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As one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, MD Anderson knows firsthand the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on healthcare. In 2019, MD Anderson cared for approximately 148,000 patients and with that comes the utmost responsibility to provide safe and effective cancer treatment.

With one of the largest and densest populations of immunocompromised patients, MD Anderson experienced unique challenges that have resulted in lasting changes to how it provides cancer treatment and conducts research. Yet, cancer does not stop, and so the MD Anderson workforce remains devoted to their mission.

Their commitment to patient care never wavered, and they remain dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of their patients, workforce and community. To keep everyone safe, MD Anderson implemented a proactive, multi-faceted approach that has been successful.

Communication is key, and from the start MD Anderson clearly communicated necessary changes, including limiting visitors to campus, screening patients and employees at entrances, and postponing clinical appointments that could safely be delayed. The institution also accelerated its digital transformation, now utilizing telemedicine and work from home approaches for thousands of employees.

But MD Anderson doesn’t only provide patient care — its researchers are conducting groundbreaking laboratory and clinical research. Their discoveries are critical to advancing the field and saving patients’ lives. As with most academic medical centers, MD Anderson paused research efforts as the pandemic was escalating in Houston. This was a difficult process, in which researchers had to rapidly pause important experiments — sometimes years in the making. MD Anderson is grateful for the sacrifices made by so many, all done with health and safety as the priority.

Knowing the importance of its research programs, MD Anderson developed a phased approach to reopening clinical and laboratory research when it was safe to do so, including:

  • Establishing a Research Core Leadership Team that guides all aspects of research efforts based on sound evidence and the priorities of MD Anderson.
  • Introducing modifications, including remote monitoring and virtual care to clinical trials in order to limit exposure while still providing innovative treatment options to patients in need.
  • Resuming laboratory research in a way that allowed scientists to safely continue their impactful research.
  • Implementing protocols to enable processes for tissue and liquid biopsies for clinical trials to proceed in a safe and efficient manner.
  • Launching a new institutional data initiative called D3CODE, which aggregates the clinical and laboratory data collected related to COVID-19 into one platform that allows for rapidly answering research questions related to the pandemic.
  • Instituting a new weekly Research Town Hall to virtually bring its entire research community together. Recovery efforts are a key component of these meetings; however, other topics have included groundbreaking research highlights, best practices for team science and individual leadership development opportunities.

As a result of these efforts, MD Anderson’s research community is stronger than ever. The institution continues working to keep its patients, its employees, and the community healthy and safe. MD Anderson recognizes the challenges ahead and will continue to safely push forward in its mission to end cancer.

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