Dear Members of the RBHS Community:
Amidst milestones that mark a year of perseverance through some of the most difficult challenges of a generation, we are buoyed by our prospects for recovery as we look ahead to the coming weeks and months. Unprecedented scientific rigor, ingenuity, and collaboration have led to the development of several extraordinarily effective vaccines in record time. While supply hiccups have slowed distribution of these vaccines, we are confident New Jersey will eventually meet its inoculation goals and begin to welcome the return of increasingly regular activities later this spring, summer, and fall.
Accordingly, in his January monthly message, President Holloway shared the University’s plans for a Fall 2021 semester that returns faculty and staff to all campuses on rotational schedules, expands in-person instruction, and resumes on-campus activities. These enhancements will be implemented with caution, in adherence to strict safety measures, and backed up by the university’s strategic testing program and contact tracing efforts. Since the spring of 2020, the University has used these approaches to maintain Rutgers at a substantially lower rate of infection than our surrounding communities, and RBHS has effectively employed these methods to maintain in-person clinical education, training rotations, and graduate level research activities that facilitate our research and support our students’ timely completion of their coursework.
Consistent with our experience these past few semesters, each of the RBHS schools and units are again charged to carry out these directives in ways that best accommodate their educational and clinical capacities. Each of the RBHS school deans should plan to further expand in-person education and activities in alignment with testing protocols and safety guidance. Our goal is to provide RBHS faculty, staff, and students a safe environment that stimulates learning and productivity.
Rutgers has been a national leader in the fight against COVID-19 and a critical partner for the state of New Jersey. Our clinicians, trainees, and staff continue to deliver life-saving care to our communities, and we are prepared to provide distribution sites for vaccinations in the hopes that we will be able to administer them to our community members as efficiently as possible. We look forward to being able to do this as soon as we receive state approval and the needed vaccine.
We are unable to predict future changes in the virulence and infectiousness of the novel coronavirus, but this makes public health measures (physical distancing, avoiding large groups, masking, and handwashing) all the more important, as well as vaccinations as they become available. We are committed to keeping our community healthy while transparently providing available information. To further facilitate this information sharing, we have begun hosting highly attended live health briefings at 9 a.m. every other Thursday. The next session is scheduled on February 4. Additionally, on the alternate Thursdays, podcasts that offer additional and more in-depth insights into the pandemic are made available. These are hosted by Mary O’Dowd, RBHS’s Executive Director for Health Systems and Population Health Integration and feature distinguished health leaders and experts as guests. We encourage you to view them for up-to-date information.
Thank you very much for your continued dedication as we enter this next phase of recovery. We are most grateful for the resilience every one of you has shown. Please continue to consult the RBHS campus status webpage for additional updates, become familiar with our wellness resources for employees and students, and continue to wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.
In good health and with very best wishes,
Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH
Executive Vice President of Health Affairs, Rutgers University
Bishr Omary, MD, PhD
Senior Vice Chancellor
Academic Affairs and Research, RBHS