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The U’s global relationships support COVID-19 response

The University of Utah’s international connections are serving as a potent reminder of the benefits of collaboration across our global community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Utah’s international connections are serving as a potent reminder of the benefits of collaboration across our global community as the deluge of dire news about COVID-19 floods newsfeeds and individuals feel increasingly isolated in its midst.

In September 2014, when the university opened its U Asia Campus (UAC) in Incheon, South Korea, administrators eagerly embraced the opportunity to create enriching cross-cultural experiences for faculty and students, expand recruitment and establish a presence in the Asia market. Nobody could have foreseen the role that the partnership would play in the midst of the current pandemic.

Through connections facilitated by the Office for Global Engagement and UAC, Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health and senior vice president of Health Sciences, has recently been able to exchange firsthand COVID-19 response strategies with Dr. Young Mo Kim, former UAC Advisory Board member and president and CEO of Inha University Medical Center.

“Through our campus in Korea, we learned that relationship building was a critical part of succeeding in Asia. Establishing those personal relationships has really paved the way for the type of direct communication that has developed between Drs. Good and Kim,” said Dr. Chris Ireland, the U’s chief global officer.

South Korea saw its first wave of coronavirus begin in mid-February. While U administrators were working quickly to ensure the safety of students and faculty at UAC—moving courses online and asking residents to limit movement and interaction—the same precautions would not happen for several weeks at the U’s campus in Utah.

Pointing to a chart illustrating the curve of new cases in South Korea over the last month, Good praised the country’s prevention efforts and remarked, “South Korea shows a nice example for us of exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get over the infection curve, get it as low as we can, keep it below the capabilities of our health system and try to get it to this new steady state where we can always take care of the patients who need our care.”

The month difference has served as a preview of what’s to come, and the communication between Kim and Good has enhanced University of Utah Health’s ability to respond rather than react.

“We’re really fortunate to be part of the University of Utah,” continued Good, noting the U’s Asia Campus. “Through colleagues, we’ve been able to establish really good conversations with leaders at Inha University hospital. We’ve had three conversations with them now about approaches that they’ve used in South Korea to achieve those really impressive results.”

The collaboration has informed best practices in structuring patient flow through facilities and recommendations to keep providers healthy.

“We’ll continue to speak with our colleagues in South Korea and learn from them and the experiences they’ve had in dealing with this pandemic,” said Good.