Expert faculty members in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine are at the helm of a new COVID-19 Medical Response Office, which will oversee the implementation of a virus monitoring program on all five Pitt campuses. The program will direct the University’s COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, reporting procedures and isolation and quarantine protocols.
“Tracking this virus will be vital to our response and return to campus in the fall,” said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine. “Fortunately, Pitt is home to some of the best and brightest scholars in this field—researchers and clinicians from our world-renowned health sciences program—and few universities are better equipped to support the well-being of its faculty, staff and students.”
The COVID-19 Medical Response Office will report to Shekhar, who also chairs the University’s Healthcare Advisory Group—a team of medical experts responsible for setting and monitoring campus health and safety guidelines during the pandemic.
John V. Williams, chief of the medical school’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Henry L. Hillman Endowed Chair in Pediatric Immunology and professor of pediatrics, will direct the new office.
Williams is a member of the University’s Healthcare Advisory Group and serves as the director of the Institute for Infection, Inflammation, and Immunity in Children. He is also a faculty member in the graduate program in Microbiology and Immunology and an affiliate in the Center for Vaccine Research.
Supporting Williams as the office’s chief operating officer is Christopher P. O'Donnell, and faculty members Elise Martin and Joe Suyama.
O’Donnell is a professor of medicine in the medical school’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine and executive vice chair of academic affairs in the Department of Medicine. He is also assistant vice chancellor for Special Projects in the Health Sciences and played a central role in developing School of Medicine guidelines for the restart of research operations in June.
Martin is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and Division of Infectious Diseases and the associate medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology for UPMC Presbyterian.
Suyama is an associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and chief of emergency medicine services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC’s emergency department. He recently co-chaired the UPMC Pandemic Flu Task Force and assisted in its preparedness and response efforts to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
“What we are doing, along with our teams, is taking the great work done by the Healthcare Advisory Group and others and translating it into practice across the University,” Williams said.
“For example, we know testing plays a crucial role in virus monitoring. The COVID-19 Medical Response Office is charged with looking at what testing is available, what the latest guidance says, what the best science says and determining who should be tested, when they should be tested and where those tests should be performed.”
With the help of data analytics and administrative staff members, the office will develop and oversee implementation of the virus monitoring program, including strategies, protocols and methods for testing, symptom monitoring, contact tracing and quarantine and isolation on all five of the University’s campuses.
While this office will implement virus monitoring protocols, the COVID Medical Response Office will not provide medical care or medical advice.