Air Traffic Control and Feet on the Ground: The University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute COVID-19 Response


The University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR-CTSI) led the organization of the UR research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never in the last 100 years have so many researchers been affected by, and been involved in studying, a single event that has so deeply impacted our country. The UR-CTSI’s leadership at UR has been particularly critical in two areas: Air Traffic Control, within the institution and Feet on the Ground, in our community.
Air Traffic Control: The UR-CTSI was the operational center for the re-organization of human subjects research to address COVID-19. Three areas were of critical importance: (1) pausing and re-opening human subjects research and clinical trials, (2) creating an institutional system for triaging, tracking and aligning clinical trials given the large number of often overlapping trial offers, and (3) creating a central COVID-19 data and biorepository to coordinate participation in N3C and the COMBATCOVID CTSA initiatives. The UR CTSI’s years of expertise in such areas contributed to a smooth transition and coordination of COVID-19 research response.
Feet on the Ground: Working with a community task force, the UR CTSI collaborated with government, community organizations and health care systems to build a COVID-19 communications and engagement infrastructure. This initiative yielded an integrated, community-informed communications campaign to prevent transmission of COVID-19 (Six Feet Saves). This infrastructure also engaged all health care systems in the county and a team of social media influencer physicians in delivering comprehensive and critical messages through social and traditional media platforms. These activities built trust among community members, leaders, public health, media outlets and the health care systems, and laid the foundation for recruitment to COVID-19 treatment and vaccine trials. In addition, this community engagement will set the stage for the successful acceptance and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine in this community.

Martin S.
Zand, MD, PhD
Co-Director, Center for Leading Innovation and Collaboration; Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Research