Six caregivers in PPE

Just two months after Providence Medical Center in Everett, Washington, treated the nation’s first coronavirus patient in January 2020, Providence received a generous grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust’s COVID-19 Strategic Fund.

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, President of Clinical Care for Providence St. Joseph Health, noted that “Leadership at Providence felt strongly that this amazing grant, coming at an unprecedented time, would have a significant impact if it were used for medical research solutions leveraging Providence’s variety of research groups, wealth of data, and need for immediate investigation of significant health themes related to COVID-19.”

As a result, key pandemic-related projects were immediately initiated to positively impact patient and caregiver care:

A Rapid-Response Research Hub was created to connect researchers and facilitate rapid collaboration through a new, integrated data ecosystem, allowing critical information exchange to quickly move ideas into action. This pandemic-prompted hub now provides infrastructure to support future system-wide research activities and critical health challenges.

Three Rapid-Response Studies were initiated:

  • To understand COVID-19’s long-term physical, social, and emotional impacts, more than 6,000 COVID-positive “citizen scientists” kept diaries of their illness and recovery experiences to gain insight into the full spectrum of COVID-19 outcomes. Initial findings suggest late-onset symptoms often result in recovery peaks and valleys; findings have been submitted for publication.
  • To evaluate the impact of hospitalization surges on mortality rates and understand the survivability of the disease, it was more important than ever to study the effects of public health interventions intended to prevent surges or mitigate their impact on hospital systems. Initial results from this study show surges overwhelm systems and staff in ways that make optimal care outcomes more difficult to achieve. Findings have been submitted for publication.
  • To improve outcomes for African American patients, a testing strategy to determine whether low-renin state contributes to infections, admissions, and complications from COVID-19 was launched to better understand if disparities could be mitigated by angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB). The project is ongoing and expected to be complete by late summer.

A six-month Testing Our Heroes study of more than 20,000 caregivers across 13 sites sought to better understand the circumstances and history of those who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies and how caregivers could better avoid being infected by coronavirus. Goals were to provide reliable information to caregivers related to their exposure and immunology status, as well as reliable data to advance the science of understanding and treatment COVID-19.

This study found a low antibody positivity rate among the caregivers tested, providing them with the confidence that they were not likely to infect others and that personal protective equipment was effective. Results of the analysis from data generated are now being researched by project leaders and investigators doctors George Diaz, MD, and Delaney Goulet, MD, of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Dr. Diaz, often interviewed throughout 2020 on nationwide news, was the first physician in the U.S. to treat a COVID-19 patient.

Blood sample on lab slide

A COVID-19 Genomic Sequencing project was launched to perform genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 from 1,200 patient samples across the Providence Health System.

Due to limited COVID-19 genomic sequencing globally, variants of the disease spread relatively undetected, often for lengthy periods of time, challenging containment strategies and other public health approaches. This study enabled doctors Brian Piening, PhD, and Carlo Bifulco, MD, at Providence System Genomics Lab (PSGL) in Portland, Ore., to sequence samples from California, Washington, and Alaska to detect the prevalence of new variants across Providence’s footprint. They are currently developing a paper for publication with the findings.

Philanthropy Made It All Possible

The catalyst provided by this timely gift from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust supported the studies and infrastructure needed for immediate investigation of significant health themes related to COVID-19. It enabled our talented team of Providence caregivers to produce data and contribute analytics to help the healthcare community better understand COVID-19 and created a positive impact on patient and caregiver care.

The future may hold new challenges, but we learned that even in a complex and extensive health system, the ability to be flexible and immediately shift gears to focus on collaboration at the highest level, pivoting the whole organization, is possible. And funding from groups like Murdock Trust are instrumental in creating these opportunities to positively impact public health.

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