PennCOBALT and Donations to Employee Assistance Fund

April 14, 2020

April 14 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

I am happy to pass along another message from Penn President Amy Gutmann, who encourages students, faculty, and staff to stay positive during unprecedented times, a lesson she learned from her mother. "In the midst of misfortune, each of us can find meaning," Gutmann says. "Each of us has a calling." She also had words of praise for the nurses, doctors, researchers, and staff of Penn Medicine: "You are heroes." The full audio message is available here.

Penn is continuing to roll out very helpful online resources and support efforts. I want to highlight a few:

PennCOBALT is a new digital behavioral health platform that was designed by the Department of Psychiatry in partnership with the Center for Health Care Innovation. This web-based platform curates behavioral health and wellness content, and provides access to live group and individual behavioral health support for staff and their family members. PennCOBALT is currently available with UPHS log-ins or anonymous log-in; PennKey log-ins are coming soon.

After answering a few questions, users receive personalized recommendations on the articles and sessions that are most relevant to them. Users can reserve seats in sessions focused on mindfulness and anxiety reduction, as well as schedule individual time with Penn’s mental health coaches and clinicians. There are evidence-based assessments embedded in the platform that allow for real-time feedback on a user’s mental health symptoms and takes a proactive approach to connecting them to convenient and effective care. The site can be reached at

Penn Medicine is committed to exploring every avenue to support you in managing your personal and family responsibilities and your work as a member of the team during this crisis. The Employee Assistance Fund was created to assist staff with needs such as childcare, housing, or food and has already provided emergency grants totaling over $3 million. I am asking you to extend the reach of Penn Medicine’s commitment to helping our staff during these tough times through donations to the EAF fund from faculty, staff and those in the communities we serve.

In partnership with Google, Penn Medicine built an AI chatbot tool to answer patients' COVID-19 questions. The COVID-19 bot is designed to make it faster and easier for patients to get answers while simultaneously reducing call-center volume, creating capacity for clinicians, and shortening the wait time for patients.

I also want to remind you that PSOM Essential Employees who need to enter Penn's buildings or facilities, regardless of role, are required to wear masks to prevent the spread of infection. This decision is predicated on the CDC's recent guidance that use of face coverings may be effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 from an individual who is infected but asymptomatic. The PSOM will provide masks for essential life-sustaining employees to use. These masks are expected to be stored and reused until they are torn, visibly soiled or otherwise damaged. Essential Employees in need of a mask should visit the PSOM Security Operations Center at Stellar Chance Laboratories.

Finally, I want to congratulate our colleague Dr. Bob Doms for winning this year's Medical Student Government Basic Science Teaching Award (again)! Each year, the graduating class honors one clinician and one basic scientist in recognition of their excellence in teaching. The award is a tribute to exceptional teaching skills and commitment and dedication to medical education. Dr. Doms formerly directed the Microbiology/Infectious Diseases course taught to the first-year medical students and gave most of the lectures in the class. He developed an innovative small-group teaching format in which hyperlinked slide decks were used to construct learning-trees. After being presented with a clinical case, students faced several options, each of which took them down a different path.

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

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine