In what he called "unprecedented times," Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor of UNMC and UNO, held an unprecedented dual, virtual all-campus forum Friday from the Davis Global Center at UNMC.
Dr. Gold presided over the online town hall to update both campuses on the COVID-19 global pandemic and how the mandated social distancing has changed the 2020 spring semester.
Dr. Gold was accompanied by a panel of UNMC and UNO leadership (seated at least six feet apart for safety) which took online questions from the remote audience.
In one way or another, they would be "talking all things virus," Dr. Gold said.
First, Dr. Gold noted the spread of the disease - confirmed cases in the U.S. had gone up very rapidly over the last week, he said. And, he urged the audience to rely only on trusted sources of information, and to follow health and safety guidelines as described.
"We have to stop the spread," he said.
He expressed pride in the med center's role on the front lines in the fight against this and other infectious diseases and how the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit's culture of preparedness has become a part of the university. It's paying off now.
"We have been preparing for this for a long time," he said. "We have been working since early January, hoping for the best, but planning for the worst."
As academic life goes on during a pandemic:
- Commencement will happen (in some form). Both UNMC and UNO will hold commencement and convocation ceremonies -- but, they may be virtual. "We're looking for some very innovative ways, including using the Davis Global Center to do something really unique," said Dele Davies, M.D., UNMC senior vice chancellor of academic affairs.
- Campuses are still open (but, don't come all at once). Though courses will be moved to a remote delivery mode, and social distancing is the new normal, you can come in for some focused quiet time, or WiFi. Where to park? "Between the lines," said Doug Ewald, vice chancellor for business, finance and business development for both campuses.
- Services will continue. Academic, counseling, mental health services, "All the resources you would access by dropping in are still available," said Sacha Kopp, Ph.D., UNO senior vice chancellor of academic affairs. Students can take advantage of services remotely, including academic advising, counseling and mental health resources through UNMC's Counseling and Student Development Center, and health care services through UNMC Student Health.
- Stay connected. Make sure your social distancing is social distancing, Dr. Kopp said. "We recognize this is difficult to do at home every day," Dr. Davies said. Dr. Gold shared Steven Wengel, M.D.'s advice to "write a schedule."
Finally, Dr. Gold encouraged everyone from both campus communities to show grace to each other in this difficult time. Everyone is in a state of transition, adjusting to what is now the new normal, and adapting to meet new challenges and to create new opportunities as the pandemic evolves. We're in it together, Dr. Gold said: "We are planning not on a daily basis, but for the weeks and months ahead. This is an opportunity for true transformational planning."