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“Confronting the COVID-19 Crisis” by Gary Goldenberg

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Confronting the COVID-19 Crisis graphic

The Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards: Solicited Articles - Silver

“Confronting the COVID-19 Crisis” by Gary Goldenberg
Einstein Magazine, Summer/Fall 2020
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

“Confronting the COVID-19 Crisis,” the cover story of Einstein Magazine’s Summer/Fall 2020 issue, describes how scientists and clinicians at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center conducted research and treated patients in the pandemic’s first, brutal wave. The four-part, 16-page article begins with “In the Eye of the Storm,” an up-close look at the crisis that Montefiore faced in March 2020, when the flood of COVID-19 patients nearly overwhelmed its intensive care unit. The article’s second part, “Organizing for the Onslaught,” focuses on efforts by Montefiore and Einstein’s chair of medicine to devise and implement a plan for handling the crisis. Part three, “Spiking the Coronavirus,” deals with successful laboratory efforts to synthesize a harmless version of the coronavirus — one that acts like the original coronavirus but is much safer for scientists to study in the lab. The fourth part, “Old Treatment Takes on a New Pandemic,” describes how an Einstein physician helped lead the effort to convince the medical community that convalescent plasma — an old and all-but-forgotten therapy — should be tried as a stopgap treatment for COVID-19.

“In mid-March 2020, just two weeks after the first COVID-19 case was detected in New York State, patients began flooding into Montefiore Medical Center’s intensive care unit (ICU), triggering anxiety throughout the hospital. No one had seen anything like this, not even at the height of the AIDS epidemic a generation earlier. ‘We started doing projections about what to expect in the days ahead,’ says Michelle Ng Gong, M.D., M.S., chief of the divisions of pulmonary medicine and of critical care at Montefiore and Einstein and professor of medicine and of epidemiology & population health at Einstein. ‘The worst-case scenario was that we had to prepare for 600 ICU patients at once — six times our normal capacity. Basically, we would have to turn the entire hospital into an ICU.’”

Gary Goldenberg
Gary Goldenberg

What was the most impactful part of your award-winning entry?
The most impactful part of our article was the human-interest aspect. The physicians featured in part one and part two both came down with COVID-19 themselves, yet were able to quickly return to the battle.

What is one thing you learned from this experience?
There is truth to the old saying “In every crisis there is opportunity.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and two medical societies had warned against using steroids in COVID-19 patients. But Montefiore doctors discovered that, for severely ill patients, steroids were lifesavers.

Contact: Susan Byrne

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