In February of 2020, New York City was unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection appeared and spread rapidly. Hospitals had to repurpose staff and establish diagnostic testing for this new viral infection. In the background of the usual respiratory pathogen testing performed in the clinical laboratory, SARS-CoV-2 testing at the Montefiore Medical System grew exponentially, from none to hundreds per day within the first week of testing. The job of appropriately routing SARS-CoV-2 viral specimens became overwhelming. Additional staff was required to triage these specimens to multiple in-house testing platforms as well as external reference laboratories. Since medical school classes and many research laboratories shut down at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and students were eager to help fight the pandemic, we seized the opportunity to engage and train senior MD-PhD students to assist in triaging specimens. This volunteer force enabled us to establish the “Pathology Command Center,” staffed by these students as well as residents and furloughed dental associates. The Pathology Command Center staff were tasked with the accessioning and routing of specimens, answering questions from clinical teams, and updating ever evolving protocols developed in collaboration with a team of Infectious Disease clinicians. Many lessons were learned during this process, including how best to restructure an accessioning department and how to properly onboard students and repurpose staff while establishing safeguards for their well-being during these unprecedented times. In this article, we share some of our challenges, successes, and what we ultimately learned as an organization.
- command center
- MD-PhD students
- test utilization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine