May 15, 2020 3:00 PM

Hi everyone at HCI.

I look forward each week to reaching out to all of you with a short message since we are not able to spend face to face time together on a regular basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, I presented the annual State of Huntsman Cancer Institute and shared with you some of the many accomplishments of the past year, including our exceptional review from the National Cancer Institute and updates on our clinical program accreditation renewal and expansion progress.

I also reviewed how we are addressing the COVID-19 situation at HCI in a way that prioritizes the safety of our patients and staff. I talked about the revenue shortfalls we are expecting and the way we are addressing these challenging financial times with prioritization of preserving jobs for our talented faculty and staff.

I really appreciated having the ability to answer your questions in real time along with Don Milligan and Scott Lloyd via our virtual connection. We heard that many of you liked that format as well, so we will plan more virtual town hall sessions in the coming weeks and months.

I ended the State of HCI with a three-word reflection for these times:

Fortitude — Aptitude — and Gratitude.

As I discussed in a previous message, we need fortitude — or staying power — in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to the thoughtful response of our state and institution to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have flattened the curve. This week the University of Utah and HCI moved from a red to orange COVID-19 response. This does not mean the virus has gone away — it just means we should have enough ICU beds and PPE to care for patients who fall ill given current projections.

Fortitude is needed because COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time — another year at least before, if we are lucky, a vaccine will be available. We need to be thinking in a new way — not about how we can shut everything down to prevent the spread, but how can we keep the curve flattened while at the same time we get back to our lifesaving clinical care and cancer research activities. Looking at this another way, we need to be able to add our preparedness and response to COVID-19 to everything else we are doing, rather than shut down what we were doing to accommodate COVID-19.

This is going to require ingenuity and it is going to require fortitude — physical distancing and masking and hand washing need to be continued for the foreseeable future.

This is such an interesting and unprecedented time. It is a time of reflection and a time of learning which is why aptitude is the second word. HCI is a learning organization — so let’s seize the moment and ask ourselves what have we learned about ourselves, and what we have learned about how to best care for our patients and advance our cancer science.

First: Bringing HCI care to where patients live. As we strove to care for our cancer patients while limiting the number of people at HCI in order to protect our immunocompromised inpatients and our staff, we began to use videoconferencing or telehealth methods to meet with patients for follow up and planning visits that did not require on-site services. This has been pretty amazing: patients can see their doctor in their homes; they like it and we have learned how to make this work in a way that insures HCI quality care. This is a keeper and we need to make sure we harness all the learnings from this experience. It is an example where some real good has come out of our struggles with coronavirus.

Second: Meetings. We have more COVID-19 meetings, but we have eliminated a lot of other meetings that may not need to come back. When you are on a WebEx Zoom meeting, everything needs to be prepared in advance in order to share information and there is less chitchat. Learning from this experience, I am restructuring HCI’s leadership meetings in the new fiscal year and think we will gain impact and save time.

And finally: Investing in relationships. Everything we do is powered by relationships. I am working on many large projects and I have observed that some of these projects are moving forward very effectively, whereas others may be going more slowly. The ones that are going faster are ones where I have long-standing relationships with my partners. There is trust built over years that is making it possible to move forward on initiatives that require partnership and compromise. We can’t do what we do in isolation but even in the time of physical distancing, take the time to invest in relationships with colleagues and partners. This investment will pay tremendous dividends in the future.

I hope you will all take a moment to reflect on what you have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Cancer touches all of us.

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