A Message to Our Department on COVID-19

Ellen Wald, MD

Dear colleagues and friends,

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly a month since we took drastic measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to our patients, ourselves and our community and state. 

Even though we were aware of the spread of COVID-19 in China, South Korea and Japan, I think very few of us, including me, really anticipated how it would impact the United States, let alone our campus and department. When colleges throughout the state and country began closing their campuses, and schools state-wide closed under the direction of Governor Tony Evers, the seriousness of the problem became our reality. We then got the mandate to clear our workplace and postpone all non-emergent clinic visits and procedures. 

Almost a full four weeks later, nearly every aspect of our lives has been altered by COVID-19. We are leveraging telehealth and technology whenever possible to serve our patients and families. We are working remotely and physically separating ourselves from colleagues through social distancing. When in clinic, we are adjusting to the sight of empty waiting rooms and hospital halls. Finally, we continue to prepare for the time when our inpatient facility may be filled with COVID-19 patients who are seriously ill. These changes, while significant, do not even begin to touch on the new personal pressures many of us are facing, including caring for young or school-aged children at home, coping with a partner or family member’s job loss, managing personal and financial stress, and much more. 

As I reflect on the many changes we have experienced both professionally and personally over the past month, I am in awe at how our department has remained poised and works cohesively as we respond to the evolving COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, there are many things I am grateful for:

  • The outstanding leadership throughout the University of Wisconsin and UW Health, which led to a very well-coordinated effort to get through numerous workflows and establish necessary collaborations. I believe we are meeting the challenges of this truly unprecedented occurrence for which few had the benefit of comparable previous experiences. 
  • UW Health’s Incident Command has been responsive to suggestions and concerns and has made incredible efforts to communicate openly with faculty and staff. 
  • Our own American Family Children’s Hospital leaders, intensivists and hospitalists have likewise put in, and are continuing to devote, tremendous energy, commitment and creativity in adjusting our workflows and preparing for a possible surge in patients. 
  • Finally, I am incredibly proud of what I have witnessed from all of those who work within our Department of Pediatrics. I could truly name every provider and staff member here, as each of you have pulled together and are trying hard to make the best of a very challenging situation. 

My ask for all members of this department is that we continue to pull together as we have.  When we look back on this situation in the months to come, let us know that we did the best that we could, that we provided the best care we could for our patients and families, and that we took care of each other. That is all that I ask of you, and it is what I ask of myself.  


Ellen Wald, MD
Chair and Professor, Department of Pediatrics