Residents Efforts and Resources for Mental and Physical Wellbeing

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

April 17 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

Among the many things that are coming into stark relief in this time is the fact that even medical professionals are not that familiar with lab testing. The lab is a "black box" to virtually everyone outside our specialty. I am working on ways to remedy this, so stay tuned!

Our CP Chief Resident Dr. Farah El-Sharkawy Navarro reports that some of our residents are making viral transport media (VTM) for collection kits. So far, they have made approximately 6,000 aliquots, which translates into 6,000 collection kits, once you pair the VTM with the swab. Melissa Richard-Greenblatt, PhD, our current Microbiology Fellow, has spearheaded these efforts under Dr. Irv Nachamkinā€™s supervision. I am very grateful for all of their ingenuity and dedication.

I have mentioned PennCOBALT in a few of my previous updates, but since behavioral and mental health and well-being are crucial at this time, I want to remind you that PennCOBALT is a new digital behavioral health platform designed by the Department of Psychiatry in partnership with the Center for Health Care Innovation. The platform is HIPAA compliant and completely confidential. There is absolutely no employment-related usage of Cobalt data, with the exception of instances where a user's personal safety or the safety of others is at risk. PennCOBALT is currently available with UPHS log-ins or anonymous log-in; PennKey log-ins are coming soon. The site can be reached at

Be mindful of fatigue as well. Research shows that even a moderate amount of exercise can benefit your physical and mental well-being. The Department of Psychiatry has compiled a list of free streaming workouts to help you maintain a fitness routine without access to a gym. View a list of offerings, including yoga, HIIT, dance, and more. Meanwhile, experts from Penn's Positive Psychology Center are offering six tips to stay calm, positive, and resilient in trying times.

To our research community looking for information on NIH COVID-19 funding opportunities: The NIH has issued a nice summary of the amounts available and mechanisms for funding COVID-19 related research. Please take a look and familiarize yourself with the processes for these special-notice funding opportunities.

As for our clinical operations, we believe we are at or near our peak. This means that, while we will continue to see COVID-19 patients, we expect them to be admitted at a slower rate than they were a few weeks ago. While COVID-19 remains an area of critical focus, it is certainly not our only focus, and there are significant unmet medical needs in our community resulting from the regional shutdown in elective procedures. We are now planning the way back to seeing patients with non-COVID related diseases, and we are taking careful steps toward a new normal.

Please continue to take care of yourselves because we are here for each other.

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.