A Message to Alumni of the Perelman School of Medicine

March 17, 2020

A Message to Alumni of the Perelman School of Medicine
from Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
and Senior Vice Dean for Medical Education Suzi Rose, MD, MSEd

As you are no doubt aware, the extraordinary circumstance of the COVID-19 outbreak has meant enormous shifts in normal operations across both Penn Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania. We are writing to let you know about some of the extra precautions being taken to provide the safest environment possible for students, patients, faculty, and staff during this unique and rapidly evolving challenge. This included three significant announcements, made Friday morning:

  • All classroom activities including small group learning have transitioned to online formats as of last week. We also suspended all medical student clinical rotations, as of Friday. This includes all clerkships, sub-internships, and electives. Though the next two weeks will see no students on traditional clinical rotations, we will ensure ongoing education by transitioning to online clinical experiential learning. Additionally, those students who are interested are already assisting in health system efforts by volunteering to update protocols, generate FAQs, and participating in telemedicine. These steps are consistent with AAMC recommendations. Our peer institutions are implementing similar changes.
  • All non-essential personnel throughout Penn Medicine are to work remotely, if possible. By reducing foot traffic throughout the medical campus and keeping our students, faculty, and staff off public transportation, we can do our part to limit the spread of the virus.
  • The development of a University of Pennsylvania Health System COVID-19 Research Center. This new center is geared toward not only expanding and accelerating SARS-CoV-2 research in Penn Medicine and the City of Philadelphia, but also serving as a source of valuable, up-to-the-minute information on the virus and any related research developments. The Center is under the direction of Susan Weiss, PhD, and Frederic Bushman, PhD, and has brought together for its Internal Advisory Board a preeminent group of researchers from Penn Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and The Wistar Institute.

Over the weekend, we also announced the creation of a Penn Medicine Employee Assistance Fund, which will provide a total of $1 million in emergency grants and interest-free loans to support members of our staff experiencing financial distress as a result of the outbreak. We are asking so much of the entire Penn Medicine team, and no member of that team should have trouble meeting needs for childcare, housing, or food in this already difficult situation.

Match Day

In addition to these efforts, precautions taken last week include the cancellation or rescheduling of events. As you might imagine, this has significantly impacted our Match Day celebration plans. The Perelman School of Medicine Class of 2020 will be celebrating their match virtually, and we will celebrate with them digitally, with social media and videos of students’ Match Day experiences, to give our medical students the celebratory memory they deserve.

While it is not the celebration our students have been looking forward to — or the one we wanted for them — we are doing everything we can to ensure it will still be a joyous occasion to acknowledge their hard-earned accomplishments. This moment has presented all of us with extraordinary challenges, and we are certain our students have the determination, creativity, and compassion to rise to the occasion. As you read this, they are helping in any way they can, through call centers, patient education, telehealth assistance, and much more. You will be proud to call them your fellow alumni, just as we have been proud to watch them grow as physicians.

Medical Alumni Weekend

On a more unfortunate note, while we know that Medical Alumni Weekend is an exciting, cherished tradition at the Perelman School of Medicine, we must above all else prioritize the health and safety of our community. Current modeling of the COVID-19 outbreak predicts that it will be active, if not near its peak, over this weekend. Following CDC guidelines for the outbreak will mean the interruption of celebrations for both our annual Medical Alumni Weekend reunion and the Perelman School of Medicine’s commencement ceremony. It simply would not be safe or advisable to ask our wonderful alumni to make the trip into our medical campus and the City of Philadelphia for a full weekend with so much ongoing uncertainty around public health.

While we have not yet finalized any plans for the rescheduling of reunions for class years ending in 0 or 5, please know that we will be working to ensure you do receive your celebration sometime this year — for example, possibly during Homecoming Weekend. We will be reaching out to those who have already registered for Medical Alumni Weekend events to process refunds in the coming weeks. Please know that we understand and share in your disappointment, but that will not stop us from honoring all you have accomplished in your medical careers.

More Information

These are far from the only steps being taken here at Penn Medicine to help curtail the outbreak and ensure the safety of our community. For more, please visit Penn Medicine’s coronavirus website, which is being updated as new information emerges.

For information about the University’s response, visit the University of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus website.

As alumni of the Perelman School of Medicine, you know firsthand this institution’s dedication to excellence and innovation in the sphere of public health. We will fight this outbreak, and we will do so without losing focus on our tripartite mission of education, patient care, and research. We know many of you are being called to the front lines as well, and we cannot express enough how grateful we are for your service — and how proud we are to be your alma mater.


Thank you,

J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, and Suzi Rose, MD, MSEd