Lisa H. Merck, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine, normally focuses her research on clinical trials for acute brain injury. But once the pandemic hit, Merck also took on leadership roles as site principal investigator for multiple national clinical trials to study COVID-19. One trial is aimed at determining COVID-19’s impact on health care workers; another is examining whether transfusion of convalescent blood plasma can stop the progression from a mild to a severe form of the disease; and several other studies are evaluating new pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 patients in the emergency room and intensive care unit. All the while, Merck has continued to treat acute brain injury patients and COVID-19 patients in the emergency department.
“Since COVID, there are many times that a patient’s family is unable to see them in the ICU until the results of COVID testing are back. Like most units nationally, visitors are then limited. There is an extra layer of vigilance to communicate with the family, to keep them informed while they wait outside of the walls of the hospital. This winter, after responding to a page regarding a patient with a critical brain injury, our team sat outside of the hospital for an hour with the patient’s extended family. We sat around a picnic table, in the sunshine, until everyone’s questions were satisfied, at least for that moment. Then, we went back to the patient’s bedside. COVID has changed the way we navigate illness, but the patients and their families remain our central focus.”