Local COVID-19 Epicenter in Detroit Metropolitan Area Causing Profound and Pervasive Reorganization of Clinical, Educational, Research, and Financial Programs of a Large Academic Gastroenterology Division with a GI Fellowship and Primary Medical School Affiliation.

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Digestive Diseases and Sciences


AIM: To report revolutionary reorganization of academic gastroenterology division from COVID-19 pandemic surge at metropolitan Detroit epicenter from 0 infected patients on March 9, 2020, to > 300 infected patients in hospital census in April 2020 and > 200 infected patients in April 2021.

SETTING: GI Division, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, has 36 GI clinical faculty; performs > 23,000 endoscopies annually; fully accredited GI fellowship since 1973; employs > 400 house staff annually since 1995; tertiary academic hospital; predominantly voluntary attendings; and primary teaching hospital, Oakland-University-Medical-School.

METHODS: This was a prospective study. Expert opinion. Personal experience includes Hospital GI chief > 14 years until 2020; GI fellowship program director, several hospitals > 20 years; author of > 300 publications in peer-reviewed GI journals; committee-member, Food-and-Drug-Administration-GI-Advisory Committee > 5 years; and key hospital/medical school committee memberships. Computerized PubMed literature review was performed on hospital changes and pandemic. Study was exempted/approved by Hospital IRB, April 14, 2020.

RESULTS: Division reorganized patient care to add clinical capacity and minimize risks to staff of contracting COVID-19 infection. Affiliated medical school changes included: changing "live" to virtual lectures; canceling medical student GI electives; exempting medical students from treating COVID-19-infected patients; and graduating medical students on time despite partly missing clinical electives. Division was reorganized by changing "live" GI lectures to virtual lectures; four GI fellows temporarily reassigned as medical attendings supervising COVID-19-infected patients; temporarily mandated intubation of COVID-19-infected patients for esophagogastroduodenoscopy; postponing elective GI endoscopies; and reducing average number of endoscopies from 100 to 4 per weekday during pandemic peak! GI clinic visits reduced by half (postponing non-urgent visits), and physical visits replaced by virtual visits. Economic pandemic impact included temporary, hospital deficit subsequently relieved by federal grants; hospital employee terminations/furloughs; and severe temporary decline in GI practitioner's income during surge. Hospital temporarily enhanced security and gradually ameliorated facemask shortage. GI program director contacted GI fellows twice weekly to ameliorate pandemic-induced stress. Divisional parties held virtually. GI fellowship applicants interviewed virtually. Graduate medical education changes included weekly committee meetings to monitor pandemic-induced changes; program managers working from home; canceling ACGME annual fellowship survey, changing ACGME physical to virtual site visits; and changing national conventions from physical to virtual.

CONCLUSION: Reports profound and pervasive GI divisional changes to maximize clinical resources devoted to COVID-19-infected patients and minimize risks of transmitting infection.





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