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A Message from the President

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March 27, 2020

A Message from the President

“The only way we can stop this chain of transmission is to come together to stay apart.” So says Tulsa City County Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart.

We are living through a great, unprecedented pandemic. Because of the threat of COVID-19, we must live this paradox: remain apart via social distancing, yet somehow do our best to move forward with our daily lives – teaching, working, parenting, and frankly, just getting through the days. The barriers put in place to protect us also force us to alter our lives as we’ve known them. The uncertainty of everything – the science, the viral spread, and the economy -- give all of us a sense of dislocation, and if we’re honest, anxiety. We still don’t know when we can hope to resume ‘normal’ life. And every day brings news of more cases, more deaths, and more shutdowns. It can be overwhelming to try to comprehend.

With our classes all online for the remainder of the semester, OU staff and faculty are mostly working online as well—advised to telecommute if possible. There are still a few of us, though, working here on campus – supporting our critical educational and clinical missions and quietly going about their work with an intense sense of purpose.

This week I was fit for an N-95 mask (one of the many kinds of which there is a national shortage) as I was scheduled to work in our Internal Medicine clinic. I salute our longtime campus Environmental Health and Safety Officer, Bob Farringer, who has personally fit more than 350 clinical personnel with these protective masks in the last nine days. He has done it completely solo.

And Lori Maxwell and Jenny Smart, who run our student health office at OU-Tulsa, are also deserving of a shout-out. Lori and Jenny have been tasked with operationalizing both student and employee health policies with regard to COVID-19. This includes the evolving travel policies that have already changed numerous times. As the last weekend of ‘spring break’ ended, many students and employees did the right thing by calling in to report on their travel and seek advice about whether to self-isolate and/or come for a medical visit. This resulted in hundreds of calls from returning travelers over the last several days.

Thanks for doing your best for your families, your university and your community during this uncertain time. I will keep you posted with updates that are specific to OU-Tulsa. Hang in there—we WILL get through this.


John Henning Schumann, MD
President, OU-Tulsa