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.
As Columbia leads the international medical and scientific community through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are more focused than ever on serving our local neighborhood and the patients of Northern Manhattan who rely on us as their community medical center. The neighborhoods around Columbia represent the highest prevalence zip codes for COVID-19 in Manhattan, even as the city’s overall prevalence goes down. Columbia faculty are now developing programs to expand access to Columbia’s highly sensitive and specific COVID-19 viral and antibody tests in order to help address health disparities in our community that have become an even more pressing concern as a result of the pandemic.
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
COVID-19 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 as we continue to care for patients with severe disease.
Remote physician consultations are being used whenever possible to minimize contact between patients and staff, helping to reserve clinical resources for the ongoing volume of COVID-19 patients and to help minimize exposure as the virus remains present in our community.
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 to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, which we have built rapidly to serve patients, health care workers, and others in the New York Metropolitan area. This program requires significant, ongoing infrastructure on campus for clinical testing and support, including professional counselors to explain test results to patients.
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
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.
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.