A message from President McRobbie on IU COVID-19 research impact

Friday, April 17, 2020

To all members of the IU community,

Thank you for all you are doing to support Indiana University in these truly extraordinary and unprecedented times. Each day brings with it new challenges as we deal – both personally and professionally – with the daily disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know all of you have been working tirelessly and, in many cases, without a break to ensure that IU sustains its teaching and learning enterprises. I know how many millions of minutes you have spent on Zoom, Kaltura and other online platforms over the last several weeks, all toward making sure our students can continue their academic progress.

And I know that you, like me, are greatly missing seeing our campuses humming with student life, with teaching, research and other activities happening everywhere. Our students are the reason all of us are here, and their physical absence reminds us how much energy, enthusiasm and life they bring to our campuses, especially during this time of year. In fact, one of the great joys of my tenure as IU president has been looking out from my office window during the beautiful spring weeks of April and May as our graduating seniors, their families and their friends pose for pictures at the iconic Sample Gates.

But I am so encouraged by how members of the IU community have chosen to confront this pandemic with strength, courage, creativity, resilience and togetherness to keep our university running, to protect everyone's health and safety, and to ensure that IU and the communities we serve around the state emerge better than ever from the present crisis.

In this message, I write to focus our attention on how IU has joined the front lines of our state's and our nation's fight to surmount this deadly crisis. I am proud to share just a few examples and the impact they are having.

Recent weeks have seen IU researchers energetically engage in many bold and innovative initiatives that are advancing how we visualize, understand, detect, treat and manage COVID-19.

These include:

IU is also deeply engaged in the fight against COVID-19 through the IU School of Medicine, the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, and the School of Nursing, as well as through the university's partnership with IU Health, where so many IU clinical faculty work.

The School of Medicine, in conjunction with IU Health and Eskenazi Health, is currently engaged in several clinical trials of possible antiviral medications and treatments to help individuals who contract a severe form of the virus, and will be involved in an increasing number of other studies in the weeks ahead.

The School of Medicine is also making an important contribution to the state's need for additional health care workers during this public health emergency. Responding to an executive order by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, last week IU trustees approved a request to allow fourth-year students from the School of Medicine to voluntarily elect to graduate early to bolster the state's health care workforce. IU School of Nursing students are also volunteering to join in the fight against COVID-19.

As the governor shared last week in one of his daily press conferences, more than a third of the IU School of Medicine's graduating class have graduated early and are ready to work, and every hospital in the state that has requested the help of a medical or nursing student has received one.

IU clinicians and researchers are also helping the state's health care workforce by providing free virtual training on issues and processes related to COVID-19, and they are regularly addressing questions about the virus and its impacts from scientific and medical communities as well as members of the general public. Furthermore, their views on how to defeat the pandemic are drawing the attention of a large, often worldwide, audience. Case in point: a recent New York Times commentary by School of Medicine Professor Aaron Carroll – addressing the question of "How Will We Know When It's Time to Reopen the Nation?" – was tweeted by former President Barack Obama to his more than 115 million followers.

These are just a few examples of how the research community at IU has banded together and engaged to help eradicate the threat of COVID-19. I encourage you to learn more about other important work at IU related to the pandemic, details of which you can find on IU's special webpage dedicated to these efforts and the impact they are having.

Similar efforts are underway at other leading research universities all over the country, as their collective might is now turned squarely towards this grave problem. As Dr. Harvey Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine, recently wrote, the ultimate goal of the nation's research enterprise is not just to flatten the curve, but to crush the curve and ultimately wipe out this pandemic.

We know that defeating COVID-19 will not be easy, and that we will face more challenges and trials in the weeks ahead. But by asserting our expertise and creative energies through rapidly sharing new discoveries, ideas and innovations, IU researchers are deeply engaged in the life of the state and nation to navigate this crisis. We will also continue to bring to bear our extensive expertise to provide valuable information to business and community leaders, legislators, journalists and the general public about the broader cultural, economic, legal, political, social and technological facets of the pandemic.

Again, these are difficult and trying times. But I have never been prouder of the whole IU community or more inspired by the collective power of the IU community and all in our state under Governor Holcomb's strong and effective leadership to make a positive difference.

Please stay safe, and thanks for all you do for IU,

Michael A. McRobbie

Indiana University