COVID-19 and VCU’s Department of Internal Medicine

By Saher Randhawa, Program Manager & Administrator
Office of Educational Affairs, Department of Internal Medicine


COVID-19 and the year 2020 will go down in history as a challenging time for us all, but especially for our health care workers who are tirelessly fighting this virus to save lives. Not only has COVID-19 changed life drastically for everyone in our communities, from social distancing to wearing masks and staying home, it has transformed academic health centers in changing the way they handle learning and teaching as well as caring for patients.

At Virginia Commonwealth University, non-designated staff are teleworking and continuing to support educational and clinical efforts. Residents, fellows, and medical students have been creative and enthusiastic about moving to virtual educational programs.

VCU Health created a COVID-19 response team, and Department of Internal Medicine physicians are among its leaders including:

  • Christian Barrett, M.D. – Associate Chair of Clinical Affairs, Internal Medicine & Program
  • Gonzalo Bearman, M.D. – Chair, Division of Infectious Diseases
  • Lisa Brath, M.D., H’96 – Program Director & Professor, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Fellowship
  • Stephanie Call, M.D. – Associate Chair for Education & Program Director, Internal Medicine
  • Ron Clark, M’87, H’90– interim CEO of VCU Hospitals and Clinics
  • Heather Masters, M’03, H’06 – Associate Chief Medical Officer, Clinical Operations
  • Arun Sanyal, M.D., F’90 – Education Core Director, Wright Center & Professor, Gastroenterology Division
  • Curt Sessler, M.D., F’84 – Director, Center for Adult Critical Care
  • Patricia Sime, M.D. – Department Chair, Internal Medicine
  • Mike Stevens, M’04, H’10 – Associate Chair, Division of Infectious Diseases
  • Thomas Yackel, M.D. – President, MCV Physicians

In addition to developing an in-house COVID-19 test, the VCU Health team — led by Sanyal — has started two clinical trials on investigational drug therapies. Telehealth has also taken on a new importance during this time with doctors like Internal Medicine’s Vimal Mishra, M.D., H’11, seeing it as a long-term project – to bring health care into people’s homes. Read more on VCU and VCU Health’s efforts in the VCU News Center.

Patricia J. Sime, M.D., chair of VCU Department of Internal Medicine, wanted to leave everyone with a reminder and message during this unique time:

“I am so incredibly proud and grateful for all of the stellar work across the Department in all areas of our mission. Great patient care for COVID-19 patients as well as our other patients and their loved ones is at the heart of all that we do. Our educational missions are thriving, although, of course, changed in the way we deliver them. We are thrilled to be leading the region with two trials for COVID-19 patients. These trials are up and running with several more to launch soon. We are helping to lead many efforts for the institution and are proud to serve in this role. No doubt, we have many challenges in the weeks ahead, but I am very confident we will continue to serve our patients at the highest levels. Let’s also look after each other. Your safety and that of your loved ones is incredibly important to us all!”

For more information on VCU’s efforts against COVID-19, please visit these VCU and VCU Health resources.