Chicago was one of the first cities in the United States to diagnose cases of COVID-19 and remains one of the hardest hit by the unprecedented pandemic.
With 7 medical schools and thousands of medical students in the Chicagoland area, student leaders from each institution have taken the initiative to step into the arena by creating the COVID Rapid Response Team - Chicago (CRRT-Chicago), an ad hoc volunteer organization to mobilize a massive, coordinated student response effort. This is their story.
Student leaders from Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago School of Medicine (UIC), and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS) first connected informally through mobile communication applications GroupMe and Slack on Thursday, March 19. Realizing they were developing similar but redundant initiatives within the student bodies of each individual institution, these student leaders coordinated a conference call for the next day ... and COVID Rapid Response Team - Chicago was born.
Student leaders from fellow medical institutions - University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Rush Medical College, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, and Midwestern University Chicago College of Medicine - were soon looped in, along with international medical students from St. George’s University who had been stationed in Chicago. A comprehensive survey to recruit student volunteers was created and distributed to students from all 7 medical schools on Sunday, March 21, to an overwhelmingly positive response. In its first 72 hours, more than 500 students across multiple health professions - not only medical students, but nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant, podiatry, MD/PhD, and health care graduate students as well - offered to help, nearly 400 of which came from Rosalind Franklin University and UIC combined.
Since that time, the CRRT-Chicago Executive Strategy Team has organized and deployed teams to allocate and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline health care workers at nearly a dozen Chicago hospitals and clinical sites; organize blood drives; create opportunities to assist with telemedicine triage and laboratory testing; food drives and social support efforts for health care workers; coordinate remote tutoring opportunities to assist quarantined high school students; advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations including low income families, immigrant communities, incarcerated persons, and the homeless population; and develop a social media presence in their own right through the soon-trending hashtag #GetMePPE.
Emphasis is placed on student safety and wellness to prevent unintended exposure, while also innovating and developing novel ways to continue using their medical education - and, in many cases, extensive prior work experience -- to provide critical support to the Chicago health care system at this unprecedented time. Such initiative shines a positive light on the future of medicine, knowing these altruistic, motivated, and effective student leaders have a full career ahead of them to continue impacting their communities in a meaningful way.
The CRRT-Chicago Executive Strategy Team is composed of the following student leaders:
- Regional/National Liaison - Tricia Rae Pendergast
- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine - Tazim Merchant, Danish Majid
- UIC Chicago School of Medicine - Sofia Sami, Cory Reiter, Marina Lentskevich
- Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science - Matthew Christensen, Allison Martin
- Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine - Fidak Khan
- University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine - Lucy Xu, Kathryn Nutting, Ty Johnson
- Rush Medical College - Jonah Moss, Shaina Shetty, Stephanie Moss
- Midwestern University Chicago College of Medicine - Parak Patel
- St. George's University - Marc Zarifa
Follow CRRT-Chicago on twitter @covidRRTchicago.
To submit questions, offer to help, or alert CRRT-Chicago to a local need, contact covidRRTchicago@gmail.com.