COVID-19 Update from Dr. Smith: 3/15/20

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Craig Smith, Chair of the Department of Surgery, sends an update to faculty and staff about pandemic response and priorities. Stay up to date with us.

Dear Colleagues,

If you’re following email, you know that our institutions are rapidly shedding non-essential parts of their missions, and that is exactly where we are.  Many of you have been working around the clock to help the department pare down our clinical, research, and educational missions to essentials. I am extremely grateful to everyone at every level for their contributions, and for their dedication and stamina through the challenges ahead.

Focusing for a moment on the clinical mission, we have worked closely with NYP and Division leadership to develop an urgency stratification that should preserve a small fraction of our most essential OR activity tomorrow.  We will try to sustain that process each day going forward. Up to this point, NYP and CU have relied on the judgment of individual physicians in determining levels of urgency. This is a trust we must take very seriously. I have elaborated on that point to Division leadership separately. 

Our OR schedule-adjusting process feels like the peaceful eye of the storm if we look at what’s swirling around us in the ER and the medical ICUs.  The decision to cancel surgery was based primarily on an alarming shortage of resources (primarily PPE) that are equally essential in the OR and in the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.  In that respect, this pandemic can appear to pit public health priorities against the more personal health priorities we’re accustomed to championing. Consistent with our priorities, everyone in the Department of Surgery should continue assessing, reassuring, and advocating for each of our patients.  At the same time, be grateful that we have colleagues fighting in the front lines, and be prepared to accept that the resources to support all but the most essential OR functions may be overwhelmed.

Let me emphasize that we’re not overwhelmed yet!  It’s a beautiful sunny day.  We have our families and friends.  No matter how many of us get infected, the vast majority will do well.  I was pleased to hear that NIH has approached our own Donna Farber for help immunophenotyping the virus.  In that respect, at the most fundamental levels, your Department is already fighting back.

Craig R. Smith, MD
Chair, Department of Surgery
Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/CUIMC

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