Messages for the GUMC Community

Messages from the Office of the Executive Vice President of Health Sciences


Date: March 15, 2020
Subject: Message from the Provost and EVP Healton: Updated Research Continuity Guidance

This document provides updated guidance regarding research activities at Georgetown. This guidance supersedes the existing research continuity policy that was developed and distributed on Wednesday, March 11.  

In recognition of the developing emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must now take steps to minimize the spread of the virus, while safeguarding our most vital research operations and assets. Effective immediately, Georgetown University’s policy is that all Georgetown researchers must work remotely with very limited exceptions.

Research activities that require access to a Georgetown space—office, laboratory or otherwise—are permissible only with express and written decanal approval.  Granted permission will be limited.  For Main Campus investigators, exceptions can only be granted by the Dean of your School; for GUMC investigators, decanal approval should be sought from the Dean of the School of Nursing & Health Studies by NHS faculty, or by the GUMC Dean for Research for other GUMC faculty.  Permission will not be granted for undergraduates to engage in research in a Georgetown space.

Requests for permission to access research sites must be submitted by 5 pm on Monday, March 16 using this form.

Principal Investigators (PIs) and group leaders must implement the following immediately:

  • Do not start new experiments or data collection.
  • Act now to bring existing experiments and studies to a safe stopping point.
  • Designate critical laboratory and other research activities and personnel.
  • If you need approval for access, discuss with your Chair and Dean the basis of the request.
  • Ensure that permitted personnel adhere to best practices for social distancing.

These points are discussed in more detail below.

Permissible research activities: The decision to grant an exception will be based on balancing both the short and long-term impacts of short-term disruption, with the aim of preserving research assets as much as possible, against the potential costs to public health.  We define three types of research activities:

1. Critical human subject research:

  • All “non-therapeutic” human subjects research involving face-to-face contact but not the administration of drugs, must shift to remote data collection while maintaining integrity of the research, or be safely stopped. This involves both on- and off-campus human subjects data collection. Please see pertinent guidance from Georgetown and MHRI for information on how to submit an amendment to the relevant IRB to report such protocol modifications.
  • “Therapeutic studies”, defined here as those that involve the administration of drugs or monitoring of devices that may provide direct therapeutic benefit to study participants are likely to receive quick approval to continue.  Trials with investigational treatments, including drugs and devices, are assumed to provide the potential for therapeutic benefit, and are therefore similarly likely to receive expeditious approval.
  • To the extent possible, study activities that can be conducted remotely by telephone or online, such as screening or follow-up, should be done in this way.  Please see pertinent guidance from the Georgetown and MHRI IRBs.

2. Critical laboratory research activities: Projects involving live organisms that are particularly sensitive to interruption, causing severe negative impacts.  Examples include:

  • Environmental/seasonal work on plants/animals – Living organisms need to be maintained and loss of animals/plants will lead to catastrophic loss of data sources and extended (a year or more) impacts on labs. For example:
    1. Mosquito diapause studies
    2. Butterfly responses to climate changes
  • Live animal studies – Investigators must continue their responsibilities for existing animal colonies and experiments. For example:
    1. Maintenance of rodent breeding colonies
    2. Maintenance of drosophila lines
    3. Completion of already-started animal and plant experiments with time-sensitive protocol requirements or procedures that cannot be temporarily scaled down
  • Long-term medical research requiring timely processing of samples
  • Tissue culture lines that need to be maintained until such time as they can be safely stored.

3. Non-critical projects – not allowed:  Experimental research that can be paused without severe long-term negative impact on ongoing research will not be allowed to proceed.  This includes microbiological/eukaryotic cell biology work in which strains can be viably frozen, chemical / materials research in which samples can be safely stored, as well as methods development research. It is recognized that this represents a significant disruption to the research efforts of majority of our faculty, students, and postdoctoral fellows involved in experimental science.

Permission for Access: To reduce the number of critical staff to the absolute minimum, all PIs must use this Google form to submit requests for access to research sites by 5pm Monday, March 16.  Requests will be jointly reviewed by both department chairs and deans, with final authority resting with the dean.

1. Designated workers

  • Each lab with permission may designate a limited number of “essential” lab members, who would be responsible for maintaining the live experimental material.
  • The lab head together with the chair should manage schedules to ensure coverage.
  • No individual may be compelled to come to campus for any purpose.
  • People who are sick with a fever, cough or shortness of breath should not come to campus.

2. Access is primarily for maintenance or completion of experiments or already-started and scheduled research procedures

  • No new experiments/studies may be started without decanal approval.
  • Existing experiments/studies should be completed as quickly as possible.
  • Store biological specimens as quickly as possible.  Transfer electronic data to media for remote analysis
  • Animal colonies need to be maintained, but should be minimized to essential numbers.
  • No new animal orders or imports will be accepted unless required for survival of specific strains; this will require approval by the DCM Director.

3. Other emergency personnel – All other labs may designate one or more members who can come in only to deal with emergencies (e.g. essential equipment that needs attention, such as -80 freezers, or liquid nitrogen storage).

4. Deliveries – In some cases, deliveries may arrive after the labs are restricted.  If so please notify the Chair so that a designated worker can safely store the package.

Best Practices: To ensure the most effective social distancing, a minimum of researchers will be allowed on campus.  Those who are granted access should abide by the following guidelines:

1. The Chair and the PIs will work together to ensure that there are as few personnel as possible in the lab at the same time

  • Work spaces and staffing must be organized to ensure 6 feet between any two staff members Stagger schedules to reduce chance of overlap
  • Limit time in the lab or animal facility
  • Wear gloves and other personal protective equipment while in the lab or animal facility
  • Wash/sanitize hands before and after being in the lab environment.
  • If two people encounter one another, they must stay 6 feet apart.
  • If any personnel is not feeling well, s/he should not come in!  Have the alternate replace.

To further protect the safety of the personnel

  • On-campus parking will be provided to ensure that personnel do not need to use public transportation

Date: March 14, 2020
Subject: Updates for GUMC Faculty/COVID-19 Impacts

Dear Members of the GUMC Community:

As we continue to learn more about how to best keep our community safe and healthy, I’d like to pause and thank you for your hard work in preparing for educational and telework continuity. I’m also grateful for your input and patience as we work collectively to reduce the disruption the COVID-19 outbreak is having on our campus.

I’m writing today 1) to provide additional clarity on telework continuity for faculty including faculty conducting research, 2) to share information about dependent care funds now available to GUMC faculty and 3) a reminder about gatherings and meetings.

The telework continuity plan for faculty, staff and AAPs is now in full effect.  Georgetown requires faculty to work from an off-campus location for online delivery of educational instruction until further notice. Office hours and student advising must also be conducted remotely. All staff/AAPs are required to telework beginning Monday, March 16 unless considered essential.  Staff were notified Friday and their managers were also made aware.

Faculty conducting research should also work from an off-campus location unless the nature of the research requires you to be in a laboratory or if your research situation can’t be replicated in your off-campus space. A group of Georgetown resarchers are developing additional guidance for these situations to minimize disruptions in balance with necessary steps to keep our colleagues safe. To that end, Provost Bob Groves and I will share new research continuity guidance this weekend.

Just to be clear, as with staff, your return to campus is not permitted until the university lifts the telework requirement. If you have a need to come to campus during this telework continuity period, you must notify your dean for approval.

2) I am pleased to share with you information about a new resource/benefit for our faculty regarding the use of dependent care funds. Under exceptional circumstances due to the coronavirus, all full-time faculty(tenure line and full time non-tenure line) who are teaching during this educational continuity period can use dependent care funds. These funds can now be used by faculty who have child care responsibilities, and are designed to help defray costs due to added child care needs resulting from school/daycare closures during the Georgetown spring semester.

Awards of $50 per day for days when providing online instruction with a cap of $500 per faculty member through the end of 2020 Spring term will be available. 

For information about reimbursement, please contact Mary Glasscock.  

3) Finally, I’d like to remind you that we have restricted in-person events, meetings and other activities until further notice.  You are encouraged to proceed with your event virtually, using an online conference service such as Zoom. If you feel that there is a compelling reason that your scheduled event should still take place in person, please submit a request for a waiver to the Office of the Executive Vice President using this form.

Thank you again for the dedication.  I hope you have a restful and safe weekend.

Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH
Executive Vice President for Health Sciences
Executive Dean, Georgetown University School of Medicine


Date: March 11, 2020
Subject: Covid-19 GUMC Update:  Instructional Continuity, Campus Operations, and Events

Dear GUMC Community Members:

As the COVID-19 outbreak increasingly affects our daily lives here in Washington and around the world, the health and safety of our community has been our shared and deepest concern. Many colleagues across the university have been working together nearly around the clock to respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19.  I am most grateful for their work and mutual support.  Against that background, all faculty, students and staff have received a communication from President DeGioia announcing that all classes at the university will move to online instruction until further notice.

ALL CLASSES MOVING ONLINE

Later today, letters specific to the School of Medicine, School of Nursing & Health Studies and our Biomedical Graduate Education community will be sent to faculty and students. These communications will provide Information focused on educational continuity planning and Implementation. We are committed to supporting your work as teachers and learners, and to continuing to maintain a high-quality learning environment.

RESEARCH CONTINUITY

We also are committed to maintaining a supportive and uninterrupted research environment.  Later today, you also will receive guidance on research continuity.

TELEWORKING IMPLEMENTATION

For our staff, AAPs and temporary employees, the same safety concerns will lead to a significantly increased use of our teleworking policies and practice of working remotely.  An announcement of that policy and practice will be released immediately. Direct supervisors will work with each staff member to implement these practices.

OPERATIONAL UPDATES

As of now, the Medical Center’s campus buildings will remain open. Campus services including copy/mail and campus food services are available, but will be limited. Operations will be evaluated and adjusted on an ongoing basis, as needed.

EVENTS/ CONFERENCES/ CO-CURRICULAR PROGRAMMING

For the protection of our community and consistent with University policy, we will restrict in-person events as much as possible until further notice.  If you would like to proceed with your event virtually, we recommend that you consider using Zoom as an option. You can find more information about using zoom here. If you feel that there is a compelling reason that your scheduled event should still take place in person, please submit a request for a waiver to the office of the Executive Vice President using this form.

All of this important information is available on Georgetown’s dedicated COVID-19 page. Consider bookmarking it as it will be updated with all announcements.

As always, I am confident that we will work together as a community in this unique and very challenging time.  

All the very best,

Edward B. Healton, MD, MPH
Executive Vice President for Health Sciences
Executive Dean, Georgetown University School of Medicine


Date: March 6, 2020
Subject: COVID-19/GUMC Information

Dear Colleagues:

While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 with any connection to Georgetown, university officials are monitoring the situation closely. As you know, the situation is quite fluid and we need to think of possible scenarios and how to reduce the impact on our students and faculty.  Now is the time to be thinking about instructional continuity carefully in the event that our campus has to close.  All faculty who have classes between now and the end of the semester should prepare before Spring Break to be able to deliver all lectures and educational materials remotely for an extended period. In addition, we are working closely with our clinical partners to ensure a safe learning environment for our students in clinical rotations.

Resources for instructional continuity (including useful tips, faculty examples, and contacts) may be found at https://instructionalcontinuity.georgetown.edu/ including a preparation checklist.

●      Delivering course content online: This should include options for delivering course materials—such as course documents and course lectures—online. There are many options for locating digital versions of course materials and the library can help create electronic versions of materials that are unavailable in digital format. Lecture capture, voice over PowerPoint, and synchronous delivery of lectures are excellent ways to deliver lecture content to your students.

●      Engaging with your students: This should include options for conducting synchronous and asynchronous interactions with your students. Zoom is an excellent option for synchronous (or real time) meetings and virtual office hours. Zoom can handle up to 300 participants at a time (with availability of up to 500 by request by emailing zoom@georgetown.edu). Asynchronous engagements can include discussion board posts (for example, through Canvas) and peer e-meetings that students can complete outside of class time.

●      Assessing student progress: Should instructional continuity require longer time away from campus, it’s important to create mechanisms for assessing students. These can include quizzes and exams, graded blog and written, critical reflections, and group projects produced digitally. These are all possible in the Canvas learning management system. For quizzes and exams, there are pilot licenses for exam proctoring to ensure academic integrity.

Dahlgren Memorial Library is offering workshops to learn how to leverage the functionality of Zoom for teaching remotely. Dates for the workshops are Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13. Click on the links for more details and registration. Canvas courses are also available.  You can find additional information on the DML website including the fact-filled Infectious Diseases and Biohazards LibGuide.

CNDLS is also offering resources for learning how to implement remote teaching options, and will be holding daily drop-in office hours for the foreseeable future, with both virtual and in person (314 Car Barn) options. These hours will be posted on the Instructional Continuity website. If you need immediate assistance from CNDLS, please contact them at cndls@georgetown.edu, 202-687-0625, or by visiting their website. A growing set of additional resources for instructional continuity (including tips, faculty examples, and contacts) may be found here.

We expect additional announcements about educational continuity today and research continuity and other planning in the days to come. The university has set up a webpage with all announcements and additional information concerning COVID-19.  You can also find a link to it on the GUMC.georgetown.edu homepage.

We’ll continue to update you as information warrants.

Thank you,

Carole Roan Gresenz, PhD
Interim Dean, NHS

Stephen Ray Mitchell, MD
Dean for Medical Education

Anna T. Riegel, PhD
Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Graduate Education


Messages from President John J. DeGioia


Message from Provost Robert M. Groves