In March 2020, the entire country turned upside down in a matter of days as COVID-19 began spreading across the United States. Faced with uncertainty, our care teams bravely acted to strategically guide our health care community through the unknown.
Every single employee at UF Health plays a role in combating COVID-19, yet Nicole Iovine, M.D., Ph.D., chief hospital epidemiologist, and Kartik Cherabuddi, M.D., FACP, associate hospital epidemiologist at UF Health, have truly pioneered the way we approach the fight against COVID-19.
“If you look at the history of the spread of infectious diseases, COVID-19 wasn’t unexpected,” Cherabuddi said. “But we certainly had no idea it would be this problematic.”
Going into year three of COVID-19, these two epidemiologists kept up with around 1,700 emails a week, established safety protocols, built health care worker algorithms, remained on an alternate 24/7 on-call schedule and worked hand-in-hand — with changing information every day.
“Using limited resources has been exceptionally tough,” Cherabuddi said. “We see these surges, so we build a whole system. By the next week, you might not need the system at all.”
Even before COVID-19, Cherabuddi and Iovine had a symbiotic relationship. Cherabuddi is the director of antimicrobial stewardship, with Iovine serving in the deputy role. And, conversely, Cherabuddi is deputy to Iovine’s role as chief epidemiologist.
“He and I talk pretty much every day, even on weekends,” Iovine said. “He is such a wonderful colleague.”
Not only were their work lives affected, but like everyone else, their home lives underwent significant changes.
UF Health has access to some world-class virologists who were talking about the importance of ventilation right from the start of the pandemic. This ventilation ideology helped Cherabuddi create safety guidelines in his own home.
Cherabuddi has an eight-year-old daughter, Svara, who completed school virtually to help decrease the in-classroom numbers. He would also receive important calls as late as 2 a.m. — a sleep cycle adjustment not only for him, but his family as well.
In Iovine’s opinion, the pandemic affected someone like her husband, Lars Beattie, M.D., M.S., FACEP, Residency Program director and clinical associate professor in the UF Health Department of Emergency Medicine, the most.