Response to COVID

Heather Evans, M.D., MS, established the MUSC protocol for donning and doffing surgical attire. A Practical Decontamination Framework for COVID-19 Front-Line Workers Returning Home was published in the Annals of Surgery, April 2020.

As the department pivoted to our “new normal,” we continued to provide surgical care using best-practices to protect the health of our patients and care teams while transitioning to telehealth visits when possible.

Our faculty members with extensive expertise in public and global health assisted leadership with disaster management, infectious disease policies, and operationalizing the many aspects of the new COVID-19 world in the operating rooms, ICU, and clinics.Emergent and urgent surgeries, including urgent trauma and transplant surgery, continued as well as coverage of OB/GYN and pediatric surgery.When Governor McMaster placed a COVID-19 moratorium on elective surgery, effective March 23, the department experienced the much-anticipated decrease in clinical work productivity.Our faculty and administrative staff were quick to pivot into a new telehealth model for clinic visits whenever possible. At all times, we continued to provide surgical care using best practices to protect the health of our patients and care teams.

Fiscal Year 2020 inpatient OR cases for annual report

During the one month period when elective surgeries were stopped, our non-elective cases, including transplant, cardiac and emergent cases, continued and surgical cases never dropped below 60%, with a monthly average over 75%.Once elective surgeries resumed after being halted for one month, the department quickly rebounded to meet the needs of South Carolinians. By mid-May, surgical cases rapidly increased and the fiscal year ended within 98% of our budgeted RVUs.

On the Forefront of Discovery

Image of COVID-19 

Satish Nadig,M.D., Ph.D., medical director for the Center for Cellular Therapy (CCT), and Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D., co-scientific director of the CCT, led a task force to develop a diagnostic antibody test as a response to the COVID pandemic.The interdisciplinary team developed the antibody test in less than a month using plasmid from Mount Sinai Laboratory. The lab is now processing up to 2000 antibody tests a day. The test is useful at the population level to show how much COVID-19 is circulating in the community. The team has also developed and validated saliva tests to provide for a better patient experience.

3-D Mask and Cartridge System

3D mask and cartridge system 

With the threat of a shortage of protective masks looming as the novel coronavirus pandemic grew, a team of MUSC biomedical engineers and tinkerers, led by senior designer Joshua Kim, MS for the MUSC Department of Surgery, came together and developed plans for 3D printed masks and the Self-Assembly Filter for Emergencies Cartridge System(S.A.F.E.), a modular HEPA filtration system that can be fitted onto the mask.Within four days and with guidance and support from Michael Yost, Ph.D.,Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Surgery and David Mahvi,M.D., Chief of Surgical Oncology, the team was able to go from concept design to completion.The 3D mask and S.A.F.E. Cartridge system project was awarded an MUSC Innovator Award during Innovation Week. The mask and cartridge system is currently in an innovation exhibit at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC. The exhibit highlights how different sectors around the state have pivoted to meet the need for critical supplies and PPE during the pandemic.

Research Productivity

COVID productivity 

The Research Council developed research guidelines and protocols in advance of the MUSC stay at home orders to ensure research efforts remained active while keeping faculty and staff safe.Beginning March 23 through early May, our investigators recorded a record number of research papers and grant submissions as well as embarking on special projects, twelve of which were COVID-related. NOTE: This report is not a complete accounting of all research productivity during this time frame.