Coronavirus Update

Community Involvement

VIRTUAL BLOOD DRIVE                                FWMD PPE DRIVE

Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Update from Dean Stuart Flynn

Dear School of Medicine Colleagues,

As the discussions and concerns about the pandemic continue, there are ongoing conversations about when aspects of our community may start to open and when is the appropriate time to release some of the restrictions. While we follow the protocols provided to us by our health and government leaders, we must look forward and make some decisions for our school for the short-term future, recognizing this is a complex and fluid situation. Therefore, we want to provide some guidance that may help in planning.  Aligning calendars of our universities and considerations for the health and safety of all, we feel it would be most appropriate to continue remote operations of our school through at least August 24.

This is an exceptionally frustrating and challenging time for all of us and I appreciate your continued approach to making our school an exemplar on how to respond to such significant adversity. Notably, our second class of students will be significantly impacted by this as they will start their medical school journey by meeting their peers and professors through Zoom, not in person. Although I wish we didn’t have to delay welcoming each student personally and in person, when the day arrives that our campus opens, we will celebrate their accomplishments and arrival in the warm and engaging fashion that our school does with such genuine passion.

I could not be more proud of the way that all of you have pivoted nimbly to remote work and online distance education.  While certainly challenging in many ways, we are learning some impressive qualities about ourselves and our school during this adversity. Your character and passion are shining through! We will advantage this to make our education programs stronger and future-focused as many aspects of our health care delivery will undoubtedly be significantly impacted and changed by this pandemic.

For each unit of our campus, this remote arrangement will mean different things. I encourage you to speak with your supervisor to learn how your unit will continue to be operational as we strive to fulfill our school’s mission and what you can do to continue to make this transition successful and sustainable.  With time away from campus, and considerable reflection, I am thankful for all that our staff do to keep us moving forward, for the faculty who continue to successfully teach in a new environment, for our clinical faculty who are taking great care of our community by delivering direct patient care during this daunting time, and for our students who continue to engage and learn, yet also find ways to give back to Fort Worth or their present communities.

I wish you and yours the best as we adjust to many changes. Please reach out if you have any questions or just want to talk and engage with others.

Stuart D. Flynn

Dean

Dear School of Medicine Colleagues,

The pandemic brings so many challenges to our world, our communities and our families.  It has changed life for each and every one of us and it has not been an easy transition.  There are so many questions and concerns and we don’t have all the answers.  Through all of this, I am so impressed at how each of you has stepped up to the challenges, working through the unknown and yet, managing to be supportive of each other. 

Sometimes I am concerned that a “thank you” from me can be perceived as trite or insincere. However, during this time of personal concern for loved ones, neighbors and friends; addressing professional change as we adjust to the absence of what is a staple of training physicians, namely personal touch and communication; and the daunting uncertainty of what the future holds for all, I would like to share a genuine thank you. To our students, thank you for adjusting to our present norm, being mature in your approach and guiding in your comments. To our faculty, thank you for your continued focus on our mission of transforming medical education to train the next generation of physicians and your adeptness to change.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the immense effort and sacrifice our clinical faculty, and all in our region’s health care teams, in addressing the health care needs of our community during this pandemic. And definitely not last in importance, thank you to our staff who continue to tirelessly and without great fanfare keep all cogs of our school moving forward in a truly impressive and smooth fashion.

So, as we transition into Spring and worldwide, many reflect on this religious season in a fashion dictated and altered by the pandemic, I “just” want to share a heartfelt thank you.

Stuart

Dear SOM Staff Colleagues,

Good sunny and windy afternoon. I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are doing ok during these unprecedented and daunting times. I look forward to seeing you all again in our school’s home (not so sure you like seeing me walk down your hall:)) and getting our balance back on a solid footing. 

With immense effort on your behalf and our faculty, we have continued to teach our students in a remote fashion. Not only have I heard any complaining about this, I must share how phenomenally appreciative our students are with their education and have shared many positive comments. If you haven’t been around medical students much, I will share that such spirit does not happen in a cursory fashion-compliments from medical students are earned. So thank you, without all you do, this outcome would not be the case.

I anticipate we are going to be in this environment for some time and although I certainly am not privy to knowledge others are not, but I believe we’ll be fortunate to be back on campus in June or July. So please pace yourself in all of this, don’t anticipate you’ll be back in your familiar work environment in our school, and with this we’ll continue to do our job well and we’ll have time to celebrate and congratulate peers in due time. 

I am encouraging every unit leader to continue the unit’s normal meeting cadence to the best of our ability, including Zoom (as an aside, I have been told that the students have shared this is the first time they haven’t seen me in a suit-who knows what others notice). I have had several people in our school share how much these virtual meetings are both greatly appreciated and NEEDED. We continue to challenge innovation and “best practices” as we continue to strive for collaboration and communication. 

In closing and again with heartfelt feelings, thank you and stay safe. Stay engaged, call and/or hug loved ones (when not part of a social distancing request) and please, please, please be safe in what you can control. 

Miss you all and respect you all.

Stuart

Dear School of Medicine Colleagues,

With approval by TCU, and working with UNTHSC recommendations, as of 5 P.M. today (3/17/2020), I respectfully ask that all School of Medicine faculty and staff transition to a “remote work” model until further notice. The school will remain open for business in a “virtual” model where every unit will continue to function.  Critically, we will continue to deliver our curriculum as designed, but in a modified format.  We recognize there will both be hiccups and frustration in this delivery, but we also believe there are opportunities to empower some amazingly creative and forward-looking ideas.

Since we do not know when we will return to our offices, please take with you today what you need, certainly including laptops, etc. so we can continue to work remotely.  Please remember to put an Out of Office message on your phone before leaving today. If you have any questions, please work with your supervisor on scheduling and work plans.

TCU and our School of Medicine will continue to operate, as normally as we can in a remote setting.  If you choose to take vacation during this time, please continue to request and report time away. Please stay local for work.

I truly cannot thank you enough for all you have done and your continued “can do” spirit. It has made a genuine difference. 

With gratitude,

Stuart

 

 

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty of the School of Medicine,

As all of you are undoubtedly aware, knowledge about the Coronavirus pandemic is rapidly evolving, impacting every sector of society and the world.

This critical public health issue influences all we are doing, including how we continue to march forward in educating our students. Although we cannot completely mitigate all elements of risk of infection, we are prepared to make decisions to preserve the health and safety of those in our sphere of influence. To this end, a key update from prior communication is that we are planning to minimize large group activities, including classes on either university campus and we are also going to remove our students from patient care activities until otherwise notified.

Instructional Changes

Our School of Medicine’s educational mission will continue uninterrupted, but in modified format.  The first significant change is that we will move to virtual classes starting Monday, March 16.  Our team is working hard to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are supported in these efforts.  Course directors and faculty are working with educational technology and our IT teams to prepare to deliver courses remotely.  Students and those faculty teaching in the immediate future should expect information soon from our curriculum leadership on how instruction will be provided in a distant-learning format starting on Monday.

We know it is critical for our students to stay engaged and enjoy their academic family and we will do everything in our power to enable this important connection.  In an effort to protect the health of our students, and also mandated by TCU, activities such as office hours, counseling, coaching sessions, study sessions, etc. must be virtual. There will be no on-campus, in-person meetings with students until further notice.

Clinical Education Changes

One of the hallmarks of our program is the Longitudinal Integrative Clerkship (LIC) and we know that this learning environment is critical to our curriculum.  However, given the present environment and our students’ role as learners (not primary care providers), all LIC activities are halted until we have a better understanding on the epidemiology of this virus. We also ask that you do not participate in any other patient care activities at this time. Of course, our preceptors and many of our faculty are on the front line addressing the health and care of our community, including the impact of this virus, for which we extend great appreciation and respect.

As previously mentioned, this disrupted curricular calendar may provide an additional opportunity for students to work on their Scholarly Pursuit and Thesis project.  SPT leadership can help mentor you in this regard. 

School of Medicine Events/Meetings

Also as mentioned yesterday, one of our shared goals is to lower the risk of infection for our community.  We support social distancing and as such, we are cancelling all large events and meetings through April.  While employees remain at work, we recognize there may be a need for small in-person meetings.  For larger meetings we suggest postponing or using remote technology (Zoom, Skype, etc.) if possible.  For any gathering, please remind attendees of the simple and effective measures to lower risk and prevent spread of viruses, including not shaking hands, staying home if sick, practicing social distancing, and ensuring easy access to handwashing facilities and alcohol-based sanitizers.  This caution extends to those conducting interviews for candidates for employment on our campus.  Please contact Meagan Voorhies for help in transitioning to virtual interviews.

Staff and Faculty Updates

School of Medicine staff and employed faculty should follow TCU guidelines for reporting to work.  We will continue to monitor this environment and will provide additional information as available.  The safety and protection of our staff and faculty are of great importance and are being weighed heavily by us and others in all decisions.  Remember that the situation is fluid and additional changes may occur and will be communicated promptly. 

Please note that TCU has suspended all university-related international travel and university-related non-essential domestic travel until further notice.  University-sponsored domestic travel must be approved, in advance, by the Dean’s office.

While employees will continue to work on campus, you may want to consider taking your laptop home each evening in case we need to stay off campus at some point in time.  In addition, see email attachments for documents with updated VPN instructions that should ensure you can connect to TCU from your home or elsewhere.  TCU also has updated their Keep Working page that has helpful information on accessing technology.

Yesterday there were several important messages from TCU administration with important information.  Please continue to read these updates and go to the TCU website for updated information. 

Resources

At the end of this message we have listed resources available to both students and staff. Student-specific updates regarding curriculum will be posted on Canvas and sent through the MD Curriculum email portal and student affairs-related updates (coaching, advising, other support, etc.) will be sent through the MD Student Affairs email portal.  Please note that the TCU Mary Couts Burnett library will be closed until at least April 3.

Sincerely, I thank all of you for your patience and kindness during this difficult time.  With your safety of paramount importance, we are doing our best to make all we do at the school as safe, efficient and productive as possible, though we know there are major disruptions and challenges.  We all are at our medical school because we believe in a vision that promotes the challenge to inspire Empathetic Scholars.  We are putting our vision under a stress test acutely and I am confident that as a team and a family, we not only will learn a great deal, we will also grow and be more resilient for our efforts.

Thank you,

Stuart Flynn, MD

Dean

Additional resources

For employees and their families with TCU Health Insurance:

Medical resources for employees and their families covered by TCU Health insurance:

•          24/7 Nurse line – call 800-581-0353

•          MDLIVE website or call – 888-680-8646 (copays may apply)

Mental health resources for employees and their families covered by TCU Health Insurance:

•          800-327-1393

•          www.magellandascend.com

o          Enter TCU as company name

For UNTHSC employees:

Please see the UNT website for helpful information.

Please note the following regarding services for students:

1.         Brown-Lupton Health Center will remain open.  If you have traveled to an affected area and have symptoms of COVID-19, please contact TCU Brown-Lupton Health Center prior to coming to the center at 817-257-4707.

2.         Counseling and Mental Health Services will remain open and offer appointments via phone and tele-health. Please contact the main office at 817-257-7863 if you would like to conduct your appointment electronically. 

3.         Campus Recreation Services will be closed.

4.         TCU Library will be closed.  However, library services will be available on a condensed schedule. 

Reference Services & Materials Access Available via the Following Channels

 

Special Collections Services

Important Phone Numbers

CDC: 800-232-4636

24/7 English only

M-F 8am – 8pm, English and Spanish

Texas Dept of Health Services: 877-570-9779

M-F 7am – 8pm, English and Spanish

Tarrant County Public Health: 817-248-6299, English and Spanish

M-F 8am – 5pm

Dear students, staff and faculty of the School of Medicine,

During this rapidly evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) health situation, the health and safety of our communities – student, colleagues, faculty, staff and areas we live – are of paramount importance. The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine is taking precautions to lower the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and do our part to curb the spread of the virus.

There have been no reported cases on either TCU or UNTHSC campuses.  As a School of Medicine with two universities, we fall under each university’s guidelines and precautions.

TRAVEL

UNTHSC travel guidelines: Everyone who has recently returned from international travel—whether university-sponsored or personal—is required to observe a 14-day self-observation period before returning to campus or any HSC facility. This is required regardless of the country traveled to and should be applied retroactively from the date you returned to the United States. University sponsored domestic and international travel has been halted.

TCU travel guidelines:   Anyone travelling internationally to a country considered Level 3 Widespread Sustained Transmission by the CDC cannot return to the TCU campus until after a  self-observation for 14 days

STUDENTS

Universities across the country are taking all levels of precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Both TCU and UNTHSC are addressing the instructional continuity and their guidelines have a major effect on how we will continue teaching during the next few weeks.

Although the TCU campus will observe an additional week of not returning to campus, we will resume classes at UNTHSC on Monday, March 16.  We will share information about the class locations at UNTHSC soon.  The TCU campus will be closed to students during this time, though employees can continue working on the TCU campus.  UNTHSC will continue to have in-person classes and transition to online classes by March 30. If this UNTHSC directive changes, we will activate another contingency plan we have worked on to ensure ongoing delivery of as much of our curriculum as possible given the circumstances. Employees will continue with their normal work schedule on the UNTHSC campus.

Please note the following regarding services for students:

  1. Brown-Lupton Health Center will remain open.  If you have traveled to an affected area and have symptoms of COVID-19, please contact TCU Brown-Lupton Health Center prior to coming to the center at 817-257-4707.
  2. Counseling and Mental Health Services will remain open and offer appointments via phone and tele-health. Please contact the main officer at 817-257-7863 if you would like to conduct your appointment electronically. 
  3. Campus Recreation Services will be closed.

SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Having a presence on both campuses is an advantage and a challenge.  To help navigate, we are working on guidelines and solutions for the following:

Student instruction on campus

  • Online – We are working on how curriculum can be delivered online.  Classes will be held at UNTHSC beginning March 16 until further notice.
  • Clinical skills – We are looking into options if necessary, and will provide updates.
  • Anatomy – Will remain on UNTHSC campus until further notice.

Student instruction in clinical settings with preceptors – Students should work with your LIC preceptor to decide if there are patients you should  not see.  If students have any health condition that may put them at a high risk or have unique circumstances (e.g., caregiver for an immunosuppressed family member), they should work with Dr. Danika Franks, student affairs dean, to identify educational experiences that reduce their risk while meeting educational requirements.

Student work on Scholarly Pursuit and Thesis projects – There are no limitations on the time you may spend working on your scholarly project.  Each student should work with course director Mike Bernas and their mentor to optimize this time.

Faculty teaching – Visit the Ramping up Rapidly Online page of TCU Online as it is highly probable we will need to operationalize this in our delivery of some of our curriculum in the near future.

Staff: – Employees are expected to work in person on the UNTHSC campus during this period unless, due to extenuating circumstance, other arrangements have been made with their supervisor.  TCU IT has developed a Keep Working page with detailed information about how to stay productive if working off-campus.

Events – TCU has cancelled all large events or gatherings on their campus, this includes the Faculty meeting on March 17 and grand rounds. Other than teaching, all SOM events on the UNTHSC campus are also cancelled until further notice. 

Information is changing rapidly.  Please stay up to date with information from the COVID-19 Web pages at TCU and UNTHSC.

We recognize that this is a very trying time for all, from students, staff, and faculty to our community and families. I know that everything transpiring is disruptive to your routine and expectations, causing significant challenges, not to mention uncertainty and concern. Please  know we are working diligently to function within the greater ecosystem our school resides. With your patience, guidance, and support, we will continue to address our challenges with a “can do” spirit and look forward to the time when our school (and community) is back on its solid foundation, training Empathetic Scholars and the physician workforce and leaders of the future.

We will continue to inform you of changes and addressing questions in what is an obviously very fluid environment. I appreciate your patience.

Stuart D. Flynn, M.D.

Dean

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty, School of Medicine,

With Spring Break fast approaching, I wanted to provide you with an update on our plans around Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

Our school leaders are monitoring the federal, state and local updates and recommendations on Covid-19 and following the recommendations of both of our universities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  At this point, no cases have been identified on either campus, in Fort Worth or Tarrant County.

We are preparing contingency plans for classroom teaching, clinical experiences and working at the School of Medicine, in the event that they are needed.  While we are hopeful that these plans will not be necessary, we want to be prepared for any events that may arise.

For those traveling for Spring Break, remember that travel restrictions may apply. If you travel internationally, you must refrain from returning to the UNTHSC campus for 14 days.  You may return to the TCU campus unless you have traveled to a country considered Level 3 Widespread Sustained Transmission by the CDC.

UNTHSC guidelines:  Everyone who has recently returned from international travel—whether university-sponsored or personal—is required to observe a 14-day self-observation period before returning to campus or any HSC facility. This is required regardless of the country traveled to and should be applied retroactively from the date you returned to the United States.

TCU guidelines:  Anyone travelling internationally to a country considered Level 3 Widespread Sustained Transmission by the CDC is required to participate in self-observation for 14 days.  For more information on self-observation guidelines, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html.

Self-observation means remaining alert to symptoms including fever, cough or difficulty breathing. It also requires that you practice social distancing by avoiding places and events where others congregate, maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others and not using public or ride share transportation for 14 days.

We also are monitoring our clinical partners and their precautions.  Students should work with your LIC preceptor to decide if there are patients you should  not see.  If students have any health condition that may put them at a high risk or have unique circumstances (e.g., caregiver for an immunosuppressed family member), they should work with Dr. Danika Franks, student affairs dean, to identify educational experiences that reduce their risk while meeting educational requirements.

TCU and UNTHSC have regularly updated Web pages with current information and recommendations.

Although there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the best way to prevent infection is to take the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick and alert the School of Medicine of your absence.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

We will continue to monitor this situation, along with monitoring any communications from TCU and UNTHSC, and we remain prepared to respond as needed. We will provide updates to our campus community as needed, including if we need to close our school/campus.

Stuart Flynn, M.D.

Dean

Dear Students, Staff and Faculty, School of Medicine,

We are all aware of the news and the ongoing warnings about the outbreak of the respiratory illness caused by the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), first identified in Wuhan, China.

At this time, a small number of cases have been documented in the United States. However, this number is increasing and there have been reported cases in Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the risk to those residing in the United States remains low. However, the situation is rapidly evolving. We encourage you to check the websites of the CDC, the U.S. Department of State, the World Health Organization and the Texas Department of Health Services for the latest developments and guidance. The CDC site has information on symptoms, prevention and treatment. TCU also has created a page with updates.

Protecting our medical students from exposure to the coronavirus is of utmost importance. While in their LIC experience or other clinical settings, students should:

  • Work closely with their preceptor to understand and practice clinic-specific Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protocols and discuss with their preceptor if there are any patients that the student should not see based on their presenting symptoms
  • Stay informed about travel restrictions and follow CDC recommendations
  • Be aware that some travel scenarios may result in the need to be quarantined
  • Carefully monitor any personal symptoms that could suggest an infectious process and if sick, please stay home and inform those impacted by the absence

According to the CDC, symptoms of this novel coronavirus can include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. It is important to note that people who have been exposed may not exhibit symptoms for up to 14 days.

The fact that we are currently in the midst of cold and flu season may increase uncertainty and, as such, is an important time to remind you to take reasonable precautions to minimize the spread of all respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Stay home when you are sick;
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue or the crook of your elbow;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick; and
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Tips to stay healthy and the latest data about flu cases in Tarrant County can be found on the Tarrant County Public Health’s website.

We will continue to monitor this situation, along with monitoring any communications from TCU and UNTHSC, and we remain prepared to respond as needed. We will provide updates to our campus community as needed, including if we need to close our school/campus.

The following represent some general information that you may find of value:

How does COVID-19 spread?

Current understanding about how the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Early on, many of the patients in the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, it is now clear that person-to-person spread is occurring. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19, and investigations are ongoing.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Patients with COVID-19 have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

At this time, CDC believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS coronaviruses.

How can I prevent acquiring or spreading COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. DSHS always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask:
    • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

What do I do if I think I may have COVID-19?

If you are experiencing fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and you have traveled to China, been exposed to a sick traveler from China, or been exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, you should contact your healthcare provider. Be sure to call ahead before going to your doctor’s office or emergency department to prevent any potential spread.

Where can I learn more?

To learn key facts and help stop the spread of rumors, see the Share Facts, Not Fear page on the CDC’s COVID-19 website.

For more in-depth information on COVID-19, see the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

For updates on COVID-19 from TCU, see TCU’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

 

We will continue to update you as events warrant.

Stuart Flynn, M.D.

Dean

COVID-19 Message from Admissions