portrait of Dr. Michael Dake

Health Sciences at the Center of the Pandemic Response and Recovery

May 7, 2020

Over the past few weeks, the University of Arizona Health Sciences community has received several important updates from University leadership about necessary changes being implemented in response to the global pandemic and the resulting financial impact on the University.

I recognize that, as we adapt to the unprecedented and challenging circumstances we are facing, these announcements and the overall state of uncertainty are creating stress for you and your loved ones.

As a member of the executive team on the Financial Sustainability Emergency Response Taskforce, I can assure you that Health Sciences is well-represented on the various working groups. Our students, faculty and staff are at the heart of every decision we are making – and we are carefully weighing the impacts. At all times, we are focused on a common goal: protecting the future of the University of Arizona and Health Sciences – your future, and that of our students.

Vital Role for Health Sciences

Health Sciences is playing a critical role in multiple efforts to overcome the impact of COVID-19, and as we face one of the most difficult global health challenges in our lifetime, I am overwhelmed by the generosity and ingenuity of our faculty, staff and students. The unwavering commitment of Health Sciences to the health, safety and well-being of our communities – on campus, across the state and beyond – is a testimony to our loyalty to our mission.

Notably, our leadership in developing and implementing a COVID-19 antibody test has positioned us at the center of the national pandemic response. I have witnessed powerful teamwork throughout our Health Sciences community, from our researchers and lab teams who worked around the clock to get the antibody testing off the ground, to the numerous staff members who are determinedly organizing collection sites in Pima County and around the state – and soon for University faculty, staff and students as well. I am proud to say that we are the first state in the country to deploy antibody tests at this scale. 

I have also seen students, faculty and staff rally to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in many other ways:

  • collecting, creating, and distributing personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers
  • securing grants to conduct clinical and therapeutics research to combat the virus
  • sending early graduates to assist in hospitals
  • providing basic health care for the homeless community
  • organizing medical and food supply drives for the Navajo Nation
  • adapting telehealth models for clinical experiences
  • providing COVID-19 exposure contact tracing in Pima and Maricopa counties
  • conducting pandemic health and safety outreach to Spanish-speaking communities
  • developing a guide to cope with social isolation
  • launching a statewide texting system to gather data and provide support

Moving Forward into a New Future

As we look forward to a safe return to campus, there is a lot we still don’t know, but we will continue to keep you informed through various channels as new information becomes available. Recently, the deans of our colleges and I hosted a virtual town hall to share updates and address some of your questions with the help of Liesl Folks, PhD, MBA, UArizona senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. For those who were unable to attend, a recording is available online. You also can consult the FAQs from this event, which provides links to central resources that are regularly updated. 

Moving forward, Health Sciences will continue to advance our mission and reshape the future of health care, in Arizona and around the world, to address the health care challenges of the 21st century – including the one in which we now find ourselves. 

We will continue to expand our efforts in interprofessional education locally, globally and online, and pursue leading-edge research in health and biomedical sciences, with a focus on cross-discipline collaborations, digital technology and data science.

That said, our significantly reduced financial resources will affect the work underway with our strategic initiatives. I will have more to share with you in the coming weeks as we complete our assessment and prioritize our activities.

Thank you for your patience, engagement and perseverance during this challenging time. Please continue to share your thoughts and concerns with your leadership, and your ideas for financial recovery with the University’s Financial Taskforce.

Michael D. Dake, MD
Senior Vice President for University of Arizona Health Sciences