Wayne Health winner of 2021 Corporate Achievement Award in Crain’s Health Care Heroes
May 31, 2021
Crain’s Health Care Heroes Corporate Achievement winner: Wayne Health
As physician leaders at multispecialty academic practice Wayne Health started to see the first positive coronavirus cases reach Michigan in early March 2020, they understood frontline health care workers would be among the first to be infected.
Dr. Charles Shanley, CEO of Wayne Health, huddled with other doctors like Dr. Phillip Levy, the group’s chief innovation officer, to come up with a plan to combat what many infectious disease experts were already expecting to be a difficult epidemic.
Levy, who also is an ER doctor at Detroit Medical Center and a professor at Wayne State University, developed and led the organized effort to begin a testing program for not only the health care workforce in Detroit, but also police officers and firefighters.
“It was a natural extension of our commitment to the Detroit community, especially the vulnerable,” Shanley said. “When the pandemic hit last spring, Phil and I saw the biggest challenge as maintaining the health care first responder workforce. We targeted our initial efforts there.”
It wasn’t long before people started showing up at hospital ERs and urgent care centers with COVID-19 symptoms, many with other diseases such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
“It became apparent that there were these hot spots in Detroit and we needed to extend that out to the community and provide testing,” said Shanley, a vascular surgeon.
Levy said the program has grown tremendously from several dozen volunteers who staffed a drive-through testing site at Wayne Health’s new clinic and headquarters at 400 Mack Ave. to about 150 paid workers and five mobile testing vehicles.
“The project really was born out of the need to do something in response to how COVID was hitting the community,” Levy said. “Obviously, people were getting sick, but the results have a lot of collateral impact” on people with chronic diseases.
Levy said Wayne Health and Wayne State University’s School of Medicine have long been dedicated to addressing health disparities in Black and other underserved populations.
Wayne Health doctors realized they needed to extend their testing services into the community through mobile testing units.
With support from Ford Motor Co., the state of Michigan and Hollywood director Stephen Soderbergh, Wayne Health’s mobile testing platform has expanded to a fleet of five mobile health units.
Some $2 million in funding for the Wayne mobile program also came from United Way, Community Fund of Southeast Michigan, the Ralph Wilson Jr. Foundation, DTE Foundation, CORE Foundation, the Sean Penn Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and many others, Levy said.
Levy, Shanley and Dr. M. Roy Wilson, Wayne State’s president, also realized social determinants of health — the lack of access to such necessities as housing, healthy food and transportation — also negatively affected the health of the inner-city population.
“We looked beyond antibody testing to hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure, HIV screening, food insecurity, health care access …” Levy said.
As of March 4, more than 33,000 people were tested through Wayne Health’s five mobile units at schools, churches, shelters and community centers in Detroit and across Southeast Michigan.
More than 10,000 first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine also have been administered. Two of the newest vehicles are equipped with cold, temperature-regulated storage for community-based distribution of the vaccines.
Looking ahead, Levy and Shanley hope Wayne Health’s outreach effort will build trust in the community that will help people become and stay healthy.
“We want to keep people from developing complications with hypertension, diabetes and heart disease,” Levy said. “We see medical care and social care as not separate, but integrated, because the goal of health care ultimately is (positive) outcomes and preventing disease.”
Crain’s Health Care Heroes COVID-19 Explainer-in-Chief winner: Teena Chopra, M.D.
For medical professionals, managing the novel coronavirus meant learning on the go and adapting protocols to treat the disease and prevent its spread as new research emerged.
It also called on some physicians to take on a new role and help explain COVID-19 to an anxious and uncertain public.
Day after day as the pandemic surged through their hospitals, Drs. Nick Gilpin, Teena Chopra and Adnan Munkarah stayed strong, making rounds, leading response efforts and talking with the media and the public about what was happening.
Gilpin, system director of infection prevention and epidemiology of eight-hospital Beaumont Health, explained what coronavirus was and recommended precautions including masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing. He emphasized how dangerous the virus was for patients and how challenging it was for doctors, nurses and health care workers.
Chopra, director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at six-hospital Detroit Medical Center, told us about the hospitalizations, the sickness and deaths of patients, how families and friends were separated from loved ones for public safety reasons, sometimes during their last hours.
Munkarah, chief clinical officer at six-hospital Henry Ford Health System, talked about the importance of testing and the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations. He encouraged the public to get a vaccine as soon as possible for personal protection, but also as a way to slow community spread of the virus.
All three did what they could to get the message out that COVID-19 was dangerous but there were things people could do to minimize risk. Sometimes their outspokenness was ahead of the political curve. However, they felt confident because they believed their opinions were based on medicine and science.
Dr. Teena Chopra
At DMC, Chopra was one of the first in Michigan to call attention to the rising numbers of seniors being admitted from nursing homes.
“I was able to spread the word that the mortalities are being driven by nursing homes,” said Chopra, who also is a professor of infectious disease at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
“We realized that is where we should put our attention and were able to save a lot of lives,” Chopra said, adding that DMC worked with other hospitals, the Detroit Health Department and state officials to coordinate efforts.
Chopra also worked with DMC’s leadership team to develop treatments, testing initiatives and infection prevention protocols to safeguard staff and patients.
It was a challenge Chopra, who has lived in Detroit for 16 years, had been prepared for her whole life.
“I come from a family of physicians and professors. My grandfather, Dr. Harnam Singh, who planted the seed in my head to become a physician, was a public health doctor” who fought a cholera pandemic in India during the early 1940s, Chopra said.
“I grew up listening to those stories and I always wanted to be able to serve,” she said.
Early in the pandemic, Chopra’s mother, Manjit Chopra, happened to come to Detroit from India for her annual visit.
“She landed March 10 and that night was the first two cases that appeared in Michigan. Since then, she has been here” helping take care of her 7-year-old daughter, Chopra said.
“She’s a retired professor and she loves to volunteer. She has been helping me out a lot with my work-life balance,” Chopra said.
When talking with the media, Chopra also often spoke out about the importance of COVID-19 precautions.
“Very early in March, DMC began to mandate masks, even before the CDC. We knew this is a respiratory and a very contagious virus, and were in this for the long haul,” she said.
Chopra learned several lessons from the pandemic she hopes health care leaders and people remember.
“The biggest lesson for me is counting our blessings and being grateful. We live here in the U.S. in a very developed country, but in India, what is happening (with record numbers of COVID-19 and deaths) is beyond words,” she said. “We are all in this together.”
Chopra said hospitals and government need to be better prepared for the next pandemic.
“The pandemic is not over yet. The virus has mutated and there are variants out there,” she said. “That’s why we are raising funds to create a pandemic preparedness center so we can do a better job, when it comes to testing, vaccination or dealing with the bigger problems of health care for different populations.”