Stony Brook University is allowing Renaissance School of Medicine students to graduate early to work in hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine and senior vice president of Health Sciences, confirmed in a University Senate meeting on April 6 that the school would virtually graduate its students on April 8. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on April 4 allowing medical students to graduate early, in order to increase medical personnel in New York.
“The School of Medicine is graduating our students about seven weeks early,” Kaushansky said. “We are having a virtual graduation in two days. And that’s because our students are ready to be graduated and we want them to work for Stony Brook University Hospital.”
Between 50 and 60 graduating students will be employed as assistant physicians for two months at Stony Brook University Hospital, caring for non-COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients.
Kaushansky said Stony Brook University also attempted to allow other health care students to graduate early, but was unable to gain permission from their accrediting agencies.
“I’ve been working with the deans in nursing and health technology and social welfare to try to do a similar thing in their senior classes, try to get them out early and get working for this COVID epidemic, but their accrediting agencies have been rather recalcitrant — well, that’s the nice word for it,” Kaushansky said.
According to Kaushansky, as of April 6 there are 395 patients being treated for COVID-19 at Stony Brook University Hospital. Approximately 100 are being held in ICU. He said only 20 to 25 ventilators remain unused.
Although Kaushansky said he was unable to give specific numbers, he said the hospital has seen an increase in both discharges and deaths among COVID-19 patients in the past week.
Kaushansky said that Stony Brook University is only able to test 40 to 50 patients for COVID-19 per day with polymerase chain reaction-based assay tests, which produce results in a matter of hours. All the other tests need to be sent to an outside laboratory. Results come back within two to three days.
Stony Brook University Hospital will also begin to conduct clinical trials on a variety of COVID-19 treatments, including hydroxychloroquine, a malaria-treating drug named as a potential treatment by President Donald Trump.
Kaushansky said that the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences is collaborating with pulmonologists to enable ventilators to be used on two patients simultaneously. The ventilator modifications are in the last stages of testing and are awaiting emergency approval by the FDA.
According to the Suffolk County COVID-19 online map, there are 21 people with COVID-19 at Stony Brook University. Neither Kaushansky nor Interim President Michael Bernstein were able to provide any information regarding these cases.