to keep on hand.

The Penn Medicine COVID-19 Learning Committee created a new training website for practicing clinical care during COVID-19. The site provides up-to-date resources including slide decks, video recordings, click-through scenarios, just-in-time learning references, live teleconference office hours, one-page summaries, pocket cards, curated literature, and links to relevant external resources. (Some material will require a PennKey login to access.) 

Many people are looking for ways to help during this crisis. This article from Buzzfeed details eight ways you can help workers on the coronavirus frontlines right now.



For those of us in quarantine or isolation, we can look to the quarantined students from Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music and see how they created a virtual concert by figuring out new ways of collaboration.

Poem "Coltrane and David at Work"

My apartment is so small
But with John Coltrane here
It feels immense
Joyful notes mortared to sorrow
Leaning back into my chair, eyes closed
Walls fall away
I’m not much tied to incidentals,
But as his tenor sax snakes
Through a miniature brass camel caravan
My parents’ bought decades ago in Egypt
Coiling around the cleft hooves of the baby with barely one hump
I see themes of a new world, one not unkind to me
But equally unimpressed
With everything human, even the bruised yellow flowers
In a geometrically-absurd clay vase I brought from the desert
When I thought of home as a warm merry den
--staging area for daily intercourse, commerce, my life
That doesn’t exist here today
Now that Coltrane has pushed out the walls,
And time’s unmetered storms are imminent
One might venture graciously a question
Even advocate
What can I do today?
As clocks tick, John’s horn spikes, and a pianist takes the challenge to heart
Few birds dare to pass
Shadows float familiar memories
Make a list-- set goals-- go outside-- come back in.
Stretch on yoga mat.  Make soup.
Watch no news whatsoever
Let your head fall to pillow, a droplet on a map.
Watch daily news briefings-
Graphed deaths like crooked arthritic fingers.
Tear up your list.  Call a friend.

 -- Luellen Fletcher, 4.1.2020



A cartoonist in New Zealand visualized what it means to "break the chain," which may be easier to understand than the efforts to "flatten the curve" and explains why it is essential to stay at home. (Here is the original animation.)


Image: Coltrane and David at work.

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.