Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020 - 28

Coronavirus Chronicles: Berks Responds

FROM BASKETBALL ARENA
TO HOSPITAL IN 2 WEEKS
by 3rd Year Medical Student
Douglas Brown, MS3
Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

O

n Friday, March 13th, I received an email from the Temple
medical school administration - all clinical rotations have
been suspended indefinitely. I had just completed my
Obstetrics and Gynecology rotation and taken my subject exam. I
was already packed and ready to complete my last rotation of third
year; a six-week pediatrics rotation in Pittsburgh, PA. Without any
pressing academic requirements, I returned home to Wyomissing,
PA for a few days to visit my parents. Thinking this was merely
a short hiatus from clinical rotations, I welcomed this time to
catch up on all of the research and scholarly projects I had been
procrastinating. The severity of the pandemic, however, quickly
grew apparent. Each day I received multiple emails
from Temple University, the hospital system, and
the medical school all working to grapple with
rapidly changing news and recommendations.
A week later Philadelphia issued stay-athome orders and businesses closed. Across
the nation healthcare systems moved to
a gridlock as hospitals converted lobbies
into patient rooms and restricted visitors
to limit exposure.
Devastatingly, after three years of
medical school and countless clinical hours,
medical students were deemed nonessential
workers and barred from the hospital. It hurt
to be sidelined. As future physicians, our calling
is to help the sick. I thought that in a few years, as a
practicing physician, patients might ask what I did during
the pandemic. I didn't want my answer to be that "I stayed in my
apartment practicing board questions and watching Netflix." I, like
many other medical students, wanted to help despite not being
allowed in the hospitals.
With its rich history and multitude of medical centers,
Philadelphia is an incredible place to study medicine. The
collaboration among medical students is astonishing with Temple,
Penn, Jefferson, Drexel, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic
Medicine each bringing over 200 students to the city. Students
took it upon themselves to contact one another and were soon
volunteering at call centers or helping organize mask and PPE
donations for hospitals and clinics. A fellow student reached out to
me stating that Temple had offered the Liacouras center, a 10,000
seat basketball stadium on Temple's campus, as a field hospital to
help care for COVID-19 patients. The city needed Temple medical

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students to help get it up and running within fourteen days. The
next day I arrived at an already somewhat revised gymnasium.
Boxes were scattered across the hallways and roughly 20 cots were
set up with a few hundred more in boxes waiting to be opened.
Throughout the week I split my time between manual labor
tasks (setting up cots and moving and emptying boxes) and more
logistical tasks (creating an inventoried supply and establishing
a protocol for ordering, collecting, and processing lab orders). I
had to research the disease, what common labs would need to be
ordered, and who would make up the venipuncture team. With allhands-on-deck, we faced many tasks and had a steep learning curve.
Not until the end of the week did we have patient areas
set up, inventory stocked, and electrical and oxygen
tubing brought in. Our hospital was taking
shape. Some students established protocols for
medically related processes like radiologic
imaging and pharmacy. Others figured out
hospital logistical concerns-how to screen
entrants, evacuate patients, provide food,
and remove waste. Dealing with a viral
disease, infection control was paramount.
Every process involving moving items or
people onto or off of the stadium floor had
to incorporate an extensive decontamination
process. This proved a larger logistical hurdle
than if we were establishing a facility to care for
non-infectious patients.
Despite these challenges, within two weeks, we
converted the arena into a 152 bed, fully-functioning field hospital.
The facility began accepting patients, helping them recover, and
allowing them to return home safely. This incredible endeavor
could not have occurred without the drive and commitment of
medical students to adapt and find new ways to help. It taught us
hospital administration, project management, and supply chain
management. It was incredible to experience everything that goes
into running a hospital. Ordinarily medical education focuses on
the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, yet here we were exposed
to other important aspects of medicine. It demonstrated all that
truly goes into delivering the outstanding medical care that we
provide for our patients. Now when my future patients ask what I
did during the pandemic I can say, "I helped convert a basketball
stadium into a fully functional field hospital......and watched
Netflix."



Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Summer 2020

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