As I reflect on the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, our workforce has responded with resilience and perseverance. We have been stretched to our limits and then stretched a little further. Yet our tripartite mission of research, education and clinical care perseveres and keeps us anchored.
Through the pandemic, Johns Hopkins has excelled at caring for patients with COVID-19. We often end up treating the very sickest patients, who require the most complicated and demanding care. Vizient, a leading health care performance company, compared COVID-19 patient outcomes from academic medical centers across the country and found that The Johns Hopkins Hospital had far fewer deaths than our peers — despite our higher percentage of very sick patients.
COVID-19 testing has been a critical component of our ability to quickly care for and treat patients — from our pathology department, which created one of the first FDA-approved tests, to the teams of people who staffed the testing tents and centers. Our work has evolved and been able to respond to the changing needs of our organization: from saliva testing to ensure the undergraduate university students could safely return to campus to point-of-care testing to ensure our employees are able to quickly learn if they have the virus.
Vaccination efforts have been in the forefront of our work for the past year. We have focused on vaccinating a range of groups who are underserved, or who deal with barriers to getting health care. Collaborating with a range of partners, including other academic medical centers, local health and housing departments, and community organizations, we have vaccinated more than 26,000 people throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. — including senior citizens, people who are homebound, people with disabilities, refugees, people experiencing homelessness and people struggling with substance abuse. Most received their shots at the Baltimore Convention Center, but many were also vaccinated at churches, community centers and mobile vaccine sites.
Another impressive facet of our vaccination efforts is internal to our workforce. Vaccination is an essential tool for preventing hospitalization, serious illness and death, and as you may know, last year we instituted a vaccine requirement for employees. This process took tremendous planning from many of our Johns Hopkins staff members, who coordinated these efforts and made what was actually a very complicated process work seamlessly. One of these people is Renee Blanding, the vice president for medical affairs at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Last summer and fall, she personally reached out to some of our vaccine-hesitant employees. Her personal connection and willingness to share her experience and listen to others made a difference for many of our employees who had questions. She exemplifies what this institution is about: listening, caring and supporting colleagues.
Our COVID-19 research group studied the vaccination efficacy in our employees. Their work in tracking breakthrough infection data helped guide our decision making in our occupational medicine clinic. A study last year by our researchers — led by Aaron Milstone, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center — identified that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective even when those being vaccinated don’t have strong symptoms after the shots.
Our workforce is fully compliant with our vaccination requirement. By doing this, our staff members have helped create a safer environment for our patients, our visitors — and for each other.
We are so proud of how staff, learners and faculty of Johns Hopkins Medicine have responded to the challenges we have faced during the pandemic. We are thankful for their bravery and sacrifice and for all they have done to protect our communities from this deadly virus.