UNMC ID team honored for COVID efforts

Mark Rupp, MD, chief of the UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases

Mark Rupp, MD, chief of the UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases

The UNMC Division of Infectious Diseases will receive OneWorld Community Health Center’s 2022 Milagro Award, which celebrates OneWorld volunteers and medical partners.

Division chief Mark Rupp, MD, said the award recognizes the division’s team approach during the pandemic.

“This is an award that documents the depth and breadth of the ID division’s response to the pandemic and the large number of folks from ID that were involved in COVID mitigation,” he said.

“Given the role that UNMC has played in the community for COVID and advising OneWorld clinicians, the award is a token of our gratitude for the miracle of keeping the OneWorld community informed and safely riding out the pandemic,” said Andrea Skolkin, CEO of OneWorld. “To quote a physician, ‘UNMC had our back,’ especially with complicated patients that also were COVID positive. Dr. Rupp and his team were speaking the truth to the public and sharing the science when others were not believing — and this saved the lives of our patients and the community.”

Dr. Rupp pointed to the large number of roles the division played.

“Although the ID division did provide some direct patient care to hospitalized and ambulatory patients, much of that work fell to our primary care providers, hospitalists, emergency medicine doctors and critical care specialists,” he said. “In addition, Nebraska Medicine Infection Control and Epidemiology, our nurses, respiratory therapists, and lab workers all played critical roles. 

“However, if you remember those dark days when the pandemic first started, there was a huge concern about how to safely care for COVID patients while maintaining other critical services. We started from scratch in formulating safe care protocols and procedures in all settings – inpatient, outpatient, procedural areas. It was an immense task that had to be done very quickly. Our protocols were adopted across the country, and our website was a recognized national resource.”

The “huge vacuum around accurate information,” Dr. Rupp said, was partially mitigated by the division’s efforts.

“Many primary care doctors turned to our ID specialists to ask questions on how to keep people safe, who to vaccinate, who to give medications to,” he said. “We had lots of personnel in the division who were very active on social media and helped to disseminate accurate and timely information far and wide. We had several faculty members who were designated as reliable sources of information on social media platforms.”

The division also reached out to underserved populations – partnering with Girls Inc. and OneWorld, holding vaccine clinics and programs to provide information to underserved groups.

“Other examples of ID division efforts included ID faculty in the Global Center for Health Security who went into meat packing plants and other workplace settings to establish safer ways to keep critical industries functional. The UNMC Infection Control Assessment and Promotion Program was instrumental in mitigation efforts in long-term care facilities in Nebraska. Because of that work, our track record in nursing home mortality during the pandemic is one of the best in the country.”

“Overall, I am immensely proud of the UNMC Infectious Diseases Division and the selfless role that was played by many ID faculty and staff,” Dr. Rupp said. “We are truly grateful for the recognition and the Milagro Award from One World.”

UNMC as a whole also received the Milagro Award in 2021.

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