President Pinto looks out a window across campus

UC President Neville G. Pinto looks over campus. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

From the President's desk

COVID lessons of 2020: The power of invention, interdisciplinarity

Among its many lessons, the pandemic has taught us that we can’t take anything for granted. The power of nature — in the form of a tiny virus 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt — disrupted nearly every aspect of life. Yet it also revealed the soaring potential of the human spirit, leadership, discovery and creativity.  

Among the greatest living examples of this are our 7,700 alumni-physicians and 16,000 alumni-nurses working around the world facing COVID-19’s dangers and uncertainties. Added to these are thousands of our faculty and staff, delivering selfless clinical care at our Academic Health Center. I want to thank all health care heroes, no matter where they are, for all they have done and continue to do at this challenging time.

A crisis like this reminds us of things in everyday life we have previously under-appreciated. Last spring, universities — UC among them — sent students home to learn remotely, reawakening a recognition of our role as a community of learners and as a nurturer of future talent. UC develops leaders for tomorrow, not just in health professions, but in a wide range of fields: teachers, business leaders, attorneys, performing artists, writers, social  workers, inventors, scientists, elected officials and more.

The challenges of 2020 have also sharpened an awareness of our mission as a Carnegie Research 1 university. We must never halt in our quest to expand knowledge and the frontiers of understanding. While the path to eliminating the threat of COVID-19 is firmly grounded in scientific discovery, we have seen firsthand that science does not operate in a vacuum. It’s clear from this year’s cascading catastrophe — what started as a health pandemic soon led to economic and humanitarian challenges around the world.

“At this defining time, UC is eager to drive to solutions, drawing from a profound strength: our diversity of people, disciplines and thought.”

In a time when the likes of the flu of 1918, the Great Depression and the civil rights movements of the 1950s and ’60s have compressed into one short time span, Bearcats from a range of disciplines are responding with characteristic inspiration and ingenuity. Among them is infectious diseases expert Carl Fichtenbaum, who works to conquer coronavirus through patient care and clinical trials of a potential vaccine. On top of this, his love of music prompted him to create “Quarantunes: A Concert Series” for UC and UC Health. At UC Blue Ash, Wendy Calaway researches racial disparities in bail and how lockdown orders have been enforced. Another example is the podcast launched by UC staff member Nicole Ausmer with her daughter and son. They could not find a Black history podcast aimed at children, so they created “Hey, Black Child,” featured on “Good Morning America” in July.

At this defining time, UC is eager to drive to solutions, drawing from a profound strength: our diversity of people, disciplines and thought. This asset buttresses all that UC does, chiefly manifesting in our remarkable students — this year 46,798 strong, a record number for the eighth consecutive year. Of our students, 23% are minorities — a historic high.

Two other indicators are our 1819 Innovation Hub and in-construction Digital Futures research commons. Both draw on interdisciplinarity and connect talent, knowledge and innovation to the pressing opportunities and challenges in our society. Earlier this year, largely because of the investments in these facilities and our reputation for graduating students ready for the work world, we received great news that the university will anchor and lead the newly established Cincinnati Innovation District. Launched with a $100 million JobsOhio investment announced by Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, this becomes one more giant step in shaping the post-COVID future and in our unceasing drive toward new knowledge and impact.

We know there is plenty of work yet to do. More than ever, we need a wide range of disciplines working together, pursuing a better understanding of our natural world, social dynamics, economic processes, politics and, above all, human behavior, emotion, desire and spirit. We are up for the challenge, because Next Lives Here!


President, University of Cincinnati




Social justice through medicine

Carl Fichtenbaum, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and one of the leaders in UC’s efforts to combat COVID-19, is still going to protest marches as his passion for social justice, personally and profession- ally, burns as brightly as ever.


Championing science amid adversity

University of Cincinnati epidemiologist Diego Cuadros is used to telling people what they don’t want to hear. The assistant professor runs the Health Geography and Disease Modeling Lab in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he studies global topics such as HIV, malaria and, this year, COVID-19. He condenses data into easy-to-follow maps that predict the future with uncanny accuracy.


Bridging the divide

It’s been said that one should never discuss religion and politics in polite conversation. Similarly, race and gender have long been considered taboo topics best avoided to prevent conflict. That strategy might work at some dinner tables, but for a group of University of Cincinnati women, tackling tough conversations, challenging perspectives and being vulnerable are the keys to growth and understanding.


Remotely possible

When did the COVID-19 pandemic first make an impact on your life? March 10? That was the day the University of Cincinnati decided to change something it has excelled at for 200 years. Teaching. Educating. That day UC announced that all lectures in classrooms, experiments in labs or designing in studios would be suspended. Students started what was expected to be just an extended spring break, but then 12 days later all courses had gone virtual to protect the university community and stop the virus’s spread.

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