Ignite Magazine | Fall 2020

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THE AIR OF OUR PRIVILEGE

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he horrendous racist killings of George Floyd and other African Americans. The 170,000 (and counting) deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each are microcosms of America’s biggest issues — systemic racism and a broken health care system. Both Mr. Floyd and those who succumbed to the virus were deprived of the world’s most plentiful resource: air. How do we recover from this? “I feel like there are two pandemics happening,” says Brittney Owens, Pharm.D. (’19), in “Dispensing Medicine, Seeking Solutions.” “Customers (are) angry about anything from being asked to wear masks to new rules that don’t allow them to bring back their own prescription bottles to be refilled.” But given that she was recently called the N-word by a customer in the pharmacy drive-through, Dr. Owens says, “Most of my friends and family are more concerned about the racism right now than COVID.” Some don’t acknowledge that racism or COVID-19 exist at all. For COVID-19, Abigail Marshall, Pharm.D. (’13), says some have asked if the pandemic is fake. “I tell them, this is definitely real. People are sick and dying. Just because it hasn’t affected you or someone you know doesn’t mean it isn’t real.” In “COVID-19 and Race,” Joseph Zarconi, M.D. (’81), discusses the social and structural racial inequities impacting African Americans and Latinx, and explains that the evidence documenting such disparities has been around a long time. Sahil Pandya, M.D. (’14), confronts the confusion of dealing with the unknown coronavirus and losing 19 patients in one day. The COVID-19 challenge is described by Tyler Jones, M.D. (’14), as having a “rather unique disease pathophysiology that I'm not quite sure we've ever seen before.” Cindy Zelis, M.D. (’96), chief medical officer at MDLIVE, speaks in “Telehealth’s Growth Spurt” about being on the national Taskforce on Telehealth Policy. REDIzone® entrepreneur J.T. Tan reveals the PreVent Project, and readers experience the Drs. Hess family journey, including their connection to GM’s manufacturing of ventilators. In “The NEOMED COVID-19 Relief Initiative,” third-year medicine student Pooja Khaira speaks about why she organized medicine and pharmacy students to help those impacted by the coronavirus: “You can always make time for something you’re passionate about.” Angelo DeLucia, Ph.D., NEOMED’s chief expert on virology, knows this all too well. He shares his passions in “The Mindfulness of a Virus Hunter.” From student experiences to initiatives from our faculty, researchers and graduates, NEOMED’s advocacy is widespread. And there are those whose impact remains. Ted Voneida, Ph.D., founding chair of NEOMED’s Department of Neurobiology, is remembered for his activism. His widow, Swanny, says it best: “He loved teaching, but Ted would be most proud of what his students have gone on to do.” What steps can we take to recover? We must all wear masks to protect us from COVID-19. And we must unmask racism before we can all take a deep, clear breath.

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VOL 21.2 FALL 2020 Northeast Ohio Medical University is a communitybased, public medical university with a mission to improve the health, economy and quality of life in Northeast Ohio through the medicine, pharmacy and health science interprofessional education of students and practitioners at all levels. The University embraces diversity, equity and inclusion and fosters a working and learning environment that celebrates differences and prepares students for patient-centered, teamand population-based care. Ignite magazine (Fall 2020, Volume 21, No. 2) is published twice a year by the Office of Marketing and Communications, 4209 St. Rt. 44, P.O. Box 95, Rootstown, OH 44272-0095 Email: eguregian@neomed.edu President John T. Langell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A. NEOMED Board of Trustees Paul R. Bishop, J.D., Chair Richard B. McQueen, Vice Chair E. Douglas Beach, Ph.D. Sharlene Ramos Chesnes Robert J. Klonk Chander M. Kohli, M.D. Darrell L. McNair, M.B.A. Phillip L. Trueblood Susan Tave Zelman, Ph.D. Student Trustees AuBree R. LaForce Joshua L. Tidd

Editor: Elaine Guregian Contributing Editors: Samantha Hickey, Roderick L. Ingram Sr., Jared F. Slanina Publication Design: Scott J. Rutan Illustrations: Cover and page 8 — Dave Szalay, professor, University of Akron Myers School of Art; page 4, Lydia Tarleton, Youngstown State University (’19) Photography: Andrew Matsushita, Elaine Guregian, Lew Stamp, Ken Love As a health sciences university, we constantly seek ways to improve the health, economy and quality of life in Northeast Ohio. The Accent Opaque White Text paper used for this magazine has earned a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and a Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification. Strict guidelines have been followed so that forests are renewed, natural resources are preserved and wildlife is protected. Ignite was printed by Printing Concepts in Stow, Ohio, using soy inks. No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior permission of the editors. Copyright 2020 by Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, Ohio 44272.


08 About the cover: Artist Dave Szalay is a professor at the Myers School of Art at the University of Akron, a NEOMED partner school.

DEPARTMENTS 27 IN THE REDIZONE 28 CLASS NOTES 31 DONOR SPOTLIGHT

The Press Club of Cleveland awarded Ignite nine prizes at its 2020 All Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony, including second place for Best Trade Publication in Ohio. The magazine took awards in categories of medical/health writing; headline writing; essay; covers; general features; feature trends; and columns. It competed with newspapers, magazines, television and radio newscasts, and websites from around the state, as well as within the trade publication category.

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LEADING THROUGH A PANDEMIC

THE NEOMED COVID-19 RELIEF INITIATIVE

One NEOMED family has been in the thick of it from the beginning.

Students organized and led projects. “So many people wanted to help.”

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CONFRONTING THE CORONAVIRUS

THE MINDFULNESS OF A VIRUS HUNTER

High rates of acutely ill patients and reduced medical staffs made for a steep learning curve.

A conversation with a NEOMED virologist who has become a go-to source for journalists.

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22 TELEHEALTH’S GROWTH SPURT

Two University leaders speak out.

The eruption of a virus has accelerated the development of virtual health care.

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DISPENSING MEDICINE, SEEKING SOLUTIONS

COVID IN KANDAHAR

For web extras, visit neomed.edu/ignite

As the nation is tossed by racial unrest and COVID-19, pharmacists weigh in.

Stationed overseas when the COVID-19 pandemic began, a NEOMED-trained physician observed the U.S. military response.

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LEADING THROUGH A PANDEMIC: ONE NEOMED FAMILY’S JOURNEY BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

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hen the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, one NEOMED family suddenly found itself in the thick of things — helping to meet the need during a national ventilator crisis, providing clinical care to coronavirus patients, and supporting health care providers. Lori Hess, M.D. (’91), and Jeffery Hess, M.D. (’91), met at NEOMED and have two sons: Jonathan Hess, M.D., who graduated from NEOMED in 2019, and Thomas, a mechanical engineer. From their homes — Lori and Jeff’s in the leafy Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Michigan; Thomas’s in a revitalizing neighborhood in downtown Detroit; and Jonathan’s in the hub of downtown Philadelphia — they stayed connected last spring over conversations that were often interrupted by work calls, day or night. Four professionals, four perspectives. In separate conversations, members of the Hess family talked about how the last few months have gone, and what they see ahead.

JEFFERY HESS, M.D. (’91) As the corporate medical director for General Motors, Jeff Hess’s normal job is to oversee the health and wellness of employees at the health centers at each of GM’s large facilities in North America, South America and Asia. The centers take care of occupational injuries and monitor employee health related to chemical or physical exposures. Jeff also develops and oversees programs and policies to promote employee health and well-being. But things weren’t normal on a Friday afternoon, when news of the COVID-19 pandemic had started spreading from its epicenter in China. Because the disease caused breathing problems requiring ventilators, experts were predicting a dangerous shortage in the U.S. “I was talking to one of our directors and he said, ‘I might need to talk to you 04 I G N I T I N G

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about ventilators.’ He was heading out to Seattle for meetings for the weekend. I said ‘Sure, I can do that.’ They came back and over the weekend, they already had a plan to work with Ventec, a ventilator manufacturer in Seattle,” Jeff recalls. Despite this experienced physician’s calm demeanor, he still sounds dazzled by the speed at which the auto giant started manufacturing medical equipment. As he puts it, “It takes us a couple years to design and build a car!’’ “Our plants were operating until March, but then it became like whack-amole, with cases popping up. GM plants, like other plants in the U.S., shut down for a time. Leaders at GM looked at the issue and said employee safety was paramount. In April, we put together full protection strategies, looking at practices from China and South Korea and from the


CDC and WHO. We wanted to do three things: Keep disease out of the workplace; stop disease spread within the workplace; and manage symptomatic employees.” Jeff was rising at 5 a.m. to work out and then start working at 7 a.m. He would finish at 7 at night. “Weekends were no different,” he says. Not until the end of May could he return to his regular work, getting the business back up and running. What prepared Jeff Hess to monitor the health and safety of GM employees, protecting them as they prepared to take on a challenge very different from their usual routine? First, he credits 22 years of experience in the Ohio National Guard, working in environmental health, in the nuclear, biological and safety office, and as chief of aerospace. “Military work is all about preparation, and I was involved in planning for mass casualty events and biological issues, never thinking I would use that knowledge for something like this. “The other thing that prepared me was my time at Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati, where I was the North American medical director. I was part of a global team that helped put procedures and measures in place in Japan and China during the SARS epidemic. [SARS — Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome — was another kind of coronavirus, which struck from 2002-2004. A new strain of SARS, known as SARS-CoV-2, causes the disease known as COVID-19, named for the year in which it appeared.] “No doubt, the infectious disease classes and biochemistry at NEOMED have set me up for success in my career. And being able to explain things to lay people. People talk about going to the doctor and not being able to understand them. NEOMED helped me understand concepts so I can explain them in simple terms, in a way that people can understand. When you understand principles, it takes the mystification out of things.” Illustration: Lydia Tarleton

THE RACE TO BUILD: FROM CARS TO VENTILATORS

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ast March, GM was contracted by the federal government to build 30,000 ventilators by August, to address the alarming national deficit of equipment to handle patients with COVID-19. One location with potential was a GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana, that normally manufactures electronic components for cars. In one week, an empty office building on the plant campus was dismantled and outfitted with new floors and desks at which the ventilators could be assembled. GM engineers like Jeff and Lori Hess’s son Tom were brought in to streamline the ventilator assembly process used by Ventec, teaming up with UAW workers to produce the much-needed equipment. The GM team would need to significantly speed up the production process to meet their deadline.Ventec’s rate of production was five ventilators a day. GM needed to make 20 ventilators every hour — and the nation was watching. A Hess family highlight was when Jeff traveled to Kokomo, visited with Tom as he was working with the engineering team there, and was featured on national news shows including The Today Show. [See video at neomed.edu/webextras] Making a ventilator isn’t like making a car on an assembly line, explains Tom, who spent more than five weeks in Kokomo. Parts are assembled by hand, by workers set up at desk stations. When the ventilator components first arrive, every part is subjected to what is called an incoming inspection by engineers. Every screw is inspected under a microscope, for example. After continued testing throughout the build process, the entire ventilator is checked again while hooked up to an artificial lung. Engineers from Velentium, a biomedical engineering company, came in to build the cabinets that house the ventilators. When a supervisor was worried about how much it would cost to ship the cabinets, a GM executive hired a private plane. Relaxing with the rest of the engineers after yet another long workday, the head of Velentium said, ‘You know, you’ve hit gold here at your young ages,’ recalls Tom. “He told us he had done just about everything at his company, but had never worked on a project like this, with so much power behind it, so much drive and urgency to get it done.”

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LORI HESS, M.D. (’91) Lori Hess’s career has ranged from service in the Air Force and the National Health Service Corps to solo family practice in Cedarville, Ohio and then a career at United Health, where she has been for 15 years. Along the way she switched from reviewing patient cases for United Healthcare (the insurance arm of the United Health group) to working for Optum (a service arm of the company), where she is a medical director for case and disease management. She works mainly with the self-insured population; her customers are employer groups who have from 20025,000 members. Since COVID-19 began spreading, the nursing teams she supports are far busier, dealing with COVID-19 cases every day, says Lori, who saw Optum embrace telepharmacy to assist nurses with case management. “Usually one of our biggest challenges is getting people to answer our phone calls, but with COVID-19, everybody is home and everybody is so hungry for human contact and company that they will talk to anyone! That’s been the one bright spot for people involved in case management.” Telehealth (calling people by phone, emailing or connecting digitally) help these nurses do their job to make sure patients — especially people with chronic conditions — get their follow-up appointments, take their medication, understand their benefits and know when they should contact their doctors. Nurses report seeing many people who are stressed and whose mental health conditions are exacerbated by being cooped up at home. They refer clients to an emotional support line operated by the company, or get people into behavioral health care management, says Lori. Managing a team of pharmacists, Lori heard about people having trouble ob-

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taining needed medications, but has seen those rules relaxed so members could get medicines and have them on hand, avoiding the risk of leaving their home to fill prescriptions. Although the spotlight has been on COVID-19, the nursing teams Lori supports have been making sure that patients receive care for chronic conditions that aren’t related to COVID. Patients postponing care has been an offshoot of the pandemic, she says: “People haven’t been seeing their doctors and they are afraid to go the emergency room because of the disease.” As of this conversation at the end of May, most members with chronic conditions were being seen virtually by their providers, rather than live. “There’s such a strong mind-body connection in healing. You lose in terms of body language and just warmth when you’re not in person,” says Lori. “I don’t think that the live visit will ever go away.”

REMOTE GOODBYES For many, the heartrending stories of dying patients kept apart from their families because of fear of transmitting COVID-19 will probably be one of the most remembered aspects of this plague. Jonathan Hess, M.D. (’19) was in the middle of many such family vignettes. On March 9, 2020, Jonathan began a Medical Intensive Care (MICU) rotation at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, known as a “safety net” hospital because its providers see many underserved patients. Einstein is where Jonathan has been doing an emergency medicine residency since graduating from NEOMED. On March 11, Philadelphia Magazine reported, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Einstein’s large group of hospitals or outpatient clinics, but on that day, its chief executive changed operation procedures to try to anticipate the coming needs.


From there, changes came fast and hard. Certain sections of Einstein Medical hospital were cordoned off, with an entire wing reserved for COVID-19 patients. The cardiac intensive care unit was turned into a medical ICU to make more beds available. Surgeons and cardiologists were reassigned to work in the medical ICU so there would be enough physicians. A post-surgery area was turned into a new ICU just for COVID patients. At one point, all of the beds with ventilators were taken. “The hospital policies changed daily. We weren’t sure how bad it would get. We didn’t have the testing and there were concerns about personal protective equipment (PPE); we weren’t sure if we would have enough masks and gowns. Everyone was scared, but I never felt unsafe. In our ED, we implemented a policy of only having certain members of the team go into the rooms with COVID-19 patients — for example, for intubations, only seniors or attendings would go into the room,” Jonathan said in a phone conversation from Philadelphia. Jonathan’s rotation from March 9-April 5, as COVID-19 was spreading in Philadelphia, included quite a few of what he calls “the worse days.” On those days, if patients were intubated [breathing through a ventilator] and their respiration wasn’t improving, families had to make the difficult decision to withdraw care. While that was the best thing for them when there wasn’t any chance for meaningful recovery, “It was hard,” he says. “Most of the patients I saw in the MICU didn’t go home.” In April, he was supposed to begin an anesthesia rotation but was instead placed in the Emergency Department for April and May. The idea was to expose as few medical residents as possible to the virus, he said.

Illustration: Lydia Tarleton

Jonathan looks back to call those “the OK days,” when he was seeing patients who were not so desperately ill. Still, each time he Early on, before COVID-19 had spread walked into the room of a patient who had a fever, shortness of enough to be declared a pandemic, experts breath or a cough, his radar was were mixed on whether people should wear turned on, wondering if the pamasks. Initially, the thought was that they tient had the virus. weren’t of much help. In retrospect, Jeffery Hess thinks the U.S. This pandemic has been especially hard for the families, says missed its chance to slow the spread. Jonathan, because of the isolation “China and South Korea showed us the at the end. “The patient is upstairs way with masks,” he says. “South Korea nevand dying and we’re saying, ‘You er had to shut down. China enacted strict can have only so many people there mask wear and other requirements stopping with them.’ There was nothing else disease spread.” we could do, but it was horrible.” Jeff worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two years and A more restrictive visitor policy also affects non-COVID-19 professes that he was always impressed with patients, like one Jonathan had how they did things –but he thinks the agenseen just the night before. In a sitcy missed the boat by not recommending uation made harder by a language masks earlier. “We know they work, but we gap, the father of a patient strug[the government] can’t say ‘you have to wear gled to make his case for visiting a mask,’” he says, sounding a bit frustrated. his daughter: “She won’t be strong “People say it doesn’t filter the air but it without me,” he told Jonathan. doesn’t have to. Use of a surgical mask can For that matter, how does a be just as protective as an N-95 mask in the young resident physician stay workplace, because it protects you from the strong? Living in an apartment on droplets spreading the virus.” his own, Jonathan has coped with the pandemic by lots of calls with family and friends, and running outside in downtown Philadelphia. He that many experiences with those discushas felt isolated and frustrated over various sions before leaving medical school, but I losses: a planned vacation, visits with fam- have surprised myself with how calmly I’ve ily and friends — everyday activities that been able to walk the families through things, to keep my emotions out of it and can’t be taken for granted anymore. Still, Jonathan credits his reflective help them make the hard decisions.” Thinking of the students coming up practice classes with Joseph Zarconi, M.D. (’81), and Delese Wear, Ph.D., behind him, Jonathan urges calm. with preparing him well for the emotion“Rising PGY4s, don’t panic. Your roal toll of treating patients at the center tations or your entire plan may be upended, and I’m sure you’re feeling stressed or of the pandemic. “One thing I draw on from those class- anxious, but NEOMED is going to be es is to focus on having empathy for the taking care of you, and other institutions patients and the families. I know how to will as well. You’ll get your residency one have those hard conversations. I hadn’t had way or another, and it will work out.”

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CONFRONTING THE CORONAVIRUS BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

You go through this process of feeling very heavy, and then also feeling very numb from time to time because you just know that you have to do this for the patients. You have to get it done. And then you come back and you realize how human it is and you watch human emotions and it kind of affects you in that way.”

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hat was it like, caring for patients in a hospital during a global pandemic? Sahil Pandya, M.D. (’14), was carrying out his third-year pulmonary critical care fellowship at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Across the country, Tyler Jones, M.D. (’14) was continuing a surgical critical care fellowship at the Yale School of Medicine, where he also worked in trauma and emergency general surgery. Each of these former College of Medicine classmates treated patients in hospital intensive care units in late winter 2020, as COVID-19 began surging in the United States. In these comments, condensed from conversations and emails, the physicians speak of the confusion of dealing with an unknown virus that was spreading even Illustration: Dave Szalay

– Sahil Pandya, M.D. (’14) as patients, families and caregivers struggled with the emotional toll.

SAHIL PANDYA, M.D. What were some of your initial concerns as you prepared, and when was your hospital hardest hit? Some of the biggest concerns that we faced were how to ensure that personal protective equipment was strategically distributed to our staff. We realized that a lot of people had not been appropriately fit-tested yet. [The wearer puts the mask on, and the tester sprays it with a flavored mist. If the wearer can taste the mist, it means the mask isn’t the right size, and it won’t protect them.] Our team predicted the number of cases and the ventilator need based on the

curve on various dates and data from New York, Kansas City and Missouri. Our best guess was that we had enough ventilators, but we considered alternatives as backup — like a CPAP machine for a person who has sleep apnea, or an alternative version of that called a BiPap machine, for people who are not intubated or using breathing tubes but are on the verge of it. We created a respiratory therapist curriculum and taught all of our department how to convert CPAP and BiPaps into ventilators, should the need arise. We also realized that our respiratory therapists do a lot for ventilated patients without the physicians. If many more people than usual were on ventilators, it was going to be too much for them to handle alone, so they taught us physicians how to do basic kind of machine equipNORTHEAST OHIO MEDIC AL UNIVERSITY

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FEATURE

ment checks that we weren't usually expected to learn. Then, we wanted to figure out how we were going to have backup systems for people who are going to be on the front line in the ICU. What if the ICU people got sick? We had to create a rotating call schedule. The hospital preferred that residents try to minimize their contact with COVID-19 patients. And residents are a big part of our workforce. So, without residents available, it fell to critical care fellows to see these patients individually, doing all the procedures on their patients that were needed. Residents normally help with documenting the cases, too, so without them, the burden on critical care fellows became incredibly high. By the end of March, we were really deep in it — and the second week of April was the worst. We had a completely full ICU of intubated patients. At our highest count we had about 58 intubated patients at once. Now, that was a crazy time. Imagine that on a normal day, we have about 15 to 20 patients per team, and that team includes a fellow, an attending (a senior physician) and then two residents. But now we no longer have residents — just a fellow and an attending. We did mobilize some more nurse practitioners, so each team would have at least one. But now each team of three people has 35 or so ICU patients every day. Wow. Also, on a normal day, you have ICU patients, and some are less sick than others. Not everyone is on a breathing tube. But now, every single patient is on a breathing tube. Every person needs a central line for blood pressure medications. More than half of these patients need emergency dialysis. These people were very, very ill and needed a lot of care. We were combining high acuity with less manpower. That part was a struggle and that learning process was a big steep learning curve for us. 10 I G N I T I N G

During the peak in April, how many patients were you losing each day? I remember there was one day that from my list of 36 patients, 19 passed. That number went down pretty quickly by that next week, when we were seeing maybe two to three deaths a day related to COVID but during that week, 15 to 20 people died every day from COVID. It was really tough. I think the hardest part for me was the frequency. Usually in the ICU, you're having a conversation like that one or two times in a day, but now

we were having it 10 or 12 times a day. The second thing was that for a lot of ICU patients, we can explain their decline in a logical fashion: They got an infection and therefore their blood pressure dropped. The problem that I struggled with the most was that I couldn't explain why this would happen to the patients — why COVID was doing this to them and if they would recover. We noticed that a lot of our patients in Kansas City were having huge changes in their mental state. They would not wake up, they would not have

I had a 23-year-old with no past medical history at all who had recently traveled to Colorado. He came in and was only in the general medical ICU for a day. He needed a breathing tube. I remember I had to put in his dialysis catheter because his potassium was sky high. The dialysis wasn't working very well because he had blood clots and this poor kid had a stroke as well. I think the hard part for me was that we had gone through really everything we could possibly do. We had to have a conversation with the family and say, you know, “I think at this point his body is shutting down and we're going to have to transition.” The day after we were having that conversation was going to be his birthday. The family had talked about how he wanted a Harry Potter-themed birthday. So, we decorated his room with his favorite Hogwarts house. That was really hard.

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– Sahil Pandya, M.D.


any consciousness and we would test their spinal fluid, we would do MRIs, we would do CTs, and they would all come back normal — but for some unknown reason these patients who were otherwise normal two days ago were just not waking up. If a person just has pneumonia, we can give them antibiotics, and they’ll probably get better. But with COVID-19, we have no idea if we put them on the ventilator whether they're going to get better or not. That lack of clarity on the part of patients to make decisions was really tough. What got to me the most was my lack of ability to provide closure for those patients. We had to have to have a lot of family discussions and the personal touch was removed, because the family wasn’t in the hospital. It was all virtual. Face-to-face interaction — you know, body language — all of those things are really important in helping someone grieve and make a tough decision. We were having tons of these Zoom conversations. But we were struggling, because families were confused and because things changed so rapidly.

TYLER JONES, M.D. Board-certified as a general surgeon and in the process of completing a fellowship in surgical critical care to become a board-certified surgical intensivist, Dr. Jones’s skills were in high demand because of the high number of COVID-19 patients requiring ventilator support and ICU care as the COVID-19 outbreak turned into a pandemic. When was the peak, when your work was the most demanding? Due to our proximity to New York City [where levels of the outbreak were especially high], we saw and treated much higher numbers in May here in Connecticut than what was typical of most hospitals. Originally, our surgical intensive care

unit (ICU) was excluded from admitting COVID-19 patients, but as the needs of the hospital and patient population changed, we converted our unit into a medical ICU that takes care of patients with COVID-19. My colleagues and I took care of them on a daily basis. You are used to treating very ill patients. What have been the special challenges of COVID-19 patients? My colleagues and I have a lot of observations and learning experiences from taking care of these patients. They have a rather unique disease pathophysiology that I'm not quite sure we've ever seen before. Also, there is a huge spectrum in terms of the disease’s severity, though in the ICU we tend to get patients on the more severe end of that spectrum. One of the most challenging parts has been trying to effectively communicate with patients’ families regarding updates (both good and bad) on their hospital stay without the family members actually being able to see all that is happening with their loved one, since visitors have not been allowed. What are the prospects for patients who are put on a ventilator? One of the hardest parts of this is that a significant number of patients do not improve enough to be weaned off the ventilator. Even in the surgical ICU where patients are often critically ill, most of our usual patients eventually get better. That's less often the case with critically COVID-19 patients requiring ICU care like ventilatory support. All of this is compounded by the fact that families can’t be with their loved ones outside of end of life care, so the nurses and other ICU staff are the only ones with these patients, day after day. As physicians, most of us are used to knowing how to treat the diseases within

our respective scopes of practice, but there is so much still unknown about COVID. Our treatment algorithms have changed many times (sometimes daily) over the last few months. All of this said, in my six years as a physician I have never seen such a sense of camaraderie in the hospital. Going through all of the stress and uncertainty together has helped physicians, nurses, therapists, and all staff become a more cohesive team.

LOOKING BACK Dr. Jones points to several aspects of his time at NEOMED as influential in his ability to stay steady through the pandemic. His service on the NEOMED Student Council was especially significant, because he learned how to advocate for his peers. Anita Pokorny, the assistant dean of the College of Medicine, “was and continues to be someone I turn to for advice, even six years after my graduation, as I prepare to begin my first attending job,” he says. And members of the Department of Surgery at Summa Akron City Hospital, particularly the general surgery residents — many of whom are fellow NEOMED graduates — also mentored him, Dr. Jones recalled, adding, “Many of them shifted from being mentors to friends, and I run things by them to this day.” “As a medical student at NEOMED, you are on the front line with physicians, and you see community members at their highest need and their highest vulnerability, remembers Dr. Pandya. “You learn interpersonal skills with patients very early in your training. My residents challenged me to talk to patients independently and have tough conversations. And our Standardized Patient curriculum taught us how to deal with tough patients, with angry patients, with sad patients. I've been able to build on those skills and use them as I was going through this. I'm very grateful.”

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COVID-19 AND RACE BY JOSEPH ZARCONI, M.D. (’81) Dr. Zarconi is professor and chair of internal medicine and the medical director for NEOMED's response to COVID-19.

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he COVID-19 pandemic has picked a huge scab off of a longstanding wound in this country, exposing, once again, long-standing health, social and structural racial inequities that leave African American, Hispanic and Latino individuals at significantly greater risk of contracting, being hospitalized for, and dying from COVID-19 infection. The evidence documenting such disparities has been around a long time, and sadly, too little progress has been made in mitigating these inequities. Members of these racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be essential workers who need to go to work due to challenged economic circumstances, or can’t seek health care because they cannot access paid sick

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leave. They have higher rates of joblessness, are more likely to lack health insurance, and have less accumulated wealth — and so less resources at their disposal to resist infection or to manage through illness. In terms of living conditions, these individuals continue to suffer the impact of the persistent institutional racism of racial housing segregation. They are more likely to live in densely populated areas with higher levels of pollution, farther from health care facilities, and where they experience higher rates of chronic conditions like asthma — which increases the risk of suffering more serious illness or dying from COVID-19. In addition, these individuals are more likely living in multigenerational or multi-family households


DIVERSITY

is about recognizing the unique aspects of each individual and the value that their collective backgrounds, experiences and perspectives bring to society and to organizations. Inclusion is the idea that people with different identities feel valued and welcomed within a given setting. Racism is the biggest enemy of diversity and inclusion. Because at the core of diversity and inclusion, the common denominator of diversity and inclusion is that we all are human beings first. The acts that we all have recently witnessed — including George Floyd’s death and Ahmaud Arbery’s death — demonstrate our society’s failure to view and value Black and brown people as human beings. At every organization I have been a part of during my two decades in the field of diversity and inclusion, my work has always been around helping to create an environment where people feel valued, respected and represented. I drive to NEOMED from Cleveland every Monday through Friday laser-focused on that goal. Over the past eight years, I have experienced being followed by police for miles. People in a passing car have yelled “N…, what are you doing out here?” while I was getting gas at the station next to the University. I have received menacing stares

where disease prevention is more difficult. And frustratingly, it has been well documented and for a very long time, that racial and ethnic minority individuals are overrepresented in jails, prisons, detention centers and homeless shelters — aggregate living facilities where outbreaks in a pandemic are severe and lethal. But underlying all of these specific risk factors and circumstances, it cannot be overstated that the long-term effects of systemic and structural racism and persistent and institutionalized inequity undoubtedly inflicts chronic and toxic stress on Black, Hispanic and Latino bodies. It isn’t hard to understand why these individuals don’t live as well, or as long, as their Caucasian counterparts, or why a Photos: Andrew Mastushita

of disdain and what looks like hate while picking up groceries at Giant Eagle. These experiences are not uncommon for Black people, and they don’t happen just in Rootstown but in many other places. Again, valuing people as human beings: that is at the core of the change we need. Despite the fear I often feel — that I may have an encounter with law enforcement coming to work that could result in my death — I still come to NEOMED every day because I believe I may play a small part in impacting folks to value each other’s differences and to see each other’s humanity. I am proud of the many good works that we have done to enhance diversity and inclusion here at NEOMED. Yes, we have made great strides since 2012. But we have a lot of work to do. And it cannot just be me; it cannot just be President Langell; it cannot just be the Black and brown people here trying to make a change for the country and for our environment here at NEOMED. This is a time for all righteous people and people of good will to act. It is not the time to remain silent. I ask that you think about this: What if your family member had experienced what Mr. Floyd and Mr. Arbery experienced? Would you not want people to speak out and demand change?

This commentary by Andre Burton, J.D., vice president for Human Resources and Diversity, is adapted from remarks he delivered in June at a University forum on race titled Stand Up and Fight for the Safety and Wellness of Our Diverse Community.

– ANDRE BURTON, J.D.

disease like COVID-19 is a much more terrifying prospect for them. Clearly, the development of effective treatments for COVID-19, and of a vaccine, will have immense impact on the outcomes of this pandemic. But also clear is that these benefits will accrue unevenly across the population of the U.S., as the myriad social and structural inequities persist, and as systemic and structural racism remain alive among its citizens. No one would argue that finding treatments for disease and developing vaccines is the job of the health care professions. But these professions also have a moral responsibility to attend, not just to the health of the patients they see, but also to the health of their communities. These

professions have a moral responsibility to address the health of all members of their communities. And it becomes imperative that health professional universities take up the mantle of training a health care workforce that fairly represents the people they are privileged to serve, and advocate for health policy change as well as social and structural policy change, aimed at the elimination of the inequities that put certain individuals or groups at the margins of our society, with access to far fewer of its benefits. Training in social justice is just as important as the traditional training in biological, social and clinical science for those entering health care fields.

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DISPENSING MEDICINE, SEEKING SOLUTIONS BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

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hat do you get when you take fears about health, finances and personal security and fold them into daily life for months on end? The pharmacists we talked to describe the situations and moods they have encountered recently in hospitals and retail settings, where patients feel the most vulnerable and society’s stresses — from COVID-19 to revelations of racism – have been bubbling to the surface. “I feel like there are two pandemics happening,” says Brittney Owens, Pharm.D. (’19) — COVID 19 and the racism that has been exposed with the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans. “Most of my friends and family are more concerned about the racism right now than COVID,” she says. At one of the locations of the Northeast Ohio CVS Pharmacy where she works, she was recently called the N word, for the first time in her life, by a customer in the drive-through. Tempers have been flaring, with customers angry about anything from being asked to wear masks to new rules that don’t allow them to bring back their own prescription bottles to be refilled. Dr. Owens wonders if her race is a factor in the store where she is the only employee of color. “I think for me to be in that position of power, to say if their prescription is covered by insurance, may make them afraid and angry,” she says. “My parents have experienced racism and they’re like, ‘Brit, this happens to us and we have to get used to it.’ But we shouldn’t have to.”

This virus has been shown to be more likely to infect individuals with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes – and African Americans are high on the list of races predominately affected by these conditions. Diet is a big factor directly related to both of those conditions. Most African American communities are food deserts, meaning there is no grocery store in the area in which these individuals live. Consequently, residents of these communities don’t have ready access to the fresh fruits and vegetables that might aid in preventing diabetes or blood pressure issues. A poor diet is likely in these communities, which now places residents at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. At NEOMED I was the only African American in my class. I can honestly say that I was always treated with respect and as an equal to any of my classmates. In my workplace at the VA I have consistently been the only African American on staff. I have expe-

SERVING AT A HOT SPOT Mark A. Jones Jr., Pharm.D. (’15), works as a clinical pharmacist at the Detroit Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where the effects of the pandemic were so great that staff was brought from other VA Medical Centers to handle the patient load. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light systemic issues that have been ignored for decades, says Dr. Jones. Recent events surrounding police brutality and protest have created a tense environment across America that he has experienced himself. In an email, Dr. Jones reflected on his experience: Michigan as a whole experienced a rate of coronavirus higher than other states, and the city of Detroit, which has one of the highest percentages of African Americans in the nation, was one of the virus’ epicenters. Nearly all of the patients seen at the Detroit VA who were infected with COVID-19 were lower-income African Americans. 14 I G N I T I N G

I feel like there are two pandemics happening. Most of my friends and family are more concerned about the racism right now than COVID.” – BRITTNEY OWENS, PHARM.D. ( ’19)

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Patients in the Black community gravitate towards me, as most individuals tend to feel more comfortable with someone who looks like them. On the other hand, I have encountered individuals of other races who ‘can’t believe’ I am actually the pharmacist, due to my race.” – MARK A. JONES JR., PHARM.D. ( ’15)

rienced both ends of the spectrum in regard to being an African American pharmacist. Patients in the Black community gravitate towards me, as most individuals tend to feel more comfortable with someone who looks like them. On the other hand, I have encountered individuals of other races who “can’t believe” I am actually the pharmacist, due to my race. Being the only African American pharmacist on my job comes with additional pressure and responsibility at times. In some cases, I have to prove I belong. I definitely feel that one’s race should not impact how they are viewed in their place of employment. Unfortunately, this is the climate in which we live. Regardless, I strive to treat all my patients with the same respect regardless of the color of their skin, and I hope to receive the same.

ADVOCATES FOR EACH OTHER, AND FOR CHANGE Jaclyn Boyle, Pharm.D. (’12), associate professor of pharmacy practice and assistant dean of student success, together with Carl Palladino, a third-year pharmacy student, manage a Facebook group called “Pharmacy Staff for COVID-19 Support.” Its more than 30,000 members — pharmacists, pharmacy techs, managers and students — help each other solve the many challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. This past spring, the group took advocacy action when its members noticed a spike in prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine (or chloroquine), alone or paired with azithromycin as a possible COVID-19 treatment — a treatment that was untested. Palladino wrote to Ohio State Rep. Randi Clites, and Dr. Boyle and Palladino teamed up with the administrative team running the Facebook group, the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) and the Ohio Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The team gathered information and observations from its Facebook group members and drafted statements of concern to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office. The result? Photos: Lew Stamp, Ken Love

The Ohio State Board of Pharmacy imposed restrictions on the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

SOOTHING CUSTOMERS ON EDGE In April, when the pandemic was still new, Abigail Marshall, Pharm.D. (’13), noticed anxiety among customers at the retail pharmacy in Canton, Ohio, where she is the chief pharmacist. Three months later, that nervousness was still there, mixed with new emotions. “I can tell with some patients it’s getting exhausting with how long it’s going, especially with Gov. DeWine talking about closing again,” Dr. Marshall said in July. And although it sounds like a good thing that patients started to have procedures done again, it gave them something new to worry about, she said. “If they’re having outpatient procedures done, I remind them these physicians aren’t treating COVID-19 patients, so they aren’t as at risk. And if they’re getting ready for surgery in a hospital, I talk with them about having a game plan. If you’ve been in an area that might have been high risk, do you have a place to quarantine? And what about the family members who will be helping you?” A few people have asked Dr. Marshall if she thinks the pandemic is fake. “I tell them, this is definitely real. People are sick and dying. Just because it hasn’t affected you or someone you know doesn’t mean it isn’t real.” The pandemic became personal when Dr. Marshall’s employer, Discount Drug Mart, told her that one of their stores had reported COVID-19 cases in pharmacy techs and pharmacists. They assured her that the store would be professionally cleaned and when they asked if she would work there, she said yes, though with some trepidation. “It’s one thing to know it’s out there, but it’s different when it’s where you work,” she acknowledges. “Emotionally it gets you a little bit nervous but you take an oath to help.” NORTHEAST OHIO MEDIC AL UNIVERSITY

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THE NEOMED COVID-19 RELIEF INITIATIVE BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

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tudying for the biggest exam of your life during a pandemic might seem like enough of a challenge for a rising third-year medicine student. But Poojajeet (Pooja) Khaira kept feeling like she wanted to help people who were hurting as the coronavirus spread. “You can always make time for something you’re passionate about, and you can’t study 24/7,” says the animated instigator of the NEOMED COVID-19 Relief Initiative. In between studying for the United States Medical Licensing Exam (better known as Step 1) that College of Medicine students (and their classmates across the country) must pass before moving ahead to their third year, Khaira organized students from the College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy. One of her goals was to provide opportunities to rising second-year College of Medicine students, whose usual options for getting medicineor research-related experience over the summer were limited by the pandemic. While Khaira gathered leads, second-year College of Medicine students Carla Baaklini and Maahi Mistry stepped up to share responsibilities as the projects mounted to more than a dozen. With the support of more than 20 student organizations, the initiative was born. “I feel like NEOMED is less competitive and more collaborative than other medical schools,” says Khaira. Third-year College of Pharmacy student Cecil Ekechukwu connected Khai-

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES - CENTER OF HOPE IN RAVENNA Led by Adrianna Nicholson, a second-year student in the College of Medicine, students helped in the dining room, prepared and served meals, cleaned kitchens, and inventoried and stocked pantries.

ASSOCIATION OF INDIAN PHYSICIANS OF NORTHERN OHIO (AIPNO) Led by Maahi Mistry and second-year College of Medicine student Meghana Chanamolu, students made quilts from kits provided by AIPNO for children in the hospital.

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ra to many pharmacy classmates, so the initiative brought the University’s colleges together, too. Joseph Zarconi, M.D. (’81), a professor of internal medicine and the medical director for NEOMED’s response to COVID-19, helped Khaira navigate legal and logistical questions, as well as sharing contacts with her. Paul Lecat, M.D., professor of internal medicine, pediatrics, and family and community medicine, also shared contacts at area hospitals, and staff from Student Services and Student Affairs offered helpful guidance. But students were the driving force, stresses Khaira, who says there has been no shortage of volunteers: “So many people wanted to help.”

AKRON-CANTON COMMUNITY FOODBANK Maahi Mistry coordinated student volunteers for this in-person volunteer opportunity. College of Pharmacy third-year student Mariah Carlton, representing the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, organized the food drive, with the help of Mistry and the Black Student Association.

AKRON COVID-19 MATCH INITIATIVE Sanjay Jinka, a second-year College of Medicine student representing the Walking Whales Barbell Club, led this project. Students contacted local organizations to find places in need of the service that Akron Covid-19 Match provides — to pair healthy young adults with older adults or at-risk people who need help.

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TUTORING AND MENTORING PROGRAM Shreya Gurumurthy, a second-year College of Medicine student, headed a partnership with local schools to provide a free online tutoring service to children of all ages, as well as a mentoring program for students interested in STEM. This project ended up having the most student involvement, with more than 50 children from local schools signing up and obtaining a mentor, tutor, or both.

FOOD KITS Anuradha Kanaparthi, a third-year College of Medicine student, had the idea of assembling food kits with fresh, healthy ingredients and a recipe (similar to the Hello Fresh concept) for the local community. NEOMED’s executive chef, Xavier Smith, lent his expertise, and with the organizational skills of Maahi Mistry and second-year College of Medicine student Shilpa Reddy, along with Kanaparthi, students sent out 200 kits containing 800 meals to recipients at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and its partners and at Ronald McDonald House of Akron. To finance the initiative’s most expensive project, Kanaparthi garnered support from the Walking Whales Cooking Club and five other student organizations, who all obtained permission from the NEOMED Student Council to allow them to turn over the remainder of their annual funding in support of the group project.

MASK MAKING Anuradha Kanaparthi and Maahi Mistry were joined by second-year College of Medicine students Nupur Goel, Mark Sobnosky and Taya El-Hayek to host a mask-making project representing the Association of Women Surgeons and Stop the Bleed. Goel and Sobnosky obtained resources from nearby craft stores to host a mask kit-making event on campus. Kits were then shipped and delivered to NEOMED students living off campus to allow them to participate in the project from their homes. Hundreds of student-made masks were donated to Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Students hosted another on-campus mask-making event at the end of July. CLEVELAND CLINIC AKRON GENERAL CARD-MAKING Meghana Chalasani, a first-year College of Medicine student, and Raneem Alayoubi, a third-year College of Pharmacy student representing the NEOMED Compounding Club, headed a team of students aided by Ali Arif, a second-year College of Medicine student representing the Muslim Student Association, to make cards for patients.The Sikh Student Association made a donation to provide a meal for the hospital’s front line COVID-19 health care workers.

RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE OF AKRON Second-year College of Pharmacy student Elizabeth Tagliarini (American Pharmacists Association) headed up card-making for the families. Mariah Carlton (Student National Pharmaceutical Association) and second-year College of Pharmacy student Nautica McCully (Black Student Association) led an essential items wish list drive.The Sikh Student Association donated a meal for the families.

ADOPT A GRANDPARENT Maahi Mistry linked the initiative with the Geriatrics Interest Group, which is also led by second-year College of Medicine student Rachel Krevh. Students involved in this project were paired with a nursing home resident with common interests (via Zoom or other virtual mediums) to keep them company.

ACCESS INC. Cecil Ekechukwu, with help from third-year College of Medicine student Palvir Baadh, organized a drive for art supplies and books for the women and children served by this non-profit organization.

COVID-19 INFORMATIONAL VIDEO Second-year College of Medicine student Prapti Dalal led a project in which students provided clips about coronavirus to be compiled into an educational video.

VA HOSPITAL DONATION DRIVE Carla Baaklini, Poojajeet Khaira and Palvir Baadh led the drive for items requested by Cleveland's Veteran Affairs Hospital.

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FEATURE

THE MINDFULNESS OF A VIRUS HUNTER

“SOME OF MY FIRST ASSUMPTIONS WERE WRONG.” It is easy to take at face value such words that hail from the learned, always curious mind of Angelo DeLucia, Ph.D.

BY RODERICK L. INGRAM SR.

Not because he readily admits such a thing. And not simply because they come from a basic science researcher in molecular virology and cancer biology whose work is hypothesis-driven and subject to experiments that can be tested to prove them right or wrong.

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Perhaps it is due to the “duh” reaction, once you realize he’s talking about the general assumption first shared by many experts (including him) that COVID-19 would disappear once the hot weather and the summer’s humidity were upon us. After even a single extended conversation with the multi-layered scientist, it becomes apparent that his whole personality is built on analyzing and solving questions. His scientific background and his bent for both creating and refuting theories have put him in demand by the media as a thoughtful source in the age of COVID-19. Reporters coming to him for answers are met with not just sound bites but pragmatic, scientifically reasoned responses — and sometimes more questions.

a member of great jazz bands, “Satchmo” transformed jazz throughout several eras, mastering improvisation with both his brass (trumpet) and his bass (voice). When talking about being introduced — by his dad — to Satchmo at an early age, one gets the impression that Dr. DeLucia was particularly fond of Armstrong’s interpretive music skills. Dr. DeLucia is an avid reader of philosophy who appreciates Socrates and Jürgen Habermas, with whom he shares thoughts on tolerance. Through his dialogues, Socrates’ own tolerance is magnified in his pursuit of truth; to do so,

I THOUGHT YOU COULD

SIMPLIFY THE STUDY OF

IN THE COMPANY OF GENIUSES

tendencies of other coronaviruses, like the common cold? So how does one whose mind has so many threads of intellectual capability — strategic mastery, improvisation, dialogical method and hypothesis-driven experiment — approach solving something that has wreaked as much havoc as COVID-19?

THE PRAGMATIST WHO CHOSE POISON Virus is Latin for poison. The venom of a snake … slimy liquid, poison. It has a long history as a microbial basis of disease. French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur and German physician and microbiologist Robert Koch determined that germs could be present during disease in human beings by filtering out everything but things that you couldn’t see. According to the National Academy of Science, in the mid-19th century, Koch made the discoveries that led Louis Pasteur to describe how small organisms called germs could invade the body and cause disease. And in the final decades of the 19th century, Koch established that a particular germ could cause a specific disease. He did this by experimentation with anthrax, using a microscope. “Electron microscopy can visualize viruses that could only be imagined as disease agents before its development,” says Dr. DeLucia, who became interested in viruses in the ’70s and ’80s. “They (viruses) have DNA and RNA — nucleic acid that serves as the basis for how we work.” Growing up in a pragmatic Italian-American household in the Warren-Niles (Ohio) area, DeLucia felt he had to pick a practical career, so he decided to become a chemical engineer. He enrolled at John Carroll University in 1971. Upon graduating with a

CANCER BY USING VIRUSES

AS TOOLS TO UNDERSTAND

It seemed like Dr. DeLucia was being a bit harsh on himself. So, I set out to get to know this molecular virology and cancer biology researcher — someone who has mastered the process for creating and refuting theories that explain observations. Dr. DeLucia is a master strategist and champion-level chess player — including second place at the Akron (Ohio) City Championship and a master rating in Cleveland (Ohio) Chess Association league play. Current world champion Magnus Carlson is his favorite. In addition to the obvious reasons, Dr. DeLucia cites Carlson’s normal personality and balanced view of life as reasons why. And Dr. DeLucia is equally adept at improvisation, which he learned as a jazz musician and former band member. The tenor saxophone was his instrument of choice. Mention Louis Armstrong and you get a sense for the type of jazz he likes. Known as much for his solo trumpet playing and for his singing as he was for being

HOW NORMAL CELLS BECAME CANCER CELLS.”

one has to be self-deprecating, acknowledging one’s own limitations and fallibility; one also has to resist the temptation to actively negate the thing in question. Know thyself. This, too, is evident in Dr. DeLucia’s dialogue as well as his demeanor, and the manner in which he discusses his discoveries. And then there’s balance and being quick afoot. These are other talents that the former amateur soccer player (yes, he’s done that too!) possesses and knows all too well. Had Dr. DeLucia believed the assumptions about COVID-19’s reaction in the summer months to be wrong, would he be inclined to tolerate them, suppressing his own thought with rational assumptions that were being made due to the seasonal

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B.S. in chemistry, DeLucia spent some time in polymer chemistry at B.F. Goodrich Corporate Research and Development Center in Brecksville. Mentors there noticed the studies DeLucia was doing on new tire materials and inspired him to continue his education. Combined with the influence of two former John Carroll professors and a biochemistry course that got him interested in biology, DeLucia went to Purdue to get his Ph.D. in biochemistry. He wanted to study cancer and thought viruses would be the bridge to it from his studies with microbes. Once involved, he found viruses so interesting that he stayed within the field of virology, melding it with the study of viruses that cause cancer in humans. “I thought you could simplify the study of cancer by using viruses as tools to understand how normal cells became cancer cells,” says Dr. DeLucia. “Dr. Peter Tegtmeyer, a professor at Stony Brook University in New York, needed a biochemist to help him look into viruses, and I was the perfect candidate.” In 1981, Dr. DeLucia became a postdoctoral fellow in molecular virology. He studied how viruses interacted with cells in order to push them into a cancerous phenotype. He continued those studies by looking at viruses as the cause of cervical cancer. “We were working on a virus — Simian virus 40 — that was famous at the time. It could cause cancer in animal models but not in humans, that we knew of,” he acknowledges. Dr. Delucia worked on and helped to describe the viral origin of replication and proved that a viral protein was necessary to bind to a specific sequence of DNA within the origin to start viral DNA replication within an infected cell.

Dr. Tegtmeyer, his postdoctoral mentor, encouraged him to provide short talks on his entire laboratory’s work at several international meetings for DNA tu-

I HAD BEEN TEACHING

AND DOING RESEARCH

laboratory showed that viral proteins could be produced in bacteria and properly folded into active proteins,” says Dr. DeLucia. It was difficult at first to convince physicians that HPV was the cause of cervical cancer, but the perseverance of scientists like Dr. DeLucia helped to confi rm HPV’s infection to the initiation of the cancer.

ABOUT CORONAVIRUSES FOR 30 YEARS, BUT CoV1

WASN’T AS SERIOUS, SO IT DIDN’T INSPIRE ME.”

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mor viruses. This basic virology work helped Dr. DeLucia get to know those who were studying human papillomavirus (HPV) at Stony Brook and drew him to go deeper into the field by attending research meetings. When Dr. DeLucia accepted a position at NEOMED in 1986, he switched from animal models to HPV models and how they reproduced. While he tried to do similar studies, he figured HPV might cause cervical cancer (though the epidemiology was inconclusive). “When I started to work on HPV there were no good animal models of infection and so I had to use cervical cancer cell lines and human cervical tumor samples given to me by Drs. M. Hopkins and E. Jenison, my colleagues here at NEOMED, who were leading physicians in gynecological oncology at the time. “Politically and scientifically, I supported Dr. Harold zur Hausen’s [a virologist who discovered that certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer] call for the development of an HPV vaccine over several years before its actual development. My

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SARS-CO-V2 (COVID-19 ): A GAME-CHANGER

At the time SARS-CoV-1 was identified in April 2003, an HPV vaccine was just three years away from being brought to the market, and Dr. DeLucia realized that his research and advocacy played an important role. So, he continued his work in molecular virology and cancer biology. As he recalls, “I had been teaching about coronaviruses for 30 years, but CoV1 wasn’t serious, so it didn’t inspire me. But the January 2020 arrival of SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, certainly did.” Dr. DeLucia wanted to put his knowledge and analytical mind to work, so he joined a COVID-19 task force led by Case Western Reserve University professors Jonathan Karn, Ph.D., and Rafick Pierre Sekaly, Ph.D. The immunologist and virologist think tank comprises dozens of top researchers from across Northeast Ohio, who collaborate to design experiment testing and unify the region’s efforts for COVID-19. A NEOMED colleague, William Lynch, Ph.D., professor of molecular virology and neuroscience, is also a member of the group. Dr. DeLucia notes that their efforts have been supported by William Chilian, Ph.D., chair of the Integrative Medical Sciences Department and the leader of a NEOMED COVID-19


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hile virology can be considered the umbrella, research in areas such as microbiology, immunology, epidemiology and infectious disease is equally important in the search for vaccines for COVID-19 and other viruses, says Dr. DeLucia. The Microbiology Society defines microbiology as the study of all living organisms that are too small to be visible with the naked eye. This includes bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa and algae, collectively known as microbes. Immunology, explains Dr. DeLucia, is the study of how the body protects itself from microbes that cause infectious disease and tumors. Immunologists perform many of the same roles as microbiologists. They also develop new vaccines, create novel antibiotics and improved therapies for inflammatory diseases. In the late 19th century, immunology was combined with microbiology as studies on the immune system were then dependent on probing it with microbes and on vaccination for protection against infections. Over the next few decades, after many infectious diseases were nearly eradicated by new vaccines, both fields became more independent — with immunology shifting its focus away from microbial infections and to immune system characterization, cancer therapy and autoimmunity. Immunology is now its own discipline.

research group on viral effects in the heart. The interdisciplinary group represents the complexities of managing the spread, treating the disease and developing a vaccine for this deadly new virus. As COVID-19 casualties continue to climb — 170,000 deaths had been recorded in the U.S. alone at the writing of this article — the Northeast Ohio task force is part of a massive collaboration taking place across different fields — including microbiology, immunology, epidemiology and infectious disease — to fight COVID-19.

DÉJÀ-LUCIA VU Dr. DeLucia says COVID-19 has reminded him of something that ama-

Epidemiology, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states and events (not just diseases) in specified populations. How do health-related occurrences (not just diseases) transmit themselves? How does a microbe move from an infected individual to another? What about virus transmission? Respiratory tract transmission? Influenza? “They (epidemiologists) are the ones who said HPV and HIV can come from sexual transmission,” says Dr. DeLucia. “They gave the data for it. And once they explain that this is the route, the virologists then study how the diseases are generated and how they infect.” And then there is infectious disease medicine, a subspecialty of internal medicine that focuses on diagnosing and managing infections — bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic — that occur in humans. Whereas virologists seek new knowledge, infectious disease experts use existing knowledge, and they are often expected to know about all infectious diseases. Dr. DeLucia explains that infectious disease experts often consult primary care physicians on how to proceed in therapy. They also determine, Do we quarantine? Do we isolate? — questions that have become common in the age of COVID-19.

teur league soccer play taught him five or so years ago when he “retired” from playing: “At my age, I just can’t do the things that I used to do, or that I would love to do.” He notes that he’s even missed some of his oldest son’s graduation events due to his age and the need to maintain physical distancing. He spends most of his quality time with his wife Patricia, whom he met at Stony Brook. The couple has two sons: Johnathan, a high school junior, and Christopher, a recent high school graduate who was an All-American and first team All-Ohioan in soccer. Dr. DeLucia lights up as he talks about his family, adding that both of his boys

are extraordinary athletes who are much better than he ever was. I wonder aloud why Dr. DeLucia didn’t mention a favorite soccer player earlier when he talked about many of the greats among his diverse fi elds of talent. I would’ve guessed Pelé. Maybe Diego. “You mean, besides my son Christopher?” responds Dr. DeLucia. “Next, it would be Lionel Messi. He is of Italian descent, short in stature and a great player to watch!” The answer seemed pretty obvious after learning so much about Dr. DeLucia’s family and heritage. But early on in the conversation, I would not have gottetn it right. Some of my first assumptions were wrong.

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FEATURE

TELEHEALTH’S GROWTH SPURT BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

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elehealth has sprouted in all kinds of new directions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last June, when the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions met for a full committee hearing titled “Telehealth: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma was quoted as saying that traditional Medicare remote visits increased from about 12,000 weekly to more than a million a week during the pandemic. Temporary changes in federal and state policies — including changes to reimbursement policies — encouraged more patients to use telehealth when COVID-19 closed medical offices. Now, the government will be looking at what permanent changes could be made — and Cindy Zelis, M.D. (’96), M.B.A., is part of the conversation. Recently named the Chief Medical Officer of a national telehealth company, MDLIVE, the NEOMED graduate has been participating on the Taskforce on Telehealth Policy, convened by the American Telehealth Association, the Alliance for Connected Care and the National Committee for Quality Assurance. By the end of August, the taskforce will make consensus recommendations to policymakers.

HOUSE CALLS REVISITED When we look back at the crisis Americans have dealt with since March, one positive impact is the cultural adoption of telehealth by both patients and providers, says Dr. Zelis. “If you think about it, telemedicine is going back to the old-fashioned home visits in a new way,” she says. “When you’re a physician and go into someone’s home to video chat with them, it gives you a window into their social environment. A telemedicine appointment truly provides a comprehensive lens 22 I G N I T I N G

to care for the patient. NEOMED taught me the importance of the biopsychosocial approach of caring, which is augmented when you are not only able to see a person's facial expressions but also glimpse their life at home. That’s what NEOMED taught me: to take care of the whole person,” says the former NEOMED Service to College Award winner for her class. “NEOMED never put guard rails on students, in terms of doing something differently,” says Dr. Zelis, recalling her senior year elective with the Indian Health Service in Nome, Alaska. Her introduction to telemedicine came then, through caring for patients in rural Northern Alaska villages. “Innovation and compassion are core values to my practice of medicine, and my NEOMED education complemented and enhanced those values, she adds.”

VIRTUAL PRIMARY CARE Telemedicine won’t ever completely replace in-person health care, says Dr. Zelis, but virtual primary care could improve health care value by impacting quality, patient experience, and total cost of care. Telemedicine for use of non-emergency care needs, such as urinary tract infections, has already been proven to provide high-quality, convenient care, lowering the overall total cost by decreasing inappropriate emergency department utilization. Chronic care management is the next step for impacting health care value, says Dr Zelis. For, example, hypertension devices already exist to monitor blood pressure. These devices could be integrated into a telemedicine platform, so if there were a significant abnormality late at night, a message would reach the virtual primary care team. By modifying the medications, the problem could potentially be controlled without the patient ever leaving home.

T H E PA S S I O N O F P H Y S I C I A N S , P H A R M A C I S T S A N D H E A LT H C A R E R E S E A R C H E R S

Photo: Elaine Guregian


Katherine Wu, a fourth-year student in the College of Medicine, is a co-chief medical officer and a volunteer at NEOMED’s Student-Run Free Clinic, which began using telehealth in the spring — at the time when the clinic temporarily closed its doors, due to COVID-19. Wu recently saw a patient on a videoconference call who was complaining of muscle pains, sweating and swelling in her face. “The team on her previous visit thought it was a symptom of her statin drug. They took her off the statin and asked her to come back. So, when I saw her, she had been off the statin,” says Wu. “The benefit of the videoconferencing was that we could see that looked physically tired and a bit pale; she was out of breath; and she had swelling. We were worried that there might be a cardiac cause. I think the videoconferencing helped clue us in that there might be something more to this patient’s state of health other than this being a medication side effect. “The videoconference led us into these clues that something more was going on, but the drawback of telemedicine is that we couldn’t do a physical exam. We couldn’t look for some of the symptoms that might have clued us in as to whether this was a cardiac cause or something more benign. Optimally, if she were in person, we would be able to listen to her lungs and listen for crackles; or we would be able to listen to her heart and check for extra heart sounds. So that showed the limitation of this video platform. We ended up sending this patient to a nearby emergency department.”

WHAT’S NEXT? Telehealth removes some patient barriers to care — say, transportation and scheduling. What remains to be seen is what will evolve from a regulatory standpoint. The federal government has already played a role in making telehealth more accessible. Compensation rules were relaxed soon after the COVID-19 pandemic so that many telehealth visits could be billed comparably to live visits. Both reimbursement and licensure regulations were temporarily loosened in many states at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, because providers were needed immediately. Under normal circumstances, physicians with patients in multiple states must obtain myriad state licenses to serve them. It is a costly and tedious process, notes Dr. Zelis, a board-certified family physician who is in the midst of going through it herself. One other important point to remember, says Dr. Zelis: Technology is only one aspect of telemedicine. “A frictionless platform is critical to advance telemedicine; however, evolving the practice — both the art and science of medicine — for our providers and our patients will be the essential element for telemedicine transformation.”

TELECOUNSELING ON CAMPUS When COVID-19 closed the NEOMED campus, the Center for Student Wellness and Counseling Services (CSWCS) swung into action, offering virtual counseling for all students. The University had begun offering telecounseling to students doing clinical rotations in fall 2019, which made it possible to expand those services to all students with very little disruption, says Jennifer Dougall, Ph.D., the director of the CSWCS. Dr. Dougall made sure that safeguards were in place for the telecounseling,

She explains, “In face-to-face counseling, if a student is at serious risk for self-harm, we can detain them and call for emergency transport right then and there. When they are videoconferencing for counseling, we lose some control over ensuring a student's well-being.” With that in mind, NEOMED developed a safety form with local emergency phone numbers and safety contacts in case Wi-Fi goes out at a critical time or a student discontinues the telecounseling session abruptly and without warning. “Telecounseling has allowed us to rapidly support students at a very stressful time, with many of them preparing for rigorous board exams on top of other school and family concerns,” says Dr. Dougall. “While face-to-face counseling is the general practice for the Center, students have reported that the process of telecounseling was a lot easier and more comfortable than they originally anticipated.”

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FEATURE

COVID IN KANDAHAR

Excerpted from “The Perfect Marquinez: Stirred, Never Shaken” BY RODERICK L. INGRAM SR.

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ortheast Ohio native Frederick Marquinez, M.D., had never considered joining the military. But three decades after becoming a physician, the Class of ’85 NEOMED graduate made the life-changing decision to train as a flight surgeon and to join the U.S. Air Force, the Ohio Air National Guard and the 179th Airlift Wing – a path that found him in Kandahar, Afghanistan, as a newly discovered virus began to gather force across the globe. At 57, Lt. Col. Marquinez left the comforts of his life in Northeast Ohio and deployed to Kandahar as a flight surgeon.

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His time there coincided with the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first met by meetings at all levels – from Department of Defense (DoD), to CENTCOM (Central Command for all US military forces), to AFCENT (Air Force Central Command), to the bases in Afghanistan (including Kandahar and Bagram), and to his base hospital and clinics. “Leadership was very aggressive in rapidly transmitting information and implementing policies to stop or limit the spread of the virus to and within our bases. Medical personnel

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met with leadership nearly every day to provide guidance on between service members to prevent the influx and spread of how to contain the virus and how we would treat COVID-19 the coronavirus while simultaneously ensuring that that the patients if or when the need arose,” says Lt. Col. Marquinez. missions would be completed.” Movement of all U.S. Besides the U.S military forces across the world was members, NATO forces, cistopped, except for misvilian contractors and workSome of the strategies used in fighting sion-critical or mission-esseners from other countries also conventional enemies are also used in the tial personnel. And social either lived on the base or distancing was practiced as came in daily from the surfight against pandemics, such as COVID-19. much as possible, “though rounding areas, increasing the when you're in an airplane risk of transmission. As they They include containing the enemy and cockpit, a helicopter or milimoved about, each person trying to identify its weaknesses; mobilizing tary vehicle, or even in a small was screened at checkpoints office, it is impossible stay six by the security forces. troops to needed areas; identifying missionfeet away from someone,” he And if being in Kandahar notes. and the threat of the spread essential and mission-critical personnel; There were no COVID-19 of COVID-19 weren’t enough and gathering intelligence.” patients on the base while Lt. to warrant precautionary Col. Marquinez was stationed measures, strategic task forc– LT. COL. FREDERICK MARQUINEZ, there, which he attributes to es and decisive leadership a medical oncologist/hematologist with UH Seidman several precautions: screening from commanders, there was Cancer Center-Portage Medical Center in Ravenna. of incoming military memAfghanistan’s proximity to bers prior to their departure Iran. In addition to the tenfrom the U.S. and upon arrival at Kandahar Airfield; limited sions between the U.S. and Iran, the latter held status as one access to the base (all military personnel arrived by air); and of the first COVID-19 Level 3 countries — China and South the immediate quarantining of all members in a separate faKorea being the others. As a border country to Afghanistan, Iran’s many COVID-19 cility upon arrival. “Anyone with symptoms of a viral illness on arrival was cases led to increased concerns that the coronavirus would be placed in isolation, as were all of their direct contacts. They carried to the U.S. bases in Afghanistan. were kept in isolation until cleared by coronavirus testing (which was difficult, since all specimens had to be sent to the INSPIRATION FROM HOME While deployed at Kandahar, Lt. Col. Marquinez watched military medical center in Landstuhl, Germany) or after comUniversity President John Langell’s video updates on COVID-19 plete resolution of their symptoms,” says Lt. Col. Marquinez. Local civilians making deliveries were screened at the Entry and was encouraged by Dr. Langell’s leadership. Control Points (ECPs) by security forces and were not allowed He first met Dr. Langell, a fellow (retired) Air Force flight to exit their vehicles while on base. surgeon, on his Langell Listening Tours, when he first joined While everyone had to carry on with their missions despite NEOMED as president. While the two have a lot in common the pandemic, there was one advantage, Lt. Col. Marquinez — flight surgeons in the same age bracket, both have affiliations says: “Implementation and enforcement of rules and restrictions with the Air Force and NEOMED — it was Dr. Langell’s is much easier in a military environment than in a civilian one.” exhibition of leadership during crisis that resonated most with “A widespread viral infection in the confined area of KanLt. Col. Marquinez. dahar Airfield could be devastating and would affect combat “His management of the COVID-19 crisis as it relates to effectiveness,” says Lt. Col. Marquinez. “We held frequent the University, especially its students, faculty, staff and the COVID-19 Task Force meetings and had many discussions community is refreshing. It helps to have a leader with a milabout best courses of action. The commanders made policies itary background,” says Lt. Col. Marquinez. to limit incoming personnel to those who were mission critical To read the full story, “The Perfect Marquinez: Stirred, and mission essential, and to restrict movement and contact Never Shaken,” visit neomed.edu/webextras

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{ A Cre d it to th e m a l l }

NEOMED FOUNDATION LAUNCHES THE MEDALLION SCHOLARSHIP Pictured left: NEOMED first-year College of Medicine student Kristen Lentz, the first recipient of the Oh Family Scholarship.

I chose NEOMED because this school provides me with the opportunity to continue on the path of engaging with distinct and vibrant communities through health and medicine. I am so excited to begin my M1 year here! As a recipient of the Oh Family Medallion Scholarship, I will be able to increase my efforts to serve the Northeastern Ohio region during my time as a student. I am immensely grateful for this support which will provide me with unparalleled experiences during my time at NEOMED.”

Drs. Oh: Two generations of family donors

What is the Medallion Scholars program? Dr. Kong and Gim Oh.

We are blessed to have our son and daughter graduate from NEOMED. Second from right: Daughter of Dr. Kong and Gim Oh, Phaik Mae Oh, M.D. (’97) with her family.

They both benefited from the excellent medical training of the devoted faculty.

high performing and high potential medicine and pharmacy students who have been admitted to NEOMED. The scholarship provides a significant first-year incentive ($10,000) for these students to choose and enroll at NEOMED.

Kean is practicing as a retinal surgeon

The NEOMED Foundation has created

in Traverse City, Michigan, and Mae is

this initiative to attract those students who

a family practice physician in Norfolk,

otherwise might not choose NEOMED, due to financial incentives being offered by peer,

Virginia. We realize the importance

regional or aspirational schools. The program

of recruiting top quality students to

is unique in that the NEOMED Foundation is

Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Second from right rear: Son of Dr. Kong and Gim Oh, Kean Theng Oh, M.D. (’94) with his family.

The Medallion Scholars program is geared for

allocating up to $400,000 in matching dollars to encourage the establishment of Medallion

We are happy to have this opportunity

Scholarships. For a limited time, donor

with the support of the NEOMED

contributions of $5,000 and greater for this

Foundation’s incentive funds.”

purpose will receive a 25% match from the NEOMED Foundation — to be awarded in the donor’s name.

To learn how you can maximize your positive impact on students and receive an extra 25% for your donation, contact Daniel Blain at 330.325.6261 | dblain@neomed.edu


IN THE REDIZONE

CATCHING A CLEAN BREATH BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

“Network, network, network — and gravitate to the biggest pain points you can find.” That’s how Northeast Ohio entrepreneur J.T. Tan describes the rules of the road for a startup like his PreVent Project. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the influence and support of the REDIzone®, a biotechnology incubator at NEOMED, has reverberated beyond the campus walls. Formal collaborations leading to commercialization happen at the REDIzone. So do more informal conversations, like the ones REDIzone executive director Elliot Reed has had over the last decade or so with Tan. In recent months, that relationship has helped fuel development of Tan’s new device to filter and contain the air for COVID-19 patients. Tan earned undergraduate degrees in biology and music, then an M.S. in entrepreneurial biotechnology, all from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Along the way, he struck up a professional bond with Reed, whom he calls “my first entrepreneurship mentor.” Tan went on to work for employers including health care startups. When the REDIzone was getting underway in 2014, Tan was hired as a business development consultant to help expand the client base. Tan became what Reed describes as a non-incubator client. Reed and the REDIzone helped Tan establish his business and pursue the grant funding to get it started. Then, in the first months of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic set in, conversations with Reed helped guide Tan on his current project — his first independent foray into a biomedical invention.

Seeing the need, Tan, engineering lead Kate Hart and industrial designer G. Kim of Nomadic Design Studio have been designing a fume hood, miniaturizing what is used in a negative pressure room at a hospital. The negative pressure chamber prototype started out looking like a storage bin you might use for clothes or toys at home, but has now evolved to a more spacious clear dome that fits over the top part of the patient’s body. The hood-like enclosures are a suction system that creates negative pressure to filter and contain air contaminated by coronavirus particulates. As Tan explains it, large acute care facilities usually have only a few such rooms, but can convert existing rooms or tents, while most care environments outside of hospitals do not have these rooms — and do not have the means to convert. As Tan moves through the steps of researching and testing, he has reached out to medical directors at Northeast Ohio hospitals, teaming with critical care physicians at University Hospitals, medical directors at Hospice of Western Reserve and experts from UH Ventures. On behalf of The PreVent Project, Tan is also applying — with Reed’s support — to the government for Small Business Innovation Research funding. To drive the next iteration of the device, Tan has worked on developing prototypes with fabricators from Sears think[box] and Case Western Reserve University. You don’t get through all of those steps alone.

FIND THE PAIN POINT

“We have a trusting relationship. That’s what Silicon Valley is built on,” says Tan. “Science and business need to work together. A community like that doesn’t just spring up overnight. To have someone like Elliot in my corner for the past 10 years has been incredibly helpful to me. This is the first time I’ve gone on my own around biomedical innovation, so he has been an excellent sounding board.”

“The need for your invention has to be real. If not, then find out as quickly as you can,” says Tan. “Whatever you do needs to be built against market need.” At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one pain point was glaringly obvious to Tan: the need to prevent the spread of infection by containing and filtering the novel coronavirus particulates (“dust”) in hospital and hospice settings, nursing homes and prisons, as well as for patients sheltering at home.

CONVERSATIONS OVER TIME

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CLASS NOTES

1985

1996

2002

Melissa Kirven, M.D., completed an M.B.A. Christopher Kelly, M.D., is starting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. his term as president of the Ohio Ophthalmological Society (2020-2021). Victoria Kelly, M.D., is completing her term as president of Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association (2019-2020).

2003

Duane Taylor, M.D., spoke on diversity, inclusion and wellness as the keynote speaker at Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Diversity and Inclusion Lecture in January 2020 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Taylor is president of the American Academy of OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) and the Academy’s Foundation — the first African American to serve in this position.

Cynthia Zelis, M.D., was named the chief medical officer of MDLIVE, a virtual health care provider. Dr. Zelis is a board-certified physician and former executive with University Hospitals (UH) in Cleveland. She serves on the NEOMED Alumni Association Board of Directors.

1997

Matthew Stiles Bowdish, M.D., was voted president of the Western Society of Allergy Asthma & Immunology and will serve until 2021. Dr. Bowdish was also included in Sacramento Magazine’s “Top Doctors” list for the third consecutive year.

2014

1987

Sandra Hong, M.D., serves as the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Food Allergy Center, which she helped to create and open, and as the hospital system’s southern regional medical director. Dr. Hong was among 15 women selected by a panel of Crain’s Cleveland Business editors for the publication’s 2020 Women of Note list. The honorees were recognized for their dedication and achievement to and throughout Northeast Ohio. David Little, M.D., celebrated his 10-year anniversary as a physician informaticist at Epic in Madison, Wis.

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T H E PA S S I O N O F P H Y S I C I A N S , P H A R M A C I S T S A N D H E A LT H C A R E R E S E A R C H E R S

Tyler Jones, M.D., will become an attending physician with the title of assistant professor of general surgery, trauma and surgical critical care within the Department of Surgery at Yale School of Medicine in October 2020. Dr. Jones will serve as clinical faculty for the medical school and residency/fellowship programs, performing a combination of emergency general surgery, trauma surgery and surgical ICU functions.


2014

2016

Sahil Pandya, M.D., is currently an attending physician in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He serves as clinical core faculty in the Department of Internal Medicine and is heavily involved with simulation and medical education at the medical student, resident and fellow levels. He subspecializes in interstitial lung disease and has a special interest in physician wellness advocacy.

2016 Amar Shah, M.D., graduated from his ophthalmology residency at the University of Cincinnati in June 2020. Dr. Shah started a fellowship in cornea and refractive surgery at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Palm Beach, Fla. in July.

2018

2016 Caitlin Morgan, Pharm.D., welcomed a son, Levi Maverick, on January 10, 2020.

Chelsey Kirkland, M.P.H., welcomed a son, Daniel, on July 3, 2020.

Allison Optican, M.D., and husband, Adam, welcomed a son, Daniel Rafael, on July 4, 2020. Daniel joins his older brother, Ariel, age two.

John Chao, M.D., married Jessie Sennett on March 15, 2020, at The Brownstone in Patterson, N.J. Dr. Chao is currently a plastic and reconstructive surgery resident at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, N.J. Sennett is currently studying at Columbia Law School. They live in Ridgefield, N.J. and have three poodles.

RAJEEV VENKAYYA, M.D. (’91) As president of the global vaccine business unit for the Japan-based pharmaceutical company Takeda, Rajeev Venkayya, M.D. ( ’91), is in the midst of pandemic-related work — and has been for years. Takeda, a plasma product manufacturer, is advancing collaborative efforts toward finding a treatment for COVID-19 through its COVID-19 Plasma Alliance. A profile of Dr. Venkayya in Dayton.com credits him as the principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza — a strategy that recommended the social distancing being practiced today. The document was announced by President George W. Bush in 2005, when Dr. Venkayya was serving as director of biodefense and the avian (bird) flu was a threat to the nation. Dr. Venkayya recently appeared on CNBC, where he outlined three steps that policymakers can take to better prepare for the next pandemic.

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to the

Distinguished Alumni AWARD

Donald Malone Jr., M.D. (’85)

Distinguished Service AWARD

Dinah Fedyna, M.D. (’82)

Alumni Association Appreciation AWARD

Doug Moses, M.D. (’95)

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMITMENT AND SERVICE TO NEOMED AND OUR LOCAL COMMUNITIES! Send the 2020 award recipients a congratulatory note at neomed.edu/alumni/association/awards/past-recipients/ Do you know of NEOMED alumni or community members deserving of one of the Alumni Association Awards? Contact Craig Eynon, Director of Alumni Relations, at ceynon@neomed.edu.

THANK YOU

to all of our alumni leading the way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

N ORTH E AST OHIO MEDICAL UNIVERSIT Y

A L U M N I A S S O C I AT I O N


DONOR SPOTLIGHT

ronmental change — from regulating strip mining to opposing fracking. “Ted was very active and concerned about pollutants — especially how they affect the brain and rest of the body. He worked on the strip-mining problem: how it impacted breathing and and damaged people's health in other ways. Then the issue of fracking came up in Ohio. Ted would lecture all over Ohio, all the way down to Athens, about the problems that are associated with the fracking industry. That was one of his greatest passions,” says Swanny. Within the walls of NEOMED, Ted combined his research interests with environmental advocacy. “Ted's environmentalism was a constant passion and was essentially a daily discussion point with him — both formally in lectures and informally around the departmental coffee pot,” says Bohdan Chopko, M.D., Ph.D., a leading neurosurgeon and 1993 NEOMED graduate who now serves as a NEOMED associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology.

TELLING TED’S STORY BY SAMANTHA HICKEY

S

ince retiring in December 1996 and being named Professor Emeritus in Neurobiology, the legacy of Theodore (Ted) Voneida, Ph.D., has lived on through the doctoral students he mentored along the way, who now carry on his message of environmentalism and neurobiology. “He loved teaching, but Ted would be most proud of what his students have gone on to do,” says Swanhild (Swanny) Voneida. Swanny’s late husband, Ted, served as the founding chair of NEOMED’s Department of Neurobiology — one of the first in the country. The department now includes the areas of anatomy and neurobiology. Outside the classroom, Ted and Swanny fought for envi-

TED’S LEGACY LIVES ON A bit like Eliza Hamilton in “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” from Hamilton: An American Musical, Swanny is now telling her husband’s story through a planned gift — the Ted and Swanny Voneida Neuroscience Research and Training Fund. The couple agreed to sign over one of Ted’s life insurance policies to the NEOMED Foundation, where it will benefit NEOMED doctoral candidates for years to come. The Ted and Swanny Voneida Neuroscience Research and Training Fund will sponsor a NEOMED Ph.D. student who intends to combine environmentalism and neurobiology. The student will propose a project and a small committee will choose the award recipient. Swanny can’t wait to see who will be selected as the first recipient of the award, which will open doors for innovation. As she says, “There are a lot of problems in the world, but there are lots of possibilities.” NORTHEAST OHIO MEDIC AL UNIVERSITY

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4209 ST. RT. 44, PO BOX 95 ROOTSTOWN, OHIO 44272

CO O RDIN AT IN G CENTERS oƒ E XCE LLEN C E at

NORTHEAST OHIO MEDICAL UNIVERSITY

Disseminating Best Practices, Promoting Innovation and Restoring Lives for People with Mental Illnesses.

In PARTNERSHIP with Peg’s Foundation, the vision of NEOMED’s Department of Psychiatry in the College of Medicine is to serve as a national model for disseminating state-of-the-science programs and practices that promote recovery and improve the lives of individuals with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses — as well as the lives of those around them.

Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment (BeST) Center Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ CCoE) Ohio Program for Campus Safety and Mental Health (OPCSMH)

The Coordinating Centers of Excellence further aspire to make these services available at every point in the course of an individual’s illness and to maximize the chances of recovery by intervening as early as possible.

Visit neomed.edu/CCOE to learn more.

COORDINATING CENTERS oƒ EXCELLENCE