Preparing the State
In February 2020, UTHSC College of Medicine leaders, along with hospital and community officials in Memphis, convened the first local press conference about the novel coronavirus to reassure the public that steps were being taken to prepare for and combat the virus and its spread. UTHSC also launched a one-stop online resource for the public with current information, available at uthsc.edu/coronavirus.
By mid-March, the College of Medicine, working alongside the Shelby County Health Department and the city of Memphis, opened the city’s first large-scale public drive-through testing site for COVID-19 at the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The site was staffed initially by medical students supervised by faculty and residents. Nursing students and others soon joined. UTHSC medical and nursing students staffed a COVID-19 Call Center, triaging individuals and scheduling appointments.
In late March, the College of Medicine opened a lab on the Memphis campus to analyze COVID-19 test samples to speed up diagnoses in the community. The College of Medicine also produced a training video detailing the proper protocol for collecting nasopharyngeal samples to test for coronavirus infection. The video was distributed to hospitals, clinical care providers and testing sites across the state.
By early May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed construction on an alternate-care hospital in Memphis to treat COVID-19 patients in the Mid-South during a virus surge if hospitals are full. Leaders from the Colleges of Medicine and Nursing are prepared to manage the facility.
Coronavirus work continues at UTHSC with testing, clinical care and research. UTHSC’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) represents a major contribution by the university to the global effort to combat the virus. The RBL first received live samples of coronavirus for research in late February.
In September, UTHSC and Regional One Health partnered on a clinical trial evaluating Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, an investigational two-antibody mixture for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.
By October, researchers at UTHSC working with colleagues at the University of New Mexico identified three drugs, already approved for other uses in humans, as possible therapeutics for COVID-19.
UTHSC and Regional One Health established a post-COVID-19 clinic to provide outpatient follow-up care to individuals who have tested positive for the virus and may be experiencing long-term symptoms after recovery.
In December, UTHSC hosted Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for a community conversation on Zoom about the pandemic and public health response to the virus.
Continuing to Serve Today
In late December, UTHSC took the first step in vaccinating its campus community, administering the federally approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to residents, students on hospital rotations, campus first responders and faculty who provide inpatient services. The distribution process on campus is ongoing as the vaccine becomes available, and UTHSC faculty, residents and students from many colleges are assisting in efforts to vaccinate communities across the state.
Even as UTHSC continues its mission to educate and train the majority of the state’s health care professionals, the battle against COVID-19 continues with drug therapy research, clinical treatment across partner teaching hospitals and faculty clinics, and expert guidance to the community.
Everywhere you look, UT is serving Tennessee.