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UC Answers: How can I stay safe when I return to UC?

Chris Lewis, vice provost and UC family physician, shares insight into staying safe on campus

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Q: It's easy to lose sight of the situation we find ourselves with COVID-19. Could you begin by just putting this pandemic in some historical context for us?

Lewis: This COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything that any of us has ever seen. I certainly haven't seen anything like this in my lifetime. I've been practicing medicine, both here locally and globally for 20 years, and I've never seen anything like this. There's a whole lot of bad to this pandemic, but there's also a whole lot of good. I've seen our community rally together. I've seen people be more concerned about their neighbors and their friends and their colleagues. People are really taking care of each other and thinking about other people as they go about their daily lives, and it's just really cool to see that.

Q: How are you seeing the university step into the challenge of fulfilling its mission despite the pandemic?

Lewis: Despite the pandemic, the University of Cincinnati is doing everything in our power to rise to the occasion. It's all hands on deck, from the president all the way down the chain to the administrators, the faculty, the staff and the students. We're all working together to make sure that this is a safe place and that we put student learning and wellbeing at the top of the list.  Additionally, our researchers across campus are tackling COVID-19 head on. At UC's Academic Health Center alone, there are over 60 clinical trials that will give us the knowledge and power necessary to beat this virus. 

Q: As both a doctor and an academic leader at UC, you have a unique perspective on this situation. Are our students, faculty and staff ready for this challenge?

Lewis: I do believe that our students, faculty and staff are all ready for this challenge. There are going to be some rules, regulations, reminders and guidelines as well as gentle reinforcement of all of those things, but I think as we live up to the Bearcat Bond and think about how we treat each other, it's incumbent upon all of us to not just take care of ourselves, but to take care of our neighbors on campus as well.

Q: What principles need to guide us to be as successful as possible?

Lewis: I think we can be successful as a university if we stick to the principles of caring about each other and stick to the principles of our Bearcat Bond. Maybe there's a different way of doing something that might be more protecting to other people. All of those sorts of things and just thinking beyond just yourself. I think if we can capture that spirit in our everyday actions, we'll be successful.

Q: You have had a view behind the scenes as our president and university leaders have worked around the clock to respond to this pandemic. What have been your biggest takeaways?

Lewis: The faculty, the staff, the students, the administrators, everyone is really fighting hard to make sure that we have the most safe campus environment and at the same time are still able to deliver on our mission of academic excellence. It's been really cool to see everybody working together, and that work is going to continue once we start the fall semester.

Q: Can you discuss the advantages of UC being connected to a renowned academic health center and hospital during a health crisis?

Lewis: We are very fortunate to be able to lean on the expertise of all of our healthcare experts across campus, from our University Health Services health care professionals, to our folks at the Academic Health Center, to our partners at UC Health. There is no question that we are very fortunate to have a university that's connected to the region's only academic health center.

Q: What advice would you give to students and families who have concerns?

Lewis: I'm sure a lot of students and family members have concerns about returning to campus in the fall. What I would say to those concerns is that every student has the option of enrolling online ​and taking advantage of UC's 20-plus years of experience in online learning. We have a program called Start Where You Are. If you're not comfortable coming on campus, you don't have to. For those students that do want to come onto campus, we are taking preventive measures to make sure that you are safe and taken care of. Your safety, health and wellbeing is our top priority. We certainly want to make sure that our academic mission is taken care of, that our students are learning and excelling and creating knowledge. And all of those things are important, but nothing is more important at the University of Cincinnati than the health, safety and wellbeing of our Bearcat community.

Q: Can you speak about some of the specific measures UC will have in place to reduce risk?

Lewis: UC is taking a whole lot of preventive measures in an effort to keep our Bearcat family safe on campus. Whether you're talking about social distancing, facial coverings, hand hygiene, disinfecting work and study spaces, limiting class size or rearranging classrooms, we're doing everything possible to keep our entire university as safe as possible. We're also constantly evaluating and responding to new data. We're in touch with state leaders; we're in touch with campus leaders from other universities across the state. As a Research one institution, we take that sort of knowledge very seriously.

Q: It seems everyone will have a role to play in keeping the university community safe. Could you speak in more detail about what will be asked of students?

Lewis: We're going to expect that students adhere to the Bearcat Bond and really think about not just taking care of themselves, but taking care of their fellow classmates and everyone else on campus. We will continue to follow best practices when it comes to health and safety on campus. We have plans for self-monitoring, testing and contact-tracing. And we'll continue to refine those plans throughout the semester.

Q: Any final thoughts?

Lewis: As a native Cincinnatian and a longtime Bearcat, I care deeply about our community and our students here at UC. And as a physician, I am so proud of all of the efforts our campus is taking to make sure that we can meet this challenge head-on.

Featured image at top: Chris Lewis, MD, is vice provost for academic programs and a family physician at the University of Cincinnati. photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

Return to campus safely

Follow UC’s complete Return to Campus Guide to learn all the details for fall semester, and find more UC Answers to your important questions.