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.

In Time of Crisis, Core Values Shine Through

April 2020

April was supposed to be the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) inaugural Core Values Celebration Month. We planned an ice cream social (seven flavors of ice cream one for each core value) and were going to announce the president’s first Core Values Awards for faculty, staff, and students. This year’s President’s Symposium and White Paper Project explored steps to institutionalize UMB’s Core Values so they remain durable even as the University evolves, and the President’s Fellows planned a celebratory public event to present their findings to the UMB community. Plans were also in the works across the University to recognize that our Core Values are critical to who we are and how we succeed at UMB.

Well, it’s clear that the April 2020 we envisioned is not at all what UMB will experience. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has drastically changed the way that UMB — and Baltimore, our country, and the world — will operate over the next month, and likely far beyond that. All didactic classes and exams are being delivered virtually. Most of UMB’s research operations have been curtailed. Our responsibilities for patient care may soon be tested by a quickly growing number of COVID-19-related cases, while many other clinical care functions will necessarily be greatly reduced. Our commitment to serve our community remains as strong as ever, even if finding the method to do so may be more challenging.

And yet, despite this upheaval, UMB’s Core Values are more important now than ever. Crises like this one test our ability to stay true to our values — and yet provide us with an opportunity to use those Core Values in our new path forward.

Fortunately, at UMB our Core Values offer an incredibly robust framework for responding to this crisis. The core value of Collaboration has been critical to our response efforts, as we are working together seamlessly with our medical partners at the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), and our education partners at the University System of Maryland (USM). We have been vigilant to ensure that UMB, UMMS, and USM are in alignment on policies and actions. That collective wisdom helps us make better decisions and provides our stakeholders with as much consistency as possible during this ever-changing time. 

I appreciate that so many of you have lived the core value of Accountability in moving to full-time telework so quickly. I know that such change, especially so suddenly, is unsettling and requires you to adapt quickly to meet your job duties. I thank each of you who has made that transition already and ask that you keep yourself and one another accountable not only in our work together but also in following the essential public health principles, such as social distancing, needed to collectively overcome this crisis.

So many of you have demonstrated the core value of Leadership throughout this challenging time. From our emergency management team, which has been preparing for COVID-19’s impact for several weeks, to those who have had to make and execute critical decisions about their particular programs on extremely short notice, I am incredibly proud of — though not surprised by — the leaders at all levels of UMB’s organization who have stepped up.

The core values of Civility and Diversity can often be overlooked in a crisis, but I’m glad that that has not been the case here. We have shown, and continue to show, respect for one another even as we have implemented unprecedented decisions faster than ever. Particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, other universities reported an uptick in discriminatory actions based on the origin of COVID-19. I’m pleased that UMB was not one of them. I hope that we remain an example of acting civilly and celebrating diversity — even in the most trying times.

UMB’s core values of Excellence and Knowledge have been at the forefront of this crisis. We are so fortunate to have experts who could foresee the virus’ devastating potential and advised the University and the state to take quick action. In particular, UMB’s two representatives on Gov. Larry Hogan’s Coronavirus Response Team, Wilbur Chen, MD, and David Marcozzi, MD, guide the state, UMB, and UMMS with remarkable foresight and clear recommendations. And while most of us are charting a course for how to adapt to our new reality, some at UMB are working to directly confront COVID-19 itself. UMB’s internationally renowned experts, particularly at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health and the Institute of Human Virology, are working around the clock to help the entire global community fight it. Those two areas of expertise — immunology and virology — are of immense benefit in addressing this pandemic. We are so proud that many of our UMB colleagues are demonstrating their capability and determination to help the world meet this unprecedented challenge.

That, after all, is why we are here: to improve the human condition and serve the public good. Those words of UMB’s mission statement have never rung more true than they do now. Whether you are on the front line addressing COVID-19 or working in your own area of expertise toward UMB’s noble mission, I ask you to push forward harder than ever. Now is the time to continue our efforts in education, research, care, and service, even in the face of disruption and uncertainty.

With our noble mission and strong Core Values to guide us, I have no doubt that UMB will overcome this challenge — and those that come in the future.


Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS
Interim President