Some Ways to Help Us Manage This Crisis

March 27, 2020

Update from the Chair: Some Ways to Help Us Manage This Crisis

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

I am encouraged by your responses to these updates. Once again, the most important message bears repeating many, many times: if you are sick, PLEASE DO NOT come to work. The most important measures to prevent COVID-19 exposure for healthcare professionals are as follows:

HCP with fever or respiratory symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 disease cannot work:

  • If symptomatic at home, stay home, notify your provider and manager.

  • If symptoms develop at work, apply mask, report to entity Occupational Medicine/Occupational Health practice or designated provider, and notify manager.

  • Immediately mask all patients and HCP with suspected COVID-19 symptoms

(These and other important policies and resources are available on the internal UPHS Intranet COVID-19 Sharepoint website.)

A colleague of ours offered praise to her team as they grapple with a pandemic that has arrived in our communities and our workplaces: "To me each and every person who has committed to coming to work has shown courage in the face of a pandemic with a novel virus for which there is no vaccine or established treatment yet. Our environmental service workers, laboratory technicians, MLTs, phlebotomists, PAs, as well as our nurses and physicians, have all demonstrated tremendous courage in the face of this crisis."

We can learn a lot from their level of courage and bravery. 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.

Dr. Sigal Barsade, a Wharton Professor of Management, offers these important insights 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." 

What are some of the ways in which you are coping? I invite you to share with me insights into how your unit or entity is coping with this crisis. Were there moments in which your team was able to solve a problem creatively? Have you learned something about yourself or your team that is surprising? Or, put simply, what is happening in your particular area that you find inspiring? Please send them to me with the subject line [PennLab], so I can collect these and include them in future updates to your colleagues.

As for myself -- and in the spirit of thinking differently in this new world -- I decided to revive a practice I had as a teenager in Alaska, when I would bike to work in a food warehouse over the summers. Because I would spend all day filling orders and unloading cargo, I couldn’t seem to ingest enough calories to keep up with the physical demands.

In those days, I started each day with a stack of sourdough pancakes (and to make extra for snacks at work). I made my own sourdough starter according to a recipe I found somewhere (obviously not on the internet, which didn’t exist for us in those pre-personal computer days). Best pancakes ever.

Yesterday, I decided to revive this tradition and got two starters going -- using dried cultures bought online. I also discovered that lots of other people had the same idea (see this representative tweet).

So much for originality, I guess. It may take a while, but I hope I will be able to share a success story, and maybe some photos, with you soon. If it works, I’d be happy to share the starter, too.

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