Yale faculty answers the call in multi-front fight against COVID-19
As COVID-19 began its march across the globe, members of the Yale faculty and administration quickly mobilized to help meet the threat. Yale researchers are helping to set global health policy, cooperating with government agencies on emergency responses, developing diagnostic tests and potential treatments for COVID-19, and making plans to help vulnerable populations. Throughout the crisis, many of them have offered guidance to the general public through scores of media interviews about the true nature and dangers of COVID-19.
Yale scholars, particularly in the health sciences, have also served as key advisers to Yale’s own leaders as they steer the university through a dramatic and fast-moving disruption.
“Yale is fortunate to be home to world-renowned experts in public health, medicine, and nursing, and I am grateful to them for their advice, which I have relied on, along with the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies,” Yale President Peter Salovey said. “We have a responsibility to demonstrate to others the importance of taking actions based on medical and scientific evidence.”
Below are examples of efforts by faculty and staff to help the Yale campus and the world deal with a menace that has paralyzed entire nations.
The most immediate challenge facing communities worldwide is slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that infected patients do not swamp hospitals and medical facilities. One of the main strategies is social distancing, a concept that has led millions of Americans to start working from home at their employers’ behest, and to the widespread cancellation of events designed to draw crowds. Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves and colleagues at the Yale Public Health Modeling Unit are collaborating with scientists at Stanford and Harvard to study the effectiveness of social distancing and what allows it to work best.
Gonsalves and colleagues are also helping craft for federal, state and local leaders policy recommendations that can be enacted through executive authority or emergency legislation.
President Salovey receives daily guidance from a COVID-19 Advisory Committee he assembled as the crisis unfolded.
Drawing heavily from the top ranks of Yale’s health sciences schools and from Yale Health, which provides healthcare for most Yale employees, it includes: Paul Genecin, M.D., director, Yale Health; Nancy Brown, M.D., dean, Yale School of Medicine; Ann Kurth, dean, Yale School of Nursing; Sten Vermund, M.D., dean, Yale School of Public Health; public health professor and Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health Saad Omer, M.D.; medical school professors Albert Ko, M.D., and Sandy Bogucki, M.D.; Yale Health Medical Director Jennifer W. McCarthy M.D.; Vice Provost Stephanie Spangler M.D.; and School of Management professor Edward Kaplan.
Yale expertise on COVID-19 is also in demand beyond the campus.
For instance, Ko, a professor in the medical school and chair of epidemiology in the School of Public Health, is currently working with the World Health Organization to develop master protocols for evaluating therapeutics and vaccines for emerging pathogens on the WHO priority list, including COVID-19.
Once protocols are approved, Yale scientists will be at the forefront of efforts to develop new treatments and vaccines. Immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki and public health school epidemiologist Nathan Grubaugh are both part of the laboratory group for a new COVID-19 task force at Yale. The group is headed by Dr. Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology, and includes Omer, Ko, and Marie-Louise Landry, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory.
Omer is working with the Connecticut Department of Public Health on strategies for minimizing the virus’s spread and helping vulnerable populations, including seniors in retirement homes who can’t easily self-isolate.
Amid urgent scientific and advisory work, many Yale faculty have also sought to provide one of the most valuable resources available in a pandemic — accurate and relevant information for the general public. Faculty experts have offered comment in The New York Times, Washington Post, Discover Magazine, CNN, Vice, YahooNews, NBC, CBS, CNN, and many other top news outlets.
At Yale New Haven Health System, which includes Yale New Haven Hospital, Dr. Richard Martinello and Drs. Steven Choi, Tom Balcezak, and Christian Pettker have played an integral role in media sessions explaining the Health System’s planning, preparation, prevention measures, and steps the system is taking regarding testing status and measures. Many clinical faculty members at Yale Medicine — the School of Medicine’s clinical practice — have also been essential in answering media inquiries about the COVID-19 crisis, among them Drs. Manisha Juthani, Joseph Vinetz, Marie-Louise Landry, Ellen Foxman, and Thomas Murray.
Yale experts are also assessing the financial impact of COVID-19.
For instance, Howard Forman brings both health and business expertise to bear as a professor in the practice of management, public health policy, economics, and radiology. He has written about public apprehension and its impact on the financial markets, the necessary scale and scope of an appropriate testing/detection effort, and the need for immediate public health and healthcare investment. He has been working with colleagues to craft policy recommendations on COVID-19 for Congress and the White House.
All this urgent work, intended to address the current crisis, may prove useful for the next.
“The solutions we are working hard to implement now will make us more capable of overcoming pandemics in the future,” Salovey said. “Recent events make clear that what we choose to do today affects lives around the world and has a profound impact on our future.”