For the greater good
When the pandemic arrived, UF Health colleges responded
Editor’s note: The coronavirus pandemic has brought many changes to UF Health, but one thing has remained constant: Gators always step up when there is a need. Here are just a few of the many ways that students, faculty and staff at UF Health colleges have found to help the community.
College of Dentistry
When the pandemic disrupted life around the UF Health campus, faculty and staff at the college volunteered to put their sewing skills to good use. They created numerous face maks and other items of personal protective equipment to supplement the resources on hand for the front-line workers at UF Health Shands.
UF College of Medicine
Third-year UF medical students Emily Edwards and Christine Rodhouse created Gator Sitters, a website that pairs hospital staff whose families are in need of child care, pet care and other household duties like meal preparation and grocery shopping with student volunteers who can lend a hand.
Since Edwards launched the website on March 25, she and Rodhouse have received requests from several families in need of assistance. UF Health staff make a request for assistance through a Google form on the website, and they are matched with at least one of a team of student volunteers who have availability to help. Students interested in joining the group of volunteers also sign on by filling out a Google form on the website. All services are free of charge.
Edwards said ensuring the safety of both the families and the student volunteers is of upmost importance, and several measures are in place. If the student or someone in the family were to contract COVID-19, all the necessary precautions, notifications and self-quarantine policies would apply.
“As doctors in training, we understand that good hygiene and cleanliness is important in these times because it helps decrease the spread of disease,” she said. “The work our volunteers are doing is essential because they are providing child care for health care workers on the front line. We need these health care workers to be able to work without having to worry about finding child care. We minimize the number of students working with each family to reduce their risk of exposure.”
UF College of Nursing
When UF Health, working with The Villages Health and state health and emergency management officials, began an ambitious program of testing for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in The Villages®, faculty and staff at the college were quick to offer to help.
“Volunteering has allowed me to demonstrate to students how medicine and nursing can work side-by-side as professionals,’’ said Lisa L. Ferguson, D.N.P., M.S.N., B.S.N., a clinical assistant professor. “I hope that they take that experience with them into their professional practices and help eliminate potential practice barriers currently facing nurse practitioners in our nation.”
Anna Fabry, a B.S.N. senior, was among those eager to help.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, many students, including myself, have felt somewhat helpless and as though much of our future is out of our control,” she said. “By going to The Villages®, I feel that I am not only able to put my education to use, but that I am making a difference by being a part of something bigger. It is exciting to be gaining this unique experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life.”
UF College of Pharmacy
Responding to a need for more personal protective equipment, students and staff at the college assembled over 500 reusable face shields to be used at COVID-19 testing sites, various UF Health Physicians clinics and the UF Health emergency department. The shields are made out of protective plastic covering from an industrial supplier, the elastic straps from local retailers and weather stripping from local hardware stores.
UF College of Public Health and Health Professions
Faculty at the college, along with colleagues from the colleges of Medicine and Education are conducting a study of the role children play in community transmission of COVID-19. Researchers also hope to learn how children and parents are coping with stressors associated with sheltering and learning at home during the pandemic. The study will enroll more than 500 K-12 students from Gainesville’s P.K. Yonge developmental research school.
Because COVID-19 testing in the U.S. has mostly targeted older people who have more severe illness or are in a high-risk group, little is known about how the virus is circulating among people who experience mild or no symptoms, including children.
The study team also developed an online survey to establish COIVD-19 related knowledge, attitudes, and practices among the families of school-aged children, as well as measure indicators of stress and resilience.
“This study has the potential to answer some really important questions about the role that children may play in the COVID-19 epidemic, including how many may have contracted the virus but do not have symptoms, and whether children who are asymptomatic may contribute to the spread of the virus,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions
UF College of Veterinary Medicine
When COVID-19 safety measures meant fourth-year veterinary students were suddenly released from clinics on March 17, faculty members needed to convert course content into an online format within one week.
Alex Fox-Alvarez, D.V.M., scrambled to rework old surgery lectures into an online rounds format that would suffice to replicate the vast clinical experience for students over a relatively short period of time. His initial concept evolved into a platform that could deliver long-term online learning: Veterinary Isolated Clinical Education, or VICE, Rounds.
Fox-Alvarez then set up all of the logistics online to get the crowd-sourced VICE Rounds operational, and sent the initial call for volunteers to two surgery listservs where it spread and grew organically from there. Volunteers contribute topic- and case-based rounds for on-demand streaming across teaching institutions, decreasing the pressure on each university to develop its own free-standing, off-site clinical curricula while managing urgent clinical needs, Fox-Alvarez said.
The initiative had garnered mentions in an American Veterinary Medical Association newsletter and on the Veterinary Information Network.