In recent weeks, the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Disease Center has continued to confront the realities of the fight against COVID-19, approaching the many new challenges with unity, rigor, and commitment to excellent patient care. Central to this effort has been publishing what is known about COVID-19 and digestive diseases, conducting outreach to patients and the community, and staffing the hospital COVID-19 wards. All of these efforts have helped support the University of Chicago Medicine’s progress in the fight against the disease; current trends are encouraging, and UChicago Medicine leadership is optimistic that this first wave is being managed effectively.
Building on recent international research collaborations, Russell D. Cohen, MD, Board Member and Director of the IBD Center, and David T. Rubin, MD, GIRF Lead Scientific Advisor and Co-Director of the Digestive Diseases Center, co-authored a key article for the American Gastroenterological Association, which provided a rubric for physicians on how to make decisions about the management of patients with both IBD and COVID-19. Additionally, newly available antibody testing has been developed by the Clinical Microbiology and Immunology laboratory, and will be available to test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, IgA and IgG. While the detection of these antibodies is not an indicator of immunity, and serological testing cannot be used for infection control at this time, this testing is an important next step in the response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Additionally, University of Chicago Medicine DDC physicians have led outreach efforts to support patients and physicians in the community. Dr. Rubin has created videos and held online forums to answer questions for patients, provide guidance and information, and offer reassurance on the best ways to stay safe and healthy, including a Zoom information session on April 29th, attended by 400 patients nationwide. Likewise, ongoing telehealth conferences for Liver and IBD have provided physicians, trainees, and other colleagues with a forum to discuss GI diseases and COVID-19 through specific case studies.
GI procedure unit nurses, technicians, and other staff have spent weeks working in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Units, many volunteering without being asked, and all serving in situations where their training and expertise have allowed the hospital to continue to provide high caliber care during this time of crisis.
Explained Everett Vokes, MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine, in a recent communication, “UCM has successfully managed the initial wave of COVID patients and our infrastructure has adjusted to this enormous challenge: best as we can see we will not run out of ventilators and we will not surge past our inpatient capacity. With each week that passes, I am more and more grateful and impressed with the contributions, kindness, and dedication exhibited by and extended to our faculty, fellows and staff who are delivering patient care, conducting research, and providing valuable education.”