MUSC Leaders Share Status of Recovery, Will Partner with DHEC to Develop, Deploy Statewide Testing Plan

Staff Report From Charleston CEO

Monday, May 18th, 2020

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA) Board of Trustees held their regularly scheduled combined committee/board meeting, receiving updates on the year-to-date performance of the health system and university communities. In adherence to established social distancing guidelines in the COVID-19 era, the MUSC trustees and administrators met via teleconference.

In his report to the board, MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D. FACS, presented a timeline of the novel coronavirus and its overall effects. “Since well before this virus actually arrived in the state, our health system and university teams have engaged on multiple levels to mitigate its impact. We’ve been involved in tracking and communication, prevention, preparation and response efforts. We’ve formed and fueled statewide research collaborations, using scientific discovery to develop testing and diagnostics. In addition, we’ve joined national clinical trials to investigate new ways to treat the victims of this virus, like using convalescent plasma.”

Through its virtual telehealth platform, MUSC Health has screened more than 60,000 people for COVID-19, an average of about 1,000 people per day. Plus, the statewide health system has completed and delivered results of diagnostic testing to more than 24,000 people through its drive-thru and mobile sample collection facilities. Diagnostic testing verifies whether a person is actually infected with the virus or not. MUSC Health has provided diagnostic testing in Charleston, Florence and Lancaster, where it has hospital facilities. Additionally, under the direction of Governor McMaster, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and state legislative leadership, MUSC Health has set up mobile testing platforms in rural and underserved areas in Columbia, Hollywood, Spartanburg and Sumter. MUSC is also providing diagnostic testing support to more than 15 hospitals across the state.

MUSC Health is also engaged in an ongoing collaboration with Clemson University, University of SC and Prisma Health to generate and deploy increased antibody testing capacity. 

As a result of its ongoing partnership with DHEC in the fight against COVID-19, recently the S.C. General Assembly passed a continuing resolution that includes a provision for MUSC to receive $25 million. If approved by the governor, the funds will be designated to expand testing programs in rural communities and among those who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus. Vulnerable populations include the elderly, people who have underlying conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, and African Americans who, due to well-documented health disparities, are more likely to suffer from one of these conditions and have much less access to health care. MUSC will also partner with other hospitals, health systems and community health clinics in these expanded testing programs.

“Admittedly, we don’t know everything about this virus or what the long-term impacts will be for people who were asymptomatic or who recovered from its effects,” Cole said. “Recognizing there are many unknowns, it is imperative that we achieve new, safe ways of working and interacting so that together we can revitalize our economy while we define a thoughtful, prudent approach to avoid elevating infection rates.”

“Community response to this pandemic continues to be significant,” said Kate Azizi, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “Our team has received more than $1.7 million in philanthropic gifts to support general emergency response efforts as well as targeted funds focused on serologic testing, college- and region-specific response, equipment and care team needs.” She added, “Hundreds of in-kind donations have been made to MUSC including personal protective equipment, such as face shields, goggles, masks, respirators, surgical gowns and gloves, in addition to rubbing alcohol, laboratory supplies, food and other items needed by our care team.”

During this period of market dislocation, Stuart Ames, CEO of the MUSC Foundation, shared insights on the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the financial portfolio that he oversees for the benefit of MUSC. “Markets have been volatile and portfolio values are down in line with markets. We continue to keep our focus on managing the foundation’s portfolio to achieve our long-term objectives.” Ames added, “Through the government-imposed shelter in place instructions and transition to remote work, the foundation staff continues to process gifts and open new funds. From January to March, our staff accepted 4,469 gifts, an increase of more than 600 gifts versus the same period last year, and opened 37 new funds.”

Established in 1966, the MUSC Foundation is a charitable, educational institution that exists to support the education, research, patient care and other programs at the Medical University.

In other business, the board voted to approve:

Conferring degrees on 660 new health care professionals from six MUSC colleges: Dental Medicine – 80, Graduate Studies – 35, Health Professions – 162, Medicine – 172, Nursing – 128 and Pharmacy – 83. The formal commencement ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19; however, on Saturday, May 16, graduates may drive thru the MUSC Harper Student Center, 45 Courtenay Drive, to collect their actual diplomas and receive socially distant cheers, waves and applause from college deans, staff, university administrators and board representatives.

Rodgers, Thompson Turner as the construction manager at risk to build a new MUSC Health hospital in the area currently served by the Williamsburg Regional Hospital and Lake City Community Hospital. Once the new MUSC Health hospital opens, the other two area facilities will cease operations.

A new online Certificate in Innovative Teaching in Healthcare Education through the MUSC College of Graduate Studies. The online certificate program is designed to meet state and regional employer demand for health care professionals who can deliver graduate-level health care professions education. Those eligible to enroll in the new program include health care professionals who teach students, residents, fellows and working health care professionals in traditional and clinical environments, as well as staff members involved in instructional efforts. 

The MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees serves as separate bodies to govern the university and hospital, normally holding two days of committee and board meetings six times a year.