Ped Interim Chair Update April 20, 2020

Colleagues and Friends

You have answered the challenge. Our ability to get through this pandemic depends on a positive, “can do” attitude during this uprooting of normalcy.  As I previously had stated, teams with the strongest leadership and most meticulous operational strategies give themselves the best chance to overcome obstacles. Our Department of Pediatrics is set apart by your commitment, preparation, resilience, innovation, and work ethic.  We are so appreciative of your hard work to keep our pediatric practices “frontline” sites for our institution. The more patients we can keep out of our pediatric ED, the better.

Last week we recorded over 1,200 Telehealth visits in our Department!  Compare this to just over 30 such visits for the entire month of February. I applaud the tremendous teamwork behind this achievement. Last week, Mike Haller received the first grant ($200,000) from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to provide support to the Division of Endocrinology for Telehealth services to enhance the care of our patients with diabetes. With input from all the Division Chiefs and staff, we submitted a grant application on Friday for just under $1,000,000 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The goal of this grant is to develop a base “telemedicine kit” containing a laptop computer, tablet, or phone, WiFi access pack with explicit instructions on how to establish connectivity for everyone, across all Divisions in the Department. The proposed kit can be adapted, with key items supplemented for specific medical conditions.

Faculty and staff are working tirelessly to garner both basic and clinical research grants. No less than 12 grants and/or protocols have been developed since the COVID outbreak with most operational. I also want to give a shout out to our Education leadership, our Chief residents, and fellows as the emails I have received from our trainees are glowing.

Unfortunately, shortfalls in revenue are not unexpected for both the College of Medicine and Shands. We have responded to the Dean’s request to freeze PDAs, food, travel, subscriptions, membership in organizations, hold future recruitment and use Departmental and investigator IDCs. I have been so moved and humbled by Departmental leadership, Faculty and staff reaching out to voluntarily take salary cuts. Fortunately, this has not been needed as yet, and hopefully will not be needed in the future either.

Necessity is the mother of invention.  COVID has forced us to examine our current operations and to adapt to the future.  We are opening new pathways in our thinking process that previously we may have thought impractical. In the words of General Montgomery, “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer!” Our scaling-back of confinement measures must be “gradual”. As restrictions are lifted, increased testing and surveillance will be critical. I have asked Sonja Rasmussen to chair our Department Committee as we and the institution seek this gradual “reopening”.

Your safety remains paramount – do not let your guard down. Your continued flexibility is critical as we navigate these unchartered waters in solidarity. Let us not underestimate our power to uplift, encourage and support one another. In the words of Aesop, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Desmond Schatz, MD
Professor and Interim Chair
UF Department of Pediatrics