Perspectives on How You Can Help

March 30, 2020

Update from the Chair: Perspectives on How You Can Help

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

As we are entering the third week of the order issued by Governor Wolf to cease all onsite operations, except for those that are life-sustaining essential employees, we know that this state will continue until further notice.

I have received terrific feedback from many of you regarding this unprecedented situation that we all find ourselves in, so I want to share a few of your insights and ideas.

The short video with the proper handwashing technique by the Indian chef seems to have been especially helpful. You can find it again at this link.    

Some of you have also voiced concerns about disruptive sleep patterns and sleep health. Chronobiology and sleep research are a particular focus at Penn. I also encourage you to make good use of the resources available at Wellness at Penn.

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.

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.

The best way, however, to help is to continue the practice of social or physical distancing. I would like to ask the leaders of each unit, section, or entity to develop specific guidelines for social distancing at their respective places of work. Some of these will, of course, include guidelines to:

  • maintain at least a 6-feet distance from each other

  • use masks at all times

  • do not share things like towels, utensils, food, laptops, keyboards, etc.

  • especially important: bring your own writing implements to work and do not share them

But there may be specific other things you can do for social distancing at your place of work and I invite you to share these with me as well.

Meanwhile, our testing capabilities are being ramped up for the challenge. Penn Medicine has received new COVID-19 rapid tests that will be deployed across the organization. This new test will reduce the turn-around time for results to just a few hours (as opposed to 4-5 days for tests sent externally). Access to in-house tests can be obtained through Infection Control or through Occupational Medicine (for our healthcare providers). I am especially grateful to the dedicated team in our lab for bringing four independent testing methodologies into the lab to ensure adequate testing capacity.

I want to share with you one more item that made me laugh this weekend. We certainly need some humor and levity right now as well.

Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other. The better we take care of ourselves, the more we can help our patients.

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine