The President's Message

President's Message, Bruce Jarrell

Each month, The President’s Message updates the UMB community on University initiatives; spotlights faculty, staff, and student achievements; and promotes upcoming UMB events.

Giving Thanks

November 2020

In early March, I shared a letter about the first cases of coronavirus in Maryland, and by March 12 we had canceled in-person activities at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). We moved rapidly from in-person didactic classes to online, limited research to just those in a critical phase, adjusted field and clinical placements, and asked those who could to telework. The amount of uncertainty was incredible. Here we are eight months later, having had our first virtual graduations, our first virtual Founders Week Gala, and too many Zoom/Webex meetings to count. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, I count the UMB community high on the list of things for which I am thankful.

I’m thankful for those who chart a path forward for UMB. The Crisis Management Advisory Group has met consistently — sometimes more than once a day — to advise UMB. The Recovery Task Force has guided UMB's efforts to restore our maximum capacity to teach, research, care, serve, and operate by taking incremental steps through near-, mid-, and long-term recovery. Folks across 12 focus areas that span all University functions, including appropriate school, department, and shared governance representatives, have met regularly and shared recommendations so that we can reposition UMB for a better future post-COVID-19.

I’m thankful for those who share their expertise. Two School of Medicine faculty members, Dr. Wilbur Chen and Dr. David Marcozzi, were asked by Gov. Larry Hogan to serve on his Coronavirus Response Team. Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of the school’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, is a co-director of the COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network, which brings together experts from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)-supported clinical research networks to fight COVID-19. In mid-March, UMB Center for Health and Homeland Security team members began working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week at emergency operations centers across the state and became a vital component of Maryland’s pandemic response and recovery. Faculty and researchers at the Francis King Carey School of Law are sharing expertise in multiple areas, including providing assistance to Maryland state and local public health officials on issues related to emergency public health powers during the COVID-19 crisis. And I am grateful to countless others who are not just weathering the pandemic, but also leading the way through it.

I’m thankful for those who search for vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. In May, School of Medicine researchers became the first in the United States to begin testing experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. We’re now also in a Phase 3 clinical trial of an investigational COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by scientists at Moderna, Inc., and NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health. Recently, a national consortium of researchers led by the School of Medicine found that hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking a daily low-dose aspirin to protect against cardiovascular disease had a significantly lower risk of complications and death compared to those who were not taking aspirin.

I’m thankful for those on the front lines. UMB’s dedicated health care workers, first responders, and other essential employees are risking their lives every day in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They are treating patients, connecting those in need with resources, and reminding folks to take care of their mental health. And police and public safety, vet services, parking and transportation, custodial services, facilities and operations, payroll, procurement, and many more are keeping UMB running.

I’m thankful for educators who have found a way to teach and students who have risen to the challenge. Across UMB’s seven schools, instructors have had to develop innovative solutions at an incredible pace. The School of Medicine is using virtual learning modules and assessments, remote standardized patient interactions, and telehealth electives. The School of Social Work’s Office of Field Education changed from an in-person field experience to completely online for almost 900 MSW students, 350 agencies, 1,500 field instructors and task supervisors, and 65 liaisons within two weeks of UMB canceling in-person activities. The School of Nursing approved an early-exit option for students who wanted to begin working and bolster the nursing workforce during the pandemic. For this semester, the School of Pharmacy transformed orientation into a series of web-based presentations to help safeguard the health of faculty and students alike.

I’m thankful for those who think of and give to others. So many members of the community donated to the Student Emergency Fund and the Food for Our Front Lines campaign. The Staff Senate and Office of Community Engagement’s annual drives have gone virtual to help meet the needs of our West Baltimore community. They are working closely with partner organizations to assess changing needs and determine logistical planning for the delivery of items. Donation links (aka “virtual blue bins”) have been created, with links to each drive found at the Staff Senate’s Community Outreach Fund webpage. The Community Engagement Center continues to offer services and connect in ways that keep folks healthy and safe. I’m thankful for every member of the UMB community who cares for their fellow colleagues by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and washing their hands.

Most of all, I’m thankful that we are UMB. We are connecting with each other, offering support and resources, and finding creative ways to teach, work, and study. We are living our core values and fulfilling our mission to improve the human condition and serve the public good.

We are in this together, and for that, I give thanks.

Sincerely,

Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS

President