COVID-19 Course Tracks System Pandemic Response in Real Time

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When COVID-19 swept the globe, it caught the collective health care world off guard. While the national news was largely fixated on the bath tissue shortage, health systems were scrambling to shore up their supply of personal protective equipment and other infection-control necessities. Educators at Geisinger realized that Geisinger itself could provide the perfect case study in pandemic response to ensure better preparation for any future plague.

As the coronavirus raged, educators and scientists at Geisinger developed a course,  COVID-19: Health Systems and Pandemics, for audiences ranging from graduate and medical students, to healthcare practitioners looking for relevant continuing education credits and even to the general public interested in infectious disease, how it spreads and what an effective response entails.

“The COVID course brings to bear the type of interactive, just-in-time learning that can only come from an integrated health system like Geisinger,” said V. Scott Koerwer, PhD, EdD, vice dean of GCSOM’s School of Graduate Education. “Our students learned about the pandemic through various lenses, from those of C-suite executives to infectious disease experts, population health professionals, basic scientists and healthcare administrators. Like the pandemic itself, the course changed week by week as our frontline healthcare teams worked to keep our population safe while learning about the virus. This effort is a great representation of learning in a team-based, integrated health system environment.”

“The course arose from misconceptions about the virus,” said William (Andy) Faucett, MS, LGC. “Initially, there was a lot of public confusion. We realized that most students, and even healthcare providers, haven’t had specific virology or pandemic training. Our COVID-19 course fills that gap.”

In October, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine graduate students were the first to enroll in the course. Now the course is available for professional seeking continuing education credits and to the general public, both of whom may pick and choose which sessions of the course they find most interesting and valuable. To view courses, visit

The course is taught jointly by numerous GCSOM faculty members and an array of Geisinger physicians and scientists, including a module taught by Jaewon Ryu, MD, JD, Geisinger’s CEO. Dr. Ryu’s session examines the healthcare system in pandemic and will provide insight into how to mobilize large systems during a crisis.

COVID-19: Health Systems and Pandemics introduces students to the evaluation, management, scientific underpinnings and impact of a pandemic. The emphasis is on COVID-19 to allow participants to engage in healthcare discussions and planning about the pandemic and future pandemics. Major topics include virology, viral testing, public health, modeling and predictions during a pandemic, clinical manifestations of SARS CoV-2, health system responses and impacts, ethical challenges, and research changes and impacts.

Lectures include:

  • Virology, taught by Michael A. Sulzinski, PhD, of GCSOM. These sessions include an introduction to Virology and SARS CoV-2, as well as an examination of testing, antiviral chemotherapies, and vaccine design.
  • Transmission Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, taught by Mushfiq Tarafder, PhD, MPH, MBBS of GCSOM. This module explores the basics of infectious disease transmission dynamics, and mathematical modeling of droplet transmission, particularly with SARS-CoV-2.
  • Pandemic Preparation and Response, taught by Reema Persad-Clem, PhD, MPH of GCSOM. These sessions examine mitigation via quarantine and other strategies, in addition to the roles of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state, local and tribal authorities.
  • Clinical Manifestations and Management of SARS-CoV2, taught by Stanley Martin, MD, Geisinger. Dr. Martin will discuss the diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2, antiviral therapy, risk factors for developing severe disease in COVID-19 and differing methodologies for preventing the spread of SARS CoV-2.
  • The Healthcare System in a Pandemic, taught by Jaewon Ryu, MD, JD, Geisinger’s CEO. Dr. Ryu will explore leadership, finances and planning, as well as the impact of a pandemic on healthcare providers and workers.
  • Ethical Issues in a PandemicPublic Health versus the Individual Patient, taught by Dan Davis, PhD, Geisinger. This module examines ethical issues surrounding the treatment of patients in isolation – limiting interactions with support systems.
  • Research during a Pandemic, taught by Michelle N. Meyer, PhD, JD, Geisinger. The final session looks at the effect of a pandemic on research, recruitment changes and fair allocation of scarce drugs or trials slots in a pandemic.

To view courses, visit