Health Sciences Learning Center at UW–Madison.

Heroes of the pandemic share their experiences

UW School of Medicine and Public Health

While the COVID-19 pandemic altered professional and personal lives for nearly everyone, people who work in health care, medical research and academic medicine have front-row seats. They have been called upon to adapt quickly to changing situations and community needs, while balancing the same uncertainties faced by the rest of society.

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) leaders appreciate the heroic efforts of its faculty and staff who are dedicated to education, scientific investigation, patient care, public health and health equity. Their efforts extend throughout Dane County, the state and the nation.

Quarterly asked a sampling of SMPH faculty members to share their experiences related to the novel coronavirus and its ramifications on individuals, families and communities. As you read, think about this question: What would you do differently if you knew the pandemic would last this long?

Elizabeth “Betsy” Nugent, MSPH, CCRP

Nugent is director of clinical trials development and accreditation, SMPH; chief clinical research officer, UW Health.

How did the pandemic change your roles and responsibilities?

We had to pivot to all things COVID-19 because we realized the only treatments and prevention for the novel coronavirus were going to come from clinical trials. Two weeks after we closed non-essential, on-site work at the SMPH, the Office of Clinical Research was opening the first COVID-19 treatment trial at University Hospital. We had to work much faster than we ever had, and most staff were working seven days per week for the first four months. Everyone pitched in, doing whatever tasks needed to be done to get patients enrolled and their treatment started. We also became part of a national consortium related to COVID-19 clinical trials.

How were you responsible for communicating about the pandemic?

I was called upon to give updates to the clinical community about our clinical trials to ensure them that they could quickly refer patients. We reached out to the hardest hit communities about clinical trials. We answered questions and combated misinformation.

What’s one experience from the pandemic that stands out to you?

I think everyone felt very unsure and scared at the beginning, but when we started to have success with clinical trials preventing death and long hospitalizations, I remember seeing a change in everyone’s faces. We had contributed to saving lives! Getting selected for multiple COVID-19 vaccine trials validated our academic medical center at the SMPH and UW Health as a leading research center.

How did the pandemic change your perspective on the work you do?

It reminded me of how much a group of mission-driven people can accomplish.

Read more about the other “pandemic heroes” …