Sara McCoy was a rheumatology fellow at UofM, coming from Mayo Clinic ad finishing in ’15. She took a job at the University of Wisconsin in Madison as she said her labor-lawyer husband was shut out of the Michigan market by the influence of Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. So sad she had to go. Everyone, including the powers that be, wanted her to stay. Cute as a button, smart as a whip, and a hurricane of energy and enthusiasm, she was someone everyone wanted to be around. When I trashed my shoulder and brachial plexus in a bike accident in December ’14, leaving me with a temporarily useless right arm, she stepped up and did all my procedures for me, under my supervision, learning them very well in the process. One of the procedures, labial salivary gland biopsy, also know as “lip biopsy”, is done mainly to provide tissue confirmation of Sjögren’s syndrome, a not uncommon autoimmune condition that can dry eyes and mouth while also causing mischief in a number of other organ systems. Sara took the lab chops she acquired under Michelle Kahlenberg, young research superstar in our Division, and trained them on Sjögren’s. Doing lip biopsies helped develop her Sjögren’s clinic. Two years ago she floated an idea to the American College of Rheumatology that she and I conduct a workshop on the procedure at the ’19 annual meeting. She acquired and flew in sheep lips on which the participants could practice and it was a huge hit, slated to be repeated this November. I had a manuscript lying round on lip biopsy that needed to be updated and submitted, and we together decided all things relevant to lip biopsy should be on an accessible web site. We’ve been dabbling at both, at a distance, but I was the recipient of the last call to action, and hadn’t followed through. I had an excuse, and wanted to share some details of what COVID-19 was putting our old medical center through. So I sent her this e-mail:
Hope you’re still hunkering down o.k. on what I hope is the tail end. You know, I used to be a virologist, so I know that all these things eventually come to a close.
I apologize for dropping the ball on the LSGBx review. I got distracted by the prospect of writing some arthroscopy papers and am still wrapped up in that. But I still remain fully committed to SS-LSGBx, paper and website, so don’t lose faith.
I don’t know how it’s been at Wisky, but the MECCA has endured. Now that it looks like we’re not all going to die, or exhaust ourselves caring for those who are, we are facing the consequences. The hospital never did fill with COVID-19 patients and the planned 500 bed field hospital at the Track and Tennis building for overflow patients was never used. The hospital never got much beyond 65% occupancy, which is coming up now as the number of new infections wanes. But Mr. Corona blew a $400M hole in the medical center budget, despite a $3B (yes, B) infusion of government relief funds. So Herr Runge has rolled out the “Economic Recovery Plan”, which mainly seeks to stanch the flow of cash. Those cranes at the site of the new hospital tower will remain idle. 1400 FTEs, mostly staff not faculty, are getting cut. 300 are gone already. Higher ups are expected to take a 15-20% salary cut. Herr Runge is taking 20% off his top. Forget those raises. That nice bennie of having your 401(k) contribution matched? Forget it, at least till June ’21. Main campus is not doing this, but the medical center made for a much bigger suck on the university budget than any other school. No use of discretionary funds for travel, CME or tuition, so pay your own way to the ACR (there goes our audience). And if you’ve got some extry lying around, how about helping out? Endowed professors are being encouraged to tap their endowment to support fellowships.
All this came from a Division meeting that just finished. No remarks on the supply side, but Herr Runge has commented we need a 24/7 hospital and 12/7 clinics. Now that we’ve established you can generate RVUs doing televisits on your laptop in your living room – and Runge sees virtual visits continuing, as they “contribute to access” – sky’s the limit.
You may be facing similar things, but I thought you’d like to know what it’s like in your old home, to which I fervently hope you return some day.