Messages from the President to the MUSC Community

A Letter from MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS - April 9, 2020

Dear MUSC family,

I know it’s been an incredibly difficult week. As an enterprise, we’ve been forced to take hard and necessary actions and it’s a lot to process. Everyone in our organization has either been directly affected or knows a colleague or friend who has been affected by the decision on Monday to implement pay cuts, reduced hours and temporary lay-offs within MUSC Health. I admire the strength, resilience and focus you continue to exhibit on the unprecedented journey we are on together.

The best way to reduce the brunt of these actions for our friends and colleagues, to help our community and MUSC family, is to define an expeditious path back to normalcy and minimize the economic and personal pain and impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on everyone.

I’ve talked a good bit about finding balance, however imperfect it might be, in our public health response to COVID-19 and the equally important need to address our re-entry into some sort of economic normalcy. While the details have yet to be defined firmly, in concept, here’s how we can move forward:

  1.  As an organization, we still have a path to walk down and have appropriately prepared for the days ahead. It is important at this point in time to look past the immediate moment and lay the ground work for recovery and the future. In this context, reliable data on which to base decisions is critical. We continue to identify and align on leading indicators in order to know when we reach an inflection point and project more precisely the magnitude of the COVID-19 wave. We are actively working on this in several areas of the enterprise and so far, our MUSC projections using local and national modeling indicate that we should fare much better than New York, for example. At this time, we anticipate a peak volume of COVID patients in late April and anticipate that we will have the appropriate capacity to manage these needs. As we gain new knowledge about the trajectory of the challenges we face, this important data will allow us to refine and inform our decision-making before, during and after this inflection point. We will be sharing these lead indicators with you in the days and weeks to come so that we can all have a common language and understanding of progress as we move forward through this moment in time.

    As we start to see beyond the initial wave and position ourselves to move forward, we must also prepare for any secondary COVID-19 waves facing us in the near future. As we get more precise at projecting impacts to our health system, our communities can make better public health and economic decisions about how to best navigate the coming months. Efforts to identify effective therapeutics and vaccines to treat and mitigate COVID-19 are underway at MUSC and in collaboration with partners across South Carolina. We should remain hopeful that the scientific community will prevail; however, in the meantime, we all need to mitigate the impacts of the epidemic, support and protect the most vulnerable among us and recognize that we will get through this demanding situation.

  2. To do our part in laying the groundwork for a sequential and measured economic revitalization plan, we must work now to build the capability to provide not only community testing, but ideally point-of-care testing in an intensive effort to understand community prevalence, who has developed immunity to the virus and thus is able to safely return to work or move more freely throughout the community, and to identify and support the safe recovery of those who are infected. Please don’t misread me: we all look forward to the day when we can sit shoulder to shoulder on a crowded beach or share a meal inside a restaurant, but this would not happen on day one. First, we need a smarter, collaborative community contact tracing ability that would help identify individuals who become infected and ensure they remain appropriately isolated until they can be tested and reassured they will not cause further spread of the virus to their loved ones, neighbors, colleagues, co-workers and friends.

We need to lay this groundwork now so we can pivot and act quickly as we move through the first wave. The more quickly we can do this, the better- better for our economy, better for our community, better for our family, friends and co-workers. Our ability to trace and test is crucial to emerging safely from the path we are on and taking another that leads to more normal activity. The balance comes in doing this without allowing a second COVID-19 wave to slow us down or reverse our efforts to get back fully on our feet.

What can this look like? This is my vision: we manage the first wave constructively without being overwhelmed as a health system, get our lives moving back to normal and position ourselves as a health care community able to appropriately deal with any subsequent COVID-19 impacts in a non-disruptive manner. In essence, it would look more like a bad flu season: Business is not shut down and individuals are not forced to stay at home, and the cadence of life would continue. We can accomplish this in the near future - if we continue to move with purpose.

Finally, I again want to share my heartfelt gratitude for your work and commitment to MUSC. I remain confident in your ability to push forward and promise you that as a team, we will continue to pursue our mutual goal: to flatten the curve, welcome our friends and colleagues back to work, restore schedules and salaries and do our part to help revitalize our community as soon as safely possible.

Yours in service,
David J. Cole, M.D., FACS
MUSC president