Steven Brown ’77 has practiced medicine in rural areas for more than 10 years, not by meeting patients in an office or by their hospital beds, but virtually, monitoring them in hospitals from Missouri and Arkansas to Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Now with COVID-19 he has turned his living room into a command center for 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shifts.

The pulmonologist, based in St. Louis, Missouri, has four computer monitors with a dedicated router and server plus a highly sophisticated video camera that allow him to keep tabs on around 100 patients nightly. He estimates 15 to 20 percent of his patients may be new each time, many with COVID-19.

Although the native New Yorker says he was anguished not to return to his hometown when the pandemic hit there hard, he decided he could best serve helping rural ICU units connected to the Mercy Virtual Care Center. His employer allowed him to move operations to his home rather than continue at its physical hub, where its large medical team allows doctors to “see” patients where they are.

Brown, an early adopter to telemedicine, estimates he’s put in some 20,000 hours in the field. Many rural hospitals may have only two ICU beds but no ICU doctor, he says, “so I assist and keep the critical care local.”

“I can’t palpate an abdomen or hug someone who’s dying,” he adds, “but like Yogi Berra said, ‘You can observe a lot by watching.’” He admits that at times juggling his assignments can feel like a cross between “being an air traffic controller and playing whack-a-mole at Chucky Cheese” as he deals with patients’ immediate needs.

He typically starts his shift consulting with the day doctor to get a hand-off on the patients he will be watching. Then he monitors each, dialing oxygen up or down as needed, or ordering an x-ray or medications. He relies on the doctors and nurses onsite as “boots on the ground,” calling them for evaluations as his hands, ears, and eyes, but “I set the dials on how the air is delivered,” he says, “and monitor to see how that’s doing.”

Another big part of what Brown does is offer emotional support to colleagues. He’s often working with nurses who are in their 20s, and knows they are scared. He’s been in their place.

In the 1980s, Brown trained at Bellevue Hospital in New York City during the AIDS crisis. “My job was inserting IVs and doing lung biopsies. Every day I had a sense of fear for my own life and fear for the entire world.”

That experience, and handling subsequent medical crises like Legionnaires disease, propel him to do his best to keep colleagues’ spirits up, “doing as best I can without being able to hug.”

#TellUsTigers Q&A: Tanesha Brown, nurse manager, University Health Services

#TellUsTigers Q&A: Tanesha Brown, nurse manager, University Health Services

Mar 20, 2020 Community , Health Care

Tanesha Brown, the nurse manager at University Health Services, is a critical member of the University’s coronavirus preparedness team, working with a broad range of departments and colleagues across campus. She reflects on addressing the fear of the unknown, how she practices self-care and the most important things she wants people to know during the coronavirus crisis. Read more …


University president uses medical degree to help inform university COVID-19 response

Mar 17, 2020 Education , Health Care , News

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel ’79 ran an immunobiology lab for 20 years and is a board-certified internist. That background helped him see the potential scale of the pandemic, and to make decisions about students overseas and in-person instruction, sooner than he might have otherwise. He was also better equipped to communicate with experts through that process.

Read more about how he and other university presidents responded here.

Jordan Salama

When It’s Safer to Stay Apart

Mar 23, 2020 Community , Health Care

Jordan Salama ’19 shares the story of his family leaving New York City, while his father, an infectious disease physician in New York City, stays behind to do his job.

Salama recounts the moment when the family realized how deeply the virus could affect them, and highlights the importance of everyone doing their part to protect not only  themselves, but also the healthcare workers who risk everything to keep others safe.

Read the full story at Scientific American.