Coronavirus - How You Can Help
COVID-19 is a health challenge unlike any other in our lifetime. The Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and Columbia University Irving Medical Center are on the front lines of both patient care and research to save lives, limit the spread of the virus, and develop effective new treatments as quickly as possible.
We have been asked by many of you how you can help, and we are grateful to our friends for stepping forward at this critical time for our national and global community. Our most pressing needs fall into the following categories.
Patient Care Response
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Columbia’s medical campus in Northern Manhattan continues to see a high volume of very sick patients. COVID-19 has challenged our clinical capacity and personnel in unprecedented ways, particularly in our emergency department and intensive care units. Though New York City appears to be past the peak of cases, we are preparing for a future in which all patient care will be significantly transformed by the ongoing presence of COVID-19 in our community. Donations will help support the following.
COVID-19 has significantly increased our needs for ventilation and dialysis, and our ICUs must remain at higher capacity as we continue to care for large volumes of patients with severe disease.
Larger tents provide more space to safely triage, isolate, and treat patients with COVID-19 as more cases are seen. Smaller individual tents for the most ill patients will further limit viral transmission.
Remote physician consultations are being used whenever possible to minimize contact among patients and staff, as well as to reserve clinical resources for the surge in COVID-19 patients.
Additional resources in this area will help support the healthcare providers treating high volumes of COVID-19 patients, as they face unprecedented demands and stressors.
Research to Develop New Treatments for COVID-19
Beyond patient care, Columbia is leading essential research to develop rapid response testing and find effective treatments and potential cures for COVID-19.
Rapid response testing is critical to diagnose patients as well as to understand and reduce new viral infections, for the safety of the community and health care workers treating patients with COVID-19. The point-of-care tests allow the team not only to conduct coronavirus testing quickly, but also to do it systematically – analyzing data in real time so that we can respond as nimbly as possible with this fast-spreading virus.
This work includes a program to test for antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, rapidly and at significant scale. In order to make antibody tests available as quickly and as responsibly as possible—paired with professional counseling to explain test results to patients—we must substantially build our testing and clinical infrastructure on campus.
Our faculty are working quickly to develop research studies to test the effectiveness of preventive treatments for healthcare workers and others who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
In addition, we are fortunate to have world-class virologists, molecular biologists, chemists, and engineers who are responding to the coronavirus outbreak. A key leader in these efforts is David Ho, MD, an expert in coronaviruses and Director of Columbia’s Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. Dr. Ho’s team is working collaboratively with scientists throughout Columbia on multiple approaches to identify new therapies and interventions. Their work is focused on developing anti-viral compounds, which fall into two main categories, with promise to treat COVID-19: 1) Small molecule blockers of critical virus enzymes, known as protease inhibitors and polymerase inhibitors, and 2) monoclonal antibodies, which can kill the virus or help to prevent it. After the COVID-19 threat has been contained, our research has the potential to lay the groundwork for better treatments for coronaviruses as a larger group, which pose a recurring, serious threat to global health (as was the case with SARS in 2002–2003 before its containment).
Columbia’s team is now conducting a clinical trial of antibody-rich plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, to determine its potential as a treatment for patients who are currently ill. Known as convalescent plasma, this type of treatment has been used successfully for decades against other viruses, including influenza and Ebola. There is potential in the future to use convalescent plasma as a preventive treatment to help patients avoid becoming critically ill and needing respirators, as well as to help protect healthcare workers on the front lines. CUIMC is now enrolling recovered COVID-19 patients as volunteers for screening at our clinical trials site, RecruitMe. Each plasma donation will help up to three people who are currently fighting the virus.
In order to advance our understanding of the virus that causes COVID-19, Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) is building a crucial research resource known as a biobank, in collaboration with our clinical partner, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP). This biobank is a centralized collection of biospecimens from patients who test positive for COVID-19, including DNA, RNA, blood plasma, urine, and other tissue samples. Combined with the extensive warehouse of clinical data at Columbia/NYP, the biobank is a powerful resource to support a host of critically important research at Columbia and with our collaborators across the nation and world—in basic science, genetics and genomics, epidemiology, public health, and much more—including:
- Understanding how the COVID-19 virus is spread, with the goal of blocking its transmission.
- Developing new and improved diagnostic testing for the virus.
- Understanding genetic susceptibility in patients who experience severe disease.
- Developing new therapeutics, including potential vaccines and other therapies for COVID-19.
- Building knowledge to combat future coronaviruses and protect patients and society as a whole.
Support for Medical Students
Finally, as everyone in the Columbia medical community navigates this challenge, our medical students require special support. Columbia will finish the semester through remote classes, and all students who were able moved out of the dormitories to prevent transmission of the virus. Medical student clerkships and rotations have been suspended. Recognizing that these sudden and special arrangements may cause hardship for some, we are offering financial support to students who have moved off campus. We have heard from a number of alumni who have shown a desire to help students directly.
In addition, working with medical school leadership, students at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons have established the COVID-19 Student Service Corps. Through this effort, they volunteer on a community health hotline to provide essential COVID-19 information to patients, assist faculty in COVID-19 related research projects, support mental health services for faculty, staff, and students, and participate in our expanded telemedicine programs. Immediate needs for our COVID-19 Student Service Corps include funding for student care packages, program supplies, and jackets for participants.
If you wish to support our students, you can make a gift today to our Student Service Corps Fund.
To learn more about how you can help support these efforts, please contact:
Alternatively, you can also make a gift through our online giving platform.