Dr. MittelmanThe global pandemic surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak has reshaped our worlds, at least in the short-term. In response to the pandemic, our students, faculty and staff made an almost seamless pivot, moving from traditional didactic instruction to online instruction, traditional laboratory instruction to virtual instruction, where possible, and all student instruction at the University’s clinical facilities was canceled.

Because many of our external clinical sites either closed or canceled student rotations, most of our clinical externships and clerkships have also been canceled or postponed. By the time you are reading this, I am hopeful that some things will begin to return to normal, but that all depends upon the trajectory of the pandemic.

Most disturbing to us was that we had to transition our face-to-face commencement ceremony — which was going to be May 22 at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia — to a virtual commencement. We offered our graduates the opportunity to participate in the virtual ceremony which “aired” on our website that same day. As an alternative, graduates can opt to participate in our fall graduation in October. Given the current public health crisis, we believed it would be irresponsible to continue to move forward with the spring ceremony that brought thousands of people together in one venue, thus our transition to virtual, something other schools in our region were doing. Many of our students were understandably very disappointed about this decision, but it was made with theirs, their family’s and our staff’s best interest in mind.

As you might imagine, this crisis has caused us to rethink the way we not only deliver our educational commitments to our students didactically, but also clinically. Finding appropriate clinical rotations for all of our specialties will be a challenge as we emerge from the restrictive guidelines that have been necessary to fight the pandemic.

There will also be significant financial ramifications for the University. This, in part, is due to lost clinical revenue at The Eye InstitutePennsylvania Ear Institute and Speech-Language Institutes. This is where we really need your help. If you can, non-restrictive or program specific donations are now, more than ever, needed for us to continue to provide high quality education to all of our specialties. Any amount would be extremely helpful in this time of crisis.

Finally, I want to end on a high note. This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the University’s Osborne College of Audiology — our second oldest College. Look for part one of a two-part feature series on the College’s history in the spring issue of the Alumni Magazine.

I will close hoping everyone who’s reading this and your loved ones and friends have come through this pandemic healthy and safe. My wish for all of us is to look back on this, take note of all the lessons learned and then apply those lessons so we’re better prepared for the next time this happens — and it will.

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Michael H. Mittelman, OD ’80, MPH, MBA, FAAO, FACHE