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COVID-19 Announcements

Leadership Updates

Update for September 28, 2020  NEW!

Update for September 21, 2020 

Update for September 14, 2020  

Update for September 8, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - August 31, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - August 24, 2020 

General updates for August 17, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - August 17, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - August 10, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - August 3, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - July 27, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - July 20, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - July 6, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - June 29, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - June 22, 2020 

Update: Meetings, Travel, and Remote Work

COVID-19 update for DOR - June 15, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - June 8, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - June 1, 2020 

Guidance on Building Use Starting June 1st 

COVID-19 update for DOR - May 26, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - May 18, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - May 11, 2020 

COVID-19 update for DOR - May 4, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - April 27, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - April 20, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - April 13, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - April 6, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 30, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 26, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 23, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 19, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 16, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 12, 2020

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 10, 2020


Update for September 28, 2020 - Aspirations

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

We commemorate the life of Breonna Taylor, the young woman shot in her own bed in Louisville, Kentucky, in March during a police raid gone awry. It’s very upsetting to think we live in a society that doesn’t more effectively prevent such tragedies. While she’ll unavoidably be remembered as a victim, Taylor was a person with aspirations. She had completed training as an emergency medical technician and hoped to become a nurse. A note in her 2011 scrapbook conveyed by a New York Times reporter read:

          

“Graduating this year on time is so important to me, because I’ll be the first of my family to accomplish this. My mother wasn’t able to finish high school on time and get her diploma. So I know how much my getting mine means to her…

I want to be the one who finally breaks the cycle of my family’s educational history. I want to be the one to finally make a difference.”

Her words are an important example to us, to set our sights higher than the current situation. We’ve been developing next steps for equity, inclusion, and diversity work at DOR. We look forward to telling you more at our Town Hall tomorrow. And thank you for all you’ve been doing to keep making progress with our work during this pandemic. Your efforts really do make a difference.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – Thank you for replying to our most recent monthly survey to plan building access. Based on the responses, we’re able to give people who requested it access and still keep our building at <25% occupancy throughout October. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.
  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to make plans for a trial of intravenous Remdesivir for outpatient use at several medical centers and is in planning stages for other COVID-19 treatment trials. The Phase 3 clinical trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is completing enrollment of adults and is planning for a next phase with adolescents. For the complete list of our COVID-related studies and publications, please see our COVID research website.
  • Next steps and communication – Fortunately, the COVID surge continues to subside in Northern California, although a fall surge is starting in Europe. We picture temporary remote work being our primary mode through at least December. Plans after this will depend on the course of the pandemic. Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


Update for September 21, 2020 - Honor

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

We join the nation in honoring Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and mourning her loss last Friday. Before being tapped to join the court in 1993, she directed the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s. In that role she was an extraordinarily articulate and effective architect of strategy to create laws to protect women’s rights. Her moral clarity and toughness, combined with her collegiality toward peers with differing perspectives, made her a model for many of us from younger generations.

This week we also honor our research administrators and other employees in DOR Administration on National Research Administrators’ Day, September 25. DOR has an extremely capable team of 10 research administrators, led by our Associate Director for Research Administration Virginia Cantrell. You can think of these administrators as being like a special operations unit. They develop highly specialized expertise to work closely with our research scientists to successfully submit hundreds of grant applications each year. Their work requires high precision, excellent insight and communication skills, and the ability to think clearly and rapidly under the pressure of deadlines for multi-million dollar grant applications.

In addition to our research administrators, DOR Administration guides and supports many of our crucial core functions, including finance, human resources, facility operations, IRB support services, research communications, library and information management, and data support services. Our administration includes 60 employees all told! We’re biased, of course, but we think DOR has the best administration among all the KP research groups. We’re extremely grateful to all of our employees for their exceptional work this year amid the pandemic. Please join us in sending a special message of appreciation to those you know in administration this week.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – Our building will remain at <25% occupancy throughout September. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. Our monthly survey to invite requests for standing changes in building access was sent by Cathy Chou to all research scientists and infrastructure directors last week and is due tomorrow, September 22.
  • Flu shots – KP is now offering drive-up and walk-up flu vaccine clinics.  To find a flu vaccine clinic location, please go to the KP – NCAL Cold and Flu Prevention website. Flu vaccine clinics for employees are offered at both 1950 Franklin and 1800 Harrison for the remainder of September—see our insideDOR home page for the schedule.
  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to make plans for a trial of intravenous Remdesivir for outpatient use at several medical centers. The Phase 3 clinical trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is wrapping up in Santa Clara and continuing in Sacramento for another 2 weeks. For the complete list of our COVID-related studies and publications, please see our COVID research website.
  • Planning next steps –We continue to meet with DOR’s Management Team weekly to share news and make plans. We look forward to seeing you at our next Town Hall meeting on September 29.  
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


Update for September 14, 2020 - United We Stand

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

This past week we observed the 19th anniversary of September 11th.  We remembered and honored the memory of over 3,000 lives lost as a result of terrorist attacks.  It was a time when our nation witnessed acts of selflessness by first responders and saw bipartisan cooperation.  Our nation stood in solidarity with the goal of keeping Americans safe.  “United we stand” became our national mantra.

Nineteen years later, America is a very different place.  Our nation is in chaos, with partisan politics generating disagreement on how to manage a pandemic that has killed over 194,000 and infected over 6.5 Americans million, while damaging the economy and causing many Americans to work remotely and children to learn in virtual classrooms.  There is civil unrest across our country as Black Americans continue to be killed by police. 

So, looking back on September 11, we are reminded that our nation is capable of unity to get through turbulent times. 

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Flu shots – This week KP will be offering drive-up and walk-up flu vaccine clinics beginning September 14th.  To find a flu vaccine clinic location, please go to the KP – NCAL Cold and Flu Prevention website. Flu vaccine clinics offered by Employee Health at both 1950 Franklin and 1800 Harrison are still available to staff for the remainder of September.  Please see the attached flyer for details.  Again, due to concerns about 2 highly contagious viruses circulating this year, KP is strongly encouraging staff to get a flu shot.
  • Building Access – Our building will remain at <25% occupancy throughout September. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ll continue to send a survey to all research scientists and infrastructure directors once a month for the remainder of 2020 to invite requests for standing changes in building access.
  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to make plans for a trial of intravenous Remdesivir for outpatient use at several medical centers. The Phase 3 clinical trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine completed enrollment in Santa Clara and will continue in Sacramento for another 1-2 weeks. For the complete list of our COVID-related studies and publications, please see our COVID research website.
  • Planning next steps –We continue to meet with DOR’s Management Team weekly to share news and make plans. We’ll look forward to seeing you at our next Town Hall meeting on September 29.  
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Have a great week.  Be well and stay safe.

Best regards,
Tom Dang, MBA, MSE and Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH
Managing Director and Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


Update for September 8, 2020

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

Welcome to September. We hope you had a chance to relax over the holiday weekend! Our fall looks like it’ll be busy as always, just with different workflows this year.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – Our building will remain at <25% occupancy throughout September. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ll continue to send a survey to all research scientists and infrastructure directors once a month for the remainder of 2020 to invite requests for standing changes in building access.
  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to make plans for a trial of intravenous Remdesivir for outpatient use at several medical centers. Our Vaccine Study Center is enrolling patients in the Phase 3 clinical trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Santa Clara and Sacramento, with national enrollment of a total of 30,000 patients projected to finish in mid-September. For the complete list of our COVID-related studies and publications, please see our COVID research website.
  • Planning next steps – We find it amazing that we have continued to accomplish so much as a research department despite almost 6 months of pandemic restrictions and changes. It’s a testament to your initiative and adaptability, and we are so grateful to be working with colleagues like you! We continue to meet with DOR’s Management Team weekly to share news and make plans, and we’ll continue to send you this weekly update for the foreseeable future. We’ll look forward to seeing you at our next Town Hall meeting on September 29.  
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Have a great short week!

Best regards,
Tom Dang, MBA, MSE, and Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH
Managing Director and Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California

 


COVID-19 update for DOR - August 31, 2020 – Safety

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

Welcome to September. We hope you had a chance to relax over the holiday weekend! Our fall looks like it’ll be busy as always, just with different workflows this year.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – Our building will remain at <25% occupancy throughout September. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ll continue to send a survey to all research scientists and infrastructure directors once a month for the remainder of 2020 to invite requests for standing changes in building access.
  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to make plans for a trial of intravenous Remdesivir for outpatient use at several medical centers. Our Vaccine Study Center is enrolling patients in the Phase 3 clinical trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Santa Clara and Sacramento, with national enrollment of a total of 30,000 patients projected to finish in mid-September. For the complete list of our COVID-related studies and publications, please see our COVID research website.
  • Planning next steps – We find it amazing that we have continued to accomplish so much as a research department despite almost 6 months of pandemic restrictions and changes. It’s a testament to your initiative and adaptability, and we are so grateful to be working with colleagues like you! We continue to meet with DOR’s Management Team weekly to share news and make plans, and we’ll continue to send you this weekly update for the foreseeable future. We’ll look forward to seeing you at our next Town Hall meeting on September 29.  
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Have a great short week!

Best regards,
Tom Dang, MBA, MSE, and Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH
Managing Director and Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - August 31, 2020 – Safety

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

Last week’s tragic shootings of Jacob Blake and several protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have made us think about safety. The events of recent months have made us increasingly aware that Black Americans are less safe than others in a distressing number of ways that stem from structural racism. The turbulence and conflict in our national environment are stressful for all of us.

At DOR, we’ve now completed series of listening meetings on equity, inclusion, and diversity with six of our largest groups. We want to thank all who participated or sent us comments via the related surveys or via email. We learned a great deal and heard a wide variety of ideas and perspectives, which we’ll write to you about soon. We’ve also met with other regional and East Bay leaders to gather ideas on the next steps we at DOR can take to foster equity, inclusion, and diversity. We’re discussing the plan with our Management Team and will let you know about next steps in September.

We’re also worrying about safety from natural disasters, with our state and others endangered by escalating risks of wildfires and hurricanes in recent years. And we’ve all been spending large portions of our energy trying to stay safe from COVID-19.

One encouraging observation amid all this turbulence is that our medical group and DOR are leaders in keeping people safe from disease. Last Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued controversial new guidelines, stating that close contacts of persons with COVID-19 do not necessarily need to be tested. The Permanente Medical Group promptly decided that it would not follow these recommendations and would keep testing such close contacts. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and many other authorities also adopted this stance.

The national news is also abuzz with the possibility that the Food & Drug Administration may be pressured to approve new vaccines for COVID-19 prematurely, before clear evidence of their safety and efficacy has been established. While we obviously don’t have direct control of this matter, we’re proud that our Vaccine Study Center, led by Nicky Klein, is one of the world’s premier groups in vaccine clinical trials and vaccine safety research. As one of the key sites in the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink project, we’ll be at the forefront of monitoring the safety of new vaccines introduced for widespread use against COVID-19.  

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – Thank you to all who participated in our most recent monthly survey to plan building access. Research scientists and infrastructure directors will be receiving email replies today about their teams’ requests. We anticipate these monthly surveys will be our pattern through at least December this year. 

Our building will remain at <25% occupancy throughout September. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website . If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.

  • Planning next steps – We appreciate the many small feats of heroism by all of you and recognize that many of our employees are still adjusting work around home and school plans. Thank you for your sustained commitment to our work together. We’re continuing to meet with DOR’s Management Team weekly to discuss recent developments and make plans for all at DOR. 
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - August 24, 2020 – Mix

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

The past week brought a strange mix of sadness and renewal. Wildfires in Northern California have become almost a predictable annual event, yet they’re anything but routine. The start of fire season means bad air quality for many of us, evacuations and power outages, and danger and destruction in our own or neighboring communities. We hope you’re able to stay safe indoors. If you need to be outdoors, you might consider picking up a smoke mask, being made available at KP medical centers at our ambassador stations (see attached). We’ve also heard that smoke masks may become available at regional offices, are pursuing more information, and will keep you posted. If you need support, please don’t hesitate to contact your manager or our regional Employee Assistance Program.

At the same time, many school-age children started online classes last week and our local universities are beginning their fall semesters as well. The start of a new academic year always gives us a surge of hope for the future, and this holds true even during this time of pandemic. In Southern California, the new KP School of Medicine in Pasadena has launched successfully, with its first class of students already in their second month this week.

Eat Learn PlayOn a light note, you might enjoy seeing this screenshot of the virtual press conference held recently for the launch of a new partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, run by Steph and Ayesha Curry. You can see the Currys here with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan CEO Greg Adams and Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf. The woman with the beautiful blue Kaiser Permanente logo background is Chyresse Hill, a regional communications team member. And that virtual background was created by none other than Jon Weiner, our associate director for research communications! If you’d like a copy of the background to use in your own presentations, feel free to contact Jon via email.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access –Our building is at <25% occupancy throughout August. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.

Research scientists and infrastructure directors received a survey last week to invite requests for building access in September. We anticipate this approach to managing building access will be our pattern through at least December this year.

  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program has been hard at work with the launch of support for more medical centers to offer COVID convalescent plasma, which was just approved for emergency use this weekend. Our Vaccine Study Center last week launched the Phase 3 trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine in Sacramento, adding a second site to Santa Clara which launched the previous week. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Planning next steps – We appreciate all you’re doing to make remote work your primary mode through at least the end of the year. We’re continuing to meet with DOR’s Management Team twice a week to monitor the situation and make plans, and we’ll keep you posted.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


General updates for - August 17, 2020

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

Here are our general updates for this week:

  • Building Access –Our building is at <25% occupancy throughout August. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.

Research scientists and infrastructure directors will be receiving a survey today to invite requests for building access in September. We anticipate this approach to managing building access will be our pattern through at least December this year.

  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program has been hard at work with the launch of support for more medical centers to participate in the COVID convalescent plasma expanded access program. The newest sites in the North Valley enrolled several patients last week. The program reached a milestone by successfully enrolling the first patients via eConsent! This is a big advance because patients use iPads rather than paper, enabling decontamination and seamless documentation. Our Vaccine Study Center last week launched the Phase 3 trial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine in Santa Clara, to a shower of media coverage, and plans to launch it in Sacramento this week. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Planning next steps – As summer turns to fall, we thank you for the adaptations many of us are making to make remote work your primary mode through at least the end of the year. We’re continuing to meet with DOR’s Management Team twice a week to monitor the course of events, make adjustments, and plan strategy. We’ll keep following the course of the pandemic and will keep you posted.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best Regards,

Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Regional Managing Director
Kaiser Permanente
Division of Research


COVID-19 update for DOR - August 17, 2020 – Listening

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

We know that many of our colleagues at DOR have continued to feel stress from the upsetting events of the last few months, including the heartbreaking killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others before them. We recognize the hurt and anger these events have caused. These tragedies bring home to all of us the longstanding inequities and discrimination that Black Americans and communities continue to experience in all sectors of our society.

We’re committed to making progress on equity, inclusion, and diversity at DOR. Our efforts —­ several of which are already underway — will address our own workplace, as well as our health care system and our community. It should go without saying that we have zero tolerance for discrimination in our workplace, yet this is easier said than done. Moving our culture to better equity and inclusivity will take strategic and sustained effort. Some questions you may be asking are:

  • What will leaders at DOR do to reach a deeper and broader understanding of the issues affecting minority colleagues in our workplace?
  • How will we ensure that our recruitment, promotion, and retention processes are equitable and supportive of diversity?
  • How can all employees, including managers, gain better skills to recognize bias, offer allyship, and act inclusively?
  • What kind of structure to support equity, inclusion, and diversity can we develop within DOR, to ensure sustained progress?

These are just a few of the many important questions we’ve been thinking about over the last several weeks. While we don’t have all the answers, we’ve opted to start by listening. Throughout this month, we’re continuing to meet with groups of DOR employees to listen to ideas and perspectives on equity, inclusion, and diversity. We’re also contacting leaders of other groups within and beyond Kaiser Permanente, seeking to learn from their experience. We have much more to discover.

We encourage you to set aside an hour each month to pursue new insights and skills in equity, diversity, and inclusion. For many of us, acknowledging our own privilege and recognizing bias is an important first step. If you’re fortunate enough to not be experiencing racism, please take five minutes to read the two below posts (shared by UCSF executive vice chancellor Dan Lowenstein). Consider taking an Implicit Association Test and doing the 30-minute course on Unconscious Bias, available to all of us on KPLearn. If you’ve already done this, try one of the other courses in the Diversity section on KPLearn – the ILEaD course is a good use of an hour-and-a-half. 

1. Facebook post by Shola Richards (click here to link to the full post)

2. From a widespread social media post:
I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AhmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothamJean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)

We’ll continue to work on the questions we’ve posed above. We welcome your input and participation as our plans evolve.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - August 10, 2020 – Swimming

Dear DOR Colleagues (all),

You likely heard about the explosion last week in Beirut, Lebanon that killed more than 150 people and has left 300,000 people displaced. This disaster came atop Lebanon’s struggling economy, food shortages, and recent surge in COVID cases, with hospitals already at capacity. Lebanon has been through centuries of war and conflict, and is often referred to as a phoenix because it constantly rises from the ashes. Our empathy and admiration go out to Beirut’s people and the many others affected by this tragedy as they start the arduous process of restoration.

Here in Northern California, DOR’s sponsoring executive Irene Chen has likened our work during the pandemic to swimming. By June we’d gone back to trying to make progress with our “usual” activities, when a COVID surge hit us and we were temporarily submerged. Fortunately, in California and other states, there are signs that the current surge is easing. Unfortunately, this is coming at the cost of ongoing restrictions, economic uncertainty and schools not re-opening in person. We affirm our gratitude and respect for all of DOR’s employees for your continuing work to adapt, including our employees who are parents making adjustments for the coming semester.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access –We anticipate our building remaining at <25% occupancy throughout August, based on the building access requests submitted for all our employees by their research scientists and infrastructure directors. Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.
  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is expanding services for COVID convalescent plasma, from 6 medical centers to 13. Through a major effort, the CTP completed arrangements last week to provide access at 3 new medical centers in the Sacramento area. Our Vaccine Study Center is participating in a large multi-site effectiveness trial of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, opening this month for adults in Santa Clara and Sacramento. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Planning next steps – We’re asking most people at DOR to make remote work their primary mode through at least the end of the year. Thank you for all the adaptations you’re making to keep yourself and fellow employees safe. We’ll keep following the course of the pandemic and will keep you posted
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - August 3, 2020 – Beginnings

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

You might be surprised to hear that we’ve added many new employees since the start of the pandemic. DOR’s New Employee Orientation has been converted to all-virtual and included 28 employees – a record high – last month. Compliments to Wanda Harmon and our HR team, Anna Christmas, Ashley Gonzalez, Raquel Guyadeen-Maloof, and Ayanna Jones, on continuing to organize this helpful orientation and successfully converting it to a video meeting format.

Another new group of DOR employees was added last month by our Analyst Training Program. These 9 new analysts New Analysts are pictured here in one of their first video meetings. Analysts who’ve participated in this program this year and in the past have come from places as far away as Yale and as close as UC Berkeley and Cal State East Bay.  They’ve joined a wide range of investigators and teams in all of our 6 scientific sections. Our hope is that they’ll acquire excellent skills and stay long-term with us at DOR. Kudos to Jingrong Yang and Charlie Quesenberry, along with Suzanne Furuya and our IT and HR groups for doing a wonderful job recruiting these promising analysts and getting them onboarded. And thank you to the many senior programmer/analysts and others who are contributing training for these employees via this highly successful program that builds a broad foundation for our ongoing research.

Welcoming new employees beginning their careers, or at least this phase of their careers, at DOR makes us encouraged about the future. Hopefully, all or most of these employees will still be with us when the pandemic ends. We give tremendous credit to our experienced employees for doing the hard work of keeping our research and infrastructure operations running, and adapting in ways that make it possible for us to continue growing and welcoming newcomers. Thank you for all you’re doing to keep building our future together!

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access –We were able to approve all requests for building access in August and anticipate our building remaining at <25% occupancy. Thank you to all our research scientists, infrastructure directors, and managers who contributed for returning the building access and remote work surveys from the last few weeks.

Please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website . If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.

  • COVID Research – Our Clinical Trials Program has received approval for a major expansion of services for COVID convalescent plasma, from 6 medical centers to 13, and has started this important effort. Our Vaccine Study Center will be participating in a large multi-site effectiveness trial of the Pfizer COVID vaccine, expected to open this month for adults in Santa Clara and hopefully one additional site. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Planning next steps – We’re asking most people at DOR to make remote work their primary mode through at least the end of the year. Thank you for all the adaptations you’re making to keep yourself and fellow employees safe. If we’re able to, we’d still like to allow teams at DOR to work on-site on the same day once or twice a week this fall. We’ll keep following the course of the pandemic and will keep you posted.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

 

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - July 27, 2020 – Temporary

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

At my house (Tracy’s), we have too many peaches right now. Every week over the summer, I buy too much fruit at the Berkeley Bowl, knowing that the glorious taste of stone fruit and melon is fleeting. When my husband asked if we could stock up before the season’s end, I reminded him that unfortunately perishable fruit doesn’t work that way -- unless you have the time and skills to can it, dry it, or make jam.

While it’s bittersweet that summer fruit is temporary, conversely, I take hope from the fact that most pandemics are temporary as well. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 lasted two years, and the Asian flu (1957-58) and H1N1 swine flu (2009-10) pandemics were similar. If we’re fortunate, this pandemic may end more quickly than those due to the treatments and vaccines being now developed at record pace around the world.

It was encouraging to hear in last week’s DOR Town Hall from Alan Go about COVID treatment trials and from Nicky Klein about vaccine trials we have in start-up. Last week the U.S. government announced that it plans to purchase 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is soon going into a Phase 3 trial where our Vaccine Study Center will lead at least one site in Santa Clara and possibly others.

Of course, even if and when effective vaccines have been developed, key issues will remain. Ramping up manufacturing capability and deciding how to equitably distribute the initially limited supply will be challenging. The National Academy of Medicine last week formed a committee to address equitable distribution of COVID vaccines, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is in the action as well. Art Reingold of UC Berkeley, Saad Omer of Yale, and Grace Lee of Stanford, known to many of us, are on these committees. I’m hoping their expert guidance can help steer us to a good national process for allocating the COVID vaccines of the future.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For this month, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. We anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout July and August. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.

We’ve also sent all research scientists and infrastructure directors a Remote Work Assessment Survey that covers all DOR employees working at 2000 Broadway. This survey is important so we can relay DOR’s preferences for current and future building use to KPNC executives for facilities planning purposes. For research scientists and infrastructure directors, please look for the email you received from Cathy Chou last week and do your best to return this survey by tomorrow (Tuesday, July 28). Your response will help us request enough space for all employees who wish or need to work on-site in the long-term future after the pandemic. 

  • Equity, inclusion, and diversity – We’ll be continuing our “ideas and listening” meetings with a wide range of groups throughout DOR in August. We look forward to hearing suggestions and advice from our programmer/analyst (including Strategic Programming), research associates and assistants, administration, IT, and clinical trials groups.
  • Planning next steps – We anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall, with most people making remote work their primary mode through the end of the year. KP administrative offices are technically closed until September and potentially until 2021.  We’d still like to enable teams at DOR to work on-site on the same day once or twice a week this fall if they wish to, but we’ll need to follow the course of the pandemic and be flexible in our planning.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - July 20, 2020 – Patience

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

As we enter week 19, we’re constantly reminded that the pandemic isn’t anywhere near over.  The media report distressing news locally and nationally every day.  We continue to see rising incidence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in several states including our own.  Also distressing is the news on racial/ethnic inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, which highlight the broader disparities in our society. 

With all the news and events surrounding us, it’s important for us to pause and recognize that this is a tumultuous time for us and our country.  At times like these, it is important to practice the art of patience: the skill of waiting for desired results. It’s simple in theory, but much harder to practice and master.  We live in a society that has grown accustomed to instant results.  In a digital world, most of us are used to getting what we need with a few clicks and this has contributed to our inability to be patient.  Taking the time to allow things to occur provides us the opportunity to think it through and to develop strategies to better cope with challenges ahead.  Patience is key to moving through daily life in a mindful and productive way and to maintaining good mental and physical health.  Please remember the KP resources available to us such as the MindfulHub.  There you can find a myriad of helpful tips, and tools and attend virtual mindful sessions.

With this in mind, we’d like to acknowledge the exceptional efforts that you’re making to practice patience during these uncertain and unsettling times.  There is no doubt that together, if we practice patience, we can get through this tumultuous period.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For this month, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. We anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout July and August. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We sent another survey last Friday, July 17th for August building use requests and to take the initial steps in determining preferences for the rest of the year.
  • Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to meet increasing demand to use COVID-19 convalescent plasma, which they’re supporting via an expanded access protocol at 6 medical centers. Our Vaccine Study Center has been working on arrangements for a vaccine trial that should begin soon. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Equity, inclusion, and diversity – As we mentioned last week, we’re still early on our path in this work. We’re continuing our “ideas and listening” meetings so we can engage a wide range of DOR employees in dialogue. Last week we met with our project coordinators group, and we’re in the process of planning meetings with our programmer/analyst, research associates and assistants, infrastructure, and clinical trials groups. Again, we want to make sure that we hear from everyone as we gather ideas.
  • Planning next steps – We anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall, with most people making remote work their primary mode through the end of the year. KPNC interim regional president Tom Hanenburg said in the video Town Hall released on Thursday that administrative offices won’t be open until after September and potentially not until 2021.  Thus, while we’d still like to enable teams at DOR to work on-site on the same day once or twice a week this fall if they wish to, we’ll need to be very cautious about allowing our building occupancy to increase.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news. We’re planning a Town Hall meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, July 21, from 12:30-1:30 so we hope you’ll join us for more updates then.

Best regards,
Tom Dang, MBA, MSE and Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH
Managing Director and Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - July 13, 2020 – Listening

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

The last few weeks have brought distressing news about the rising incidence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout our country. Equally distressing are the racial/ethnic disparities we’re seeing in the toll of this pandemic. These disparities are being consistently reported in multiple studies from the U.S. and other countries, the largest a study of 17 million people in England last week in Nature. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and Latino people underscores the inequities we see throughout health and in our broader society.

It’s in this context that we affirm DOR’s commitment to strengthening our efforts to creating an inclusive culture and working to address health disparities. In these efforts we will align with the equity, inclusion, and diversity structures sponsored by other Kaiser Permanente leaders, including KFH/P CEO Greg Adams, TPMG executive director and CEO Rich Isaacs, and interim regional KFH president Tom Hanenburg. Two helpful frameworks they’ve offered are to view our work as addressing the workplace, health care delivery, and the community, and to view our efforts as following a 4-stage maturity model.

We’re still early on our path in this work. This is why we’re planning to spend the next several weeks listening. We’d like to hear ideas from a broad range of people at DOR. We picture our work on new or expanded activities toward equity as having 3 stages: (1) idea gathering; (2) idea selection and development; and (3) implementation. These stages may overlap, with some activities being able to move forward simply and others requiring more time to develop.

Listening takes time. You might be asking when you’ll see more specifics and actions. We want to consider our options thoughtfully and hear the input of a broad range of people as we make choices about what to initiate next. We’ll need to be selective and highly strategic about our work. You can expect regular updates through this email (equity, inclusion, and diversity will become a regular feature, as below) and more specific plans in September.

Our goals are to make our work in equity integrated and sustainable, so that it becomes second nature, a key part of the innovation and value we contribute to Kaiser Permanente and society. We thank you for the contributions you already make, and those you’ll make going forward, in this important work.

Here are our updates for this week:

Building Access – For this month, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. We anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout July. For ad hoc requests, please request access 24 hours in advance using the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ll send another survey next week for August and the fall.

Research – Our Clinical Trials Program is continuing to meet increasing demand to use COVID-19 convalescent plasma, which they’re supporting via an expanded access protocol at 6 medical centers. Our Vaccine Study Center has been working on arrangements for a vaccine trial that should begin soon. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.

Equity, inclusion, and diversity – We’re looking forward to meeting with the project coordinators for an idea and listening session tomorrow. We’re making plans to meet with the programmer/analyst, research associates and assistants, infrastructure, and clinical trials groups in the next several weeks, and to invite ideas from all at DOR. See our note above for additional context.

Planning next steps – We anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall, with most people making remote work their primary mode through the end of the year. If circumstances permit, we hope to enable members of each team to work in the building on the same day once or twice a week if they wish, starting in August or September.

Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news. We’re planning a Town Hall meeting next Tuesday, July 21, from 12:30-1:30 – please look out for an invitation soon.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California
https://divisionofresearch.kaiserpermanente.org/


COVID-19 update for DOR - July 6, 2020 – Perspective

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

As COVID incidence accelerates throughout the country, it would be easy to lose perspective on what we’ve accomplished during the first four months of the pandemic. We in Northern California actually succeeded in flattening the curve through social distancing, including shifts in clinical practice and research to video interactions and reducing in-person interactions with patients to only the most necessary. Unfortunately, this initial success couldn’t last amid the lifting of shelter-in-place orders, even where the loosening of restrictions was gradual. Our East Bay medical centers hit new highs last week in confirmed cases and in the hospital census of COVID patients. Although hospital capacity remains robust, it is not clear when the current upswing will peak.

You may remember our East Bay physicians-in-chief, Judy Park and Rita Ng, from talks they’ve given at DOR in the past few years. They and the East Bay interim medical group administrator, Goran Kalas, send regular email updates to chiefs, managers, and physicians. Last week they wrote, in part, “We always knew that sheltering-in-place would not magically bring about a cure. It was simply meant to buy time – precious time that we have not squandered. We have been working around the clock to be ready and prepared. And even in spite of all this, we have some really tough days ahead.”

Likewise, all of us at DOR have been making many adaptations, large and small, to navigate the pandemic and mitigate risk while still moving forward with our work. It hasn’t been easy, and this situation will continue to test our creativity and flexibility as it evolves. Despite the challenges, we’re doing an excellent job carrying on with our research. Our work is vital to transforming health, not only for COVID and its effects on health care delivery, but also for enhancing health and health care for a diversity of people and conditions. We’re so grateful to have colleagues like you, and we know we’ll come out of this stronger together.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For this month, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. We anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout July, so please make sure you request access 24 hours in advance. We’ll send another survey in a few weeks, for August and the fall. For ad hoc requests, please see the instructions on our DOR COVID website. If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in.
  • Research – Our Clinical Trials Program has seen increasing demand to use COVID-19 convalescent plasma, which they’re supporting via an expanded access protocol at 6 medical centers. Our regional COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team has received 233 ideas and inquiries to date. Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Work on equity and inclusion – We picture DOR’s work in this area as having three phases: (1) idea gathering; (2) idea selection and development; and (3) implementation. We’ll be inviting all DOR employees to participate in the idea gathering phase, which we picture lasting a few months. We’ve assembled the start of an idea list based on what we’ve heard from our research scientists and infrastructure directors so far. Currently, we’re arranging to invite ideas via surveys and meetings with the project coordinator, programmer/analyst, research associates and assistant groups (you’ll hear from your group leader(s) in the near future). We’ll soon be inviting infrastructure (administration, IT, and Strategic Programming Group), clinical trials, and all other employees to contribute ideas via surveys and meetings with us as well.
  • Planning next steps – We anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall, with most people making remote work their primary mode through the end of the year. If circumstances permit, we hope to enable members of each team to work in the building on the same day once or twice a week if they wish, starting in August or September.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news. We’re planning our next Town Hall meeting for late July, with the date to be announced soon.

Like the clinical leaders throughout our system, our management team at DOR (scientific associate directors and infrastructure directors) has remained continuously busy during this period making plans for supporting us all in our work. We owe them, and you, great appreciation for all you’ve been doing to continue our top-quality research and to assist our clinical colleagues in protecting patients. It’s our honor to work with you all.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - June 29, 2020 – Respite

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

As we start our 16th week of pandemic restrictions, it’s hard to not be a bit discouraged by the news that disease incidence is increasing in many states, including California. Our Oakland medical center has been managing an increase in COVID hospitalizations, though has been able to handle it well so far.

We’d like to acknowledge how hard people at DOR have been working to adapt. The efforts our scientists and staff have made to keep moving forward with our research and infrastructure processes amid working from home and many, many changes in workflow have been inspiring. We’re very fortunate that our research remains needed — even more so during the pandemic — and that Kaiser Permanente is a robust parent organization. Still, we all at KP need to take actions to prepare for the increasing financial stresses that all health care systems are facing and will continue to deal with in the next few years. In other health care systems including Stanford and Sutter, we’ve seen furloughs or mandates to use vacation time.

With the above in mind, we’d like to strongly encourage each of you to use all of the paid time off (PTO) you earn in 2020, before the end of 2020. In other words, please do your best to end 2020 with no more PTO than you had at the start of the year.

Why is this important?

First, we’ve all been facing unusual stressors. It’s really important to give ourselves a break and enjoy a psychological change of scenery from our workday email and Teams meetings. While many people’s original summer travel plans have had to be modified, there are still plenty of ways to get out of our usual environments and routines.  

Second, taking our PTO is one way we can help keep KP financially sound. The accrued PTO of each employee is a debt the organization owes us and allowing it to increase causes this debt to increase. When we use our PTO, it reduces KP’s financial liability.

This week, Tom (and Melissa Nelson, who assists Tom) will be emailing every manager within DOR a report on his or her employees and the amount of PTO each one had at the start of 2020. Thank you to our DOR Finance team, Cathy Chou and Dennis Reed for excellent work creating these reports. We’ll be asking managers to talk with each employee and encourage them to use all the PTO they earn this year. In exceptional cases, personal circumstances may make this difficult, so please take this as strong encouragement rather than a mandate. Still, if you’d like to know how you can help KP while helping yourself, this is an important action to take.

Related to PTO, here’s a note on personal travel. We recognize that different people have different levels of tolerance for personal risk, and some may choose to travel by plane or other means. We encourage every DOR employee to take responsibility for minimizing risk to their co-workers. If you travel or participate in group events, please be aware of the level of risk involved. When planning travel, you can visit the CDC website, which has current data on COVID and information on US and international travel. Each of us can make a difference to ensure a safe workplace. If you return from travel and work onsite at 2000 Broadway, please revisit the DOR Building Use Plan to refresh your memory about procedures we’re asking staff to follow.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For this month, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. Research scientists and infrastructure directors will receive replies to requests for July building access from Cathy Chou today. We anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout July. We’ll send another survey in a few weeks, for August. For ad hoc requests, please see the instructions on our DOR COVID website.

If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ve implemented many other changes to align with local, KP, and CDC guidelines on social distancing and workplace safety.

  • New employee hotline for COVID-19 – KP has created a new employee hotline for questions about COVID testing and exposures and we’ve added this information to our DOR COVID website. (The link is in the 2nd box on the right, under KP COVID-19 Resources. You’ll need to be connected to our network to access it.) This resource supplements and does not replace our existing resources and protocol. If you test positive for COVID-19 or think you’ve been exposed in our workplace, please report this promptly to your manager, who will work with us to take appropriate next steps.
  • Research – Our COVID-related studies and publications are listed on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Work on equity and disparities – We had a productive meeting with many of our research scientists and infrastructure directors last week. They offered many perspectives and contributed a wide range of ideas. One observation they made was that others at DOR would like to participate in this conversation and work. We’re still in the idea-gathering phase and picture inviting other groups at DOR to meet with us in the near future.
  • Planning next steps – We anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall, with most people making remote work their primary mode through the end of the year. If circumstances permit, we hope to enable members of each team to work in the building on the same day once or twice a week starting in August or September.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

We’re still in a rough patch with this pandemic. Thank you for all you’re doing and for your energy and persistence. We’re confident that together we’ll make progress and contribute important new knowledge to enhance health and equity in this era of both cataclysmic change and unprecedented opportunity.

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - June 22, 2020 – Difficulties

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

Last week I was reading an update from a periodic communication session that the East Bay physicians-in-chief and elected representatives to the TPMG board offer for physicians in Oakland and Richmond. One of the slides said, “2020 has been a tough year.”

2020 Tough This struck me as an almost-amusing understatement, but also a realistic acknowledgment of our global situation, amid the pandemic, economic stress, and unrest over inequities. It made me think of the writer Malcolm Gladwell’s discussion of “desirable difficulties,” described in his book David and Goliath and drawing from the work of cognitive psychologists Robert and Elizabeth Bjork. In the context of learning theory, performance sometimes improves if the task is more difficult. The theory is that ultimately, some difficulties can result in better learning and desirable outcomes. But it depends on how the people faced with the difficulties react.

While it’s hard to call the big stressors we currently face “desirable,” we do think that we at DOR have the characteristics to face them well and eventually emerge stronger. We have robust relationships within and among our teams, and strong ties with a healthy parent organization. We’re displaying excellent ability to work together to adapt to our difficult circumstances so far. The world is learning from our experiences -- see this recent NEJM Catalyst paper on our system’s capabilities to suppress COVID , by Steve Parodi, Vinnie Liu, and others. The world needs the research we’re doing, both on COVID and on other topics. So we want to both acknowledge how tough our year has been, and also encourage all at DOR to continue the outstanding work we’re doing amid the difficulties. 

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For the summer, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. We anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy through August 31. For ad hoc requests, please see the instructions on our DOR COVID website . Last week, Tom sent all research scientists and infrastructure directors another survey to invite requests for building access for employees in July. Please remember to submit the survey by COB Tuesday, June 23rd.

If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ve implemented many other changes to align with local, KP, and CDC guidelines on social distancing and workplace safety.

  • Parking – We’ve received inquiries about parking at 2000 Broadway from both assigned parkers and staff who would like to temporarily drive and park to work.  Please see our DOR COVID website for updates
  • Research – Our research on COVID covers a wide range of types of studies, including clinical trials of treatments and vaccines, population-based and clinical epidemiology, and outcomes research. A list of COVID-related studies and publications is on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Planning next steps – We anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall, with most people making remote work their primary mode through the end of the year. If circumstances permit, we hope to enable members of each team to work in the building on the same day once or twice a week starting in September. We’ll continue to monitor the local environment and KP regional guidance and give you updates as our plan develops.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Long before modern psychologists and writers coined the term “desirable difficulties,” the philosopher Nietzsche had a similar take on the matter, writing “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” As we settle in for a long haul with the pandemic, we’ll picture ourselves coming out on the stronger side of that equation. We appreciate all you’re doing to adjust, persist, and stay connected!  

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


Update: Meetings, Travel, and Remote Work

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

DOR’s Management Team (scientific associate directors and infrastructure directors) has continued to meet 2-3 times a week, and we’ve been making plans for adjusting pandemic-related restrictions. Below is our updated guidance on large meetings, working remotely, and travel:

1. Non-essential in-person events and large gatherings (>10 people)

  • Should be cancelled, postponed, or converted to virtual. This policy does not have an end date.

2. Working remotely

  • We plan to continue our current pattern of restricted building access and approximately 25% occupancy through August 31
  • Employees should expect that remote work will be our primary mode through at least Dec 31
  • If our local COVID-19 situation and KP permit it, we hope to grant each team access to our building for 1-2 days a week starting in September.

3. Travel – Current restrictions do not have an end date. It’s unlikely that current restrictions will be lifted before the end of 2020. For the purpose of this DOR guidance,

  • Local travel is defined as travel within the catchment area of Kaiser Permanente Northern California medical centers.
  • Long-distance travel is defined as travel requiring a flight and/or an overnight stay.
  • This guidance applies whether the travel is sponsored by KP or by an external sponsor.
    • Essential travel is defined as travel that is required – and cannot be postponed or converted to virtual – to support patient care or to preserve the viability of a research activity.
  • Essential travel that is local is allowable with the approval of the employee’s supervisor. For example, a drive to Sacramento to pick up research biospecimens is allowable.
  • Essential travel that requires long-distance travel must be approved by the DOR director.
    • Non-essential travel – All non-essential travel is restricted.
    • Travel to attend academic conferences or to participate on committees or task forces is considered non-essential. Many DOR investigators have tentative plans to participate in such events in 2021. If and when restrictions based on health and safety have been modified, travel to such events is likely to be permissible by exception, with approval from the relevant associate director and the DOR director.
    • Travel by trainees and staff is defined as non-essential unless it is necessary to meet a core DOR business function and cannot be postponed or converted to virtual.

Thank you for all you’re continuing to do to adjust your work processes and stay connected with colleagues during this time. Please feel free to contact your Management Team member, or either of us, with comments or questions.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - June 15, 2020: Oscillation

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

The news that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing in some states reminds us that managing the pandemic will be a delicate business. As depicted in this infectious disease modeling study by Kissler et al in Science, disease prevalence and incidence is likely to A close up of a logo  Description automatically generated oscillate. The pandemic’s evolution will depend on multiple variables, including viral factors, host factors such as the duration of immunity after infection, and environmental factors including social behavior. The interactions are complex, and there’s as yet incomplete information on many of the determinants, though we’re learning more every day. A simpler and more interactive version of these concepts is in this web-based simulation by a French epidemiologist and a graphic artist.

We’ll eventually emerge from the pandemic based on herd immunity, treatment, vaccination, or some combination of these. In the phase we’re now in, called suppression, authorities are starting to let up on social distancing and other restrictions. This will unavoidably allow the virus to spread somewhat. We’ll need to use testing, contact tracing, and other types of surveillance to identify outbreaks and suppress them, keeping the spread of disease under control. For us here in KP Northern California, lab testing capacity has continued to increase and is currently at >6,000 tests per day.

It’s likely that we’ll see ups and downs in both the restrictions we’re living with today and in disease incidence over the next 12-24 months. We’ll want these oscillations to be gentle, which is why we’re proceeding conservatively at DOR. We’ll continue working together to protect our hospital capacity, and to give our clinical trials researchers around the world adequate time to identify effective treatments and vaccines. 

We’ll also continue to educate ourselves and one another about what we can do to support equity, inclusion, and diversity. We’re planning a meeting with interested research scientists and infrastructure directors to discuss what constructive actions DOR can take. Here’s a useful curated resource list from our KP National Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity program (with thanks to KP School of Medicine Dean Mark Schuster for pointing it out).

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For June, please only come into our building if you’ve received approval in advance. We’ve given approval for a handful of people to work on-site and anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout the month. For ad hoc requests, please see the instructions in Tom’s email from Friday May 29th or on our DOR COVID website. We’ll be sending another survey this week to invite requests for building access in July.
  • Safety — If you’re coming into our building, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We’ve implemented many other changes to align with local, KP, and CDC guidelines on social distancing and workplace safety.
  • Research – Our Clinical Trials Program, led by Alan Go and Victor Chen, continues to work very hard to support access to new therapies for patients with COVID-19, including a Phase II trial of selinexor and the Expanded Access Program for convalescent plasma in selected medical centers. Vinnie Liu and Gabriel Escobar and team are leading syndromic surveillance using computerized diagnosis data as part of our suppression strategy. Nicky Klein’s group is busy planning for a vaccine trial and also is working with the CDC on epidemiologic surveillance. Many other DOR investigators are also leading COVID-19 research. A list of studies and publications is on our COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.

Our research scientists and project coordinators who have studies that require in-person contact with participants have been invited to a meeting planned for today at 3:00 on this topic. Steve Sidney will be moderating and David Matesanz, Donna Abrams, Steve and I will be presenting.

  • Planning next steps – At DOR, we anticipate aiming for a “new normal” this fall. It’s likely we’ll ask people to continue working mostly remotely, and if circumstances allow it, we hope to enable members of each team to work in the building on the same day once or twice a week. We’ll continue to monitor the local environment and KP regional guidance and give you updates as our plan develops.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Thank you for weathering these bumpy times with us. As spring turns to summer, we see life moving ahead, with students finishing school and starting summer activities (even if it’s “home day camp” run by their parents), and apricots appearing in our markets. We hope you’ll take some time to relax and recharge in the next few weeks.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - June 8, 2020: Imbalance

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

If you're like us, you may be wondering, "What's next?" The events across our nation over the last week calling attention to systematic inequities have brought many of us into a teachable moment. As we think about what constructive actions we can take, we can join in conversations on these topics and educate ourselves and one another.

We're all invited to two meetings on this topic this week:

  • A KP East Bay Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Dialogue Circle on Thursday from 12:30-1:30 (virtual Town Hall) (see attached – RSVP required)
  • A dialogue hosted by the KP African American Professional Association on Friday from 1:00-2:00 (see the email Tom will send this morning)

Some of us have asked how KP performs regarding equity in health care delivery and outcomes. Alyce Adams, our associate director for health care delivery and policy, pointed us to the KP Equitable Care Health Outcomes project and its detailed reports, which show quality measures broken down by race/ethnicity. The upshot is that we do have some disparities in care, although studies including this New England Journal paper suggest that they're narrower within KP than in other settings. In addition, for a high-level overview of KP's activities, see the National Equity, Inclusion and Diversity website.

We'll be conferring with DOR's scientific and managerial leaders over the next few weeks to discuss further steps we can take to make a sustained contribution to enhancing equity and diversity in our own setting and in health more broadly. Meanwhile, please don't hesitate to email either of us with ideas, suggestions, or questions.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For June, please only come into our building if you've received approval in advance. We've given approval for a handful of people to work on-site and anticipate our building being at <25% occupancy throughout the month. For ad hoc requests, please see the instructions in Tom's email from Friday May 29th or on our DOR COVID website. We'll be sending another survey next week to invite requests for building access in July.
  • Safety — Last week we started daily temperature checking for all persons entering our building. If you come in, please bring your face mask for use in common spaces, and visit the front desk to have your temperature taken and sign in. We've implemented many other changes to align with local, KP, and CDC guidelines on social distancing and workplace safety.
  • Research – Our clinical trials team enrolled our first patients into a Phase II trial of selinexor, an oral medication that could inhibit viral replication within infected cells. They're also supporting the use of convalescent plasma in six medical centers. To see a list of our COVID studies and publications, please visit the COVID research website hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.

    Thank you to all our research scientists and project coordinators who completed the survey on studies that require in-person contact with participants. We're amid analyzing the results (thanks to Maria Massolo) and will be conferring with David Matesanz and Betty Suh-Burgmann of the IRB this week. We look forward to discussing high-level plans at the meeting planned next Monday on this topic, including our Research Clinic (thanks to Steve Sidney).

  • Planning next steps – Last Tuesday we received a leadership email from KPNC interim regional president Tom Hanenburg that said, "Most staff who have been working remotely will continue to do so until at least July 31 when we are ready to begin a phased approach to bringing you back … We are building on the success of temporary remote work assignments by identifying staff that can continue to work remotely based on their roles in the organization." Meanwhile, the incidence of cases in Alameda County has been increasing slightly, although hospital capacity remains robust.

    What should we anticipate in August and beyond? At DOR, we anticipate aiming for a "new normal" this fall. It's likely we'll ask people to continue working mostly remotely, and if circumstances allow it, we hope to enable members of each team to work in the building on the same day once or twice a week. We'll continue to monitor the local environment and KP regional guidance and give you updates as our plan develops.

  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

As we start our 13th week of shelter in place, we take heart from the fact that successful researchers are both great at innovating and extremely persistent. We admire and appreciate all you're doing – simply holding it together amid the stress is a small victory – and hope you take some extra time to look after yourself and those around you this week.   

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - June 1, 2020: Imbalance

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

The events of the last week have worsened the sense of imbalance many of us have been feeling since the pandemic began. The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have left people around the country with a sense of horror and outrage. It’s hard to know what to do, or even what to say, in the face of such senseless dehumanization and loss of life. The news of these events and the protests that have followed have come to a head amid a week when the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 and the president announced that our country will terminate its membership in the World Health Organization. Closer to home, on Thursday Alameda County reported the highest number of cases since the pandemic began.

Racial/ethnic disparities sometimes feel hard-wired into the American system, appearing pervasively in all of life’s sectors, including health. Currently, there’s growing evidence that COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher among blacks, and COVID-19 incidence seems to be higher among both black and Latino groups.

At DOR we’re fortunate to work with a very diverse patient population, which gives us the chance to focus some of our efforts to understand and reduce disparities. For example, Steve Sidney, along with colleagues Jamal Rana, Marc Jaffe, Joe Young, Alan Go, and others, has led many studies to advance our understanding of racial/ethnic disparities in hypertension control and cardiovascular outcomes. Mai Nguyen-Huynh and Steve recently completed a large NIH-sponsored pragmatic trial for African-American patients with hypertension, using medications and lifestyle management. Alyce Adams is nationally known as an expert on disparities in health.

In the current situation, we can act at an individual level by recognizing that many people in our community are feeling the stress of recent events and looking for constructive ways to make change. We encourage you to offer moral support to colleagues, and if you’re seeking support, access the Kaiser Permanente Employee Assistance Program or pursue other sources of mental health care. You can also take advantage of KP’s Emotional Wellness Tools, including Calm Premium, accessed via an app, and offering myStrength, a personalized program of self-help resources.

We also can act at a group level by continuing to initiate research on racial/ethnic disparities and the social factors that drive or exacerbate it. With the sponsorship of TPMG executives, we’re already involved in studies of racial/ethnic disparities in COVID. While we almost certainly won’t have simple solutions, through our work we can help move society closer, step-by-step, to understanding and eliminating disparities in health.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – For the month of June, please only come into our building to work if you’ve received approval in advance. Those who do need to work on-site are being allowed in, and this will result in our building being at <25% occupancy throughout the month. For ad hoc requests to work on-site or access our building to pick up items, please see the instructions in Tom’s email from Friday or on our DOR COVID website.

To keep up with what’s going on in downtown Oakland, we encourage you to subscribe to KP Alert, if you haven’t already. There were a number of messages this weekend, and signing up could be useful now and going forward.

Alameda County’s COVID-19 case rate has not decreased in recent weeks, and we anticipate that Kaiser Permanente will issue guidance to avoid formally re-opening office buildings like ours until at least August 1. We’ll be sending another survey this month to invite requests for building access in July.

  • Safety — To help keep employees safe, we’re taking similar steps as other KP regional offices, including requiring face masks in common areas, extra cleaning, signage to guide social distancing, and building access tracing. We’re also reviewing the new guidelines that CDC published on office building safety in COVID; we’ve already adopted most of what’s recommended.

Today we’re starting daily temperature checking for all persons entering our building.  Please follow the instructions on signs at our entrance doors. Thank you very much to Shelby Anguiano and all our facilities and operations team members for all they’ve been doing to prepare and manage our building.

  • Research – The clinical trials of remdesivir we’ve been part of formally closed last Friday, because the trials reached their enrollment target and the drug has been approved for emergency use by the FDA. Our clinical trials team continues to be busy supporting requests to arrange convalescent plasma for patients at six of our medical centers. Many other studies are in start-up. For a high-level summary of work in progress on COVID, please visit the website of our regional COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, hosted by the Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program.
  • Planning next steps – Earlier, we’d been hoping to ease up on restrictions on building access in the fall. However, the incidence of COVID-19 cases in Alameda County and the guidance we expect from Kaiser Permanente program office may lead us to maintain our current approach to building access for the next several months. We’ll most likely have to take a wait-and-see approach and continue planning month by month for now.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

The difficult news of this week is a reminder that the goal of keeping a tidy balance in our day-to-day lives is sometimes too far a reach in these stressful times. The important choices we make are about the actions, both small and large, that we’ll take to make progress on the global and social challenges we’re facing today. Thank you for all you’re doing to move forward with our shared activities in research, and to take care of yourself and those around you.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


Guidance on Building Use Starting June 1st

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

As we close out the month of May and head into week 12 with the stay in place order, the DOR Management Team and I have been busy planning the gradual re-opening of the building at 2000 Broadway. About two weeks ago, a building use/access survey was sent out to research scientists and infrastructure directors to solicit requests to access the building for the month of June. We received responses from 22 research scientists and 6 infrastructure directors/managers requesting building use for 80 employees. When reviewed, the results showed that the number of employees per floor will be below our 25% occupancy limit allowing us to maintain social distancing practices in the building. Responses were sent to the individuals that submitted a survey.  Based on the June building use requests, we have projections of the number of employees working onsite each day and we will carefully monitor building use/access to make sure we remain within our occupancy thresholds. 

Starting June 1st, please note the following guidance for accessing the building:

  • All individuals entering the 2000 Broadway building will notice signs posted at entrances instructing them to check-in at the front desk, where temperatures checks will be performed and logged during work hours.  These logs will be reconciled with the badge access reports each day.
  • We will continue to restrict outside visitors for the foreseeable future.
  • We will follow CDC guidance adopted by KP on social distancing practices when working in the building.  We have modified public spaces where necessary. 
  • Environmental services has increased the frequency of cleaning especially the public high traffic areas such as the lobby, bathrooms, elevators and break rooms.
  • Please make sure you use your own workspace.  If you are sharing a workspace, please make sure you clean it using disinfectant when you are done. 
  • Disinfectant and cleaning supplies will be available.
  • Please observe and follow the instructions posted on signs throughout the building.

If you need to access 2000 Broadway in June but did not complete a survey:

  • For ad-hoc Work Onsite requests, please send an email (with your name, NUID, building use date, and reason for request) to DORFacilityOps@kp.org with subject line= Work Onsite at least 24 hours in advance.  All requests will be reviewed to ensure that occupancy thresholds are not exceeded.  An approval notification is needed before entering the building.  Again, please make sure to check-in at the front desk (see above).
  • For ad-hoc Building Access (i.e., accessing the building for <30 minutes) requests, please send an email (with your name, NUID, building access date) to DORFacilityOps@kp.org with subject line=Building Access at least 24 hours in advance.  An approval notification is needed before entering the building. 

In order to ensure that the guidance aligns with state and local policies and/or KP National and Regional policies, this guidance may change over time. 

By implementing these guidance, we hope to maintain a safe workplace for the DOR colleagues who are working onsite.  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me or FOPS staff.  Thank you for your cooperation.

Best Regards,

Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Regional Managing Director
Kaiser Permanente
Division of Research


COVID-19 update for DOR - May 26, 2020 – Observation

In her award-winning book Lab Girl, geobiologist Hope Jahren instructs the reader to focus on a leaf, then ask a question about it. She says, “Guess what? You are now a scientist.” It’s a reminder that science is simply observation followed by questions. When Matt Solomon and his fellow cardiologists noticed a drop in hospitalizations for heart attacks after shelter-in-place began, they initiated one of the fastest research projects we’ve seen to date.

Matt is one of the 9 physicians in the TPMG Physician Researcher Program, directed by Doug Corley and hosted here at DOR. This program and many of our newer activities in delivery science and predictive analytics have been able to build on our powerful foundation of skilled research teams created by our senior researchers. Many have been at DOR doing epidemiology and health services research here for decades. Matt worked with his primary mentor Alan Go, as well as Steve Sidney, Thomas Leong, Cathy Lee, and Sue-Hee Sung of DOR, and TPMG cardiologists Ed McNulty, Jamal Rana, and Drew Ambrosy (also of DOR), to produce a study that found the incidence of acute myocardial infarction decreased by almost half during some weeks after the pandemic was identified. It was published in the New England Journal last week, attracting attention from National Public Radio (at the 5:55 min mark), the New York Times, and many others. Matt, Alan, and their team are already thinking about what questions to ask next.

social distancing at the clinicIn truth, the unaccustomed quiet in our clinical settings has been disconcerting for many of us in clinical practice. Fortunately, elective surgery is being re-started, and outreach to encourage patients to seek preventive services such as cancer screening is beginning gradually as well. In pediatrics, where I work each Friday, our outpatient clinics have been abnormally empty (see photo). Even as we anticipate inviting families in for well-child visits that were earlier postponed, we’ve adopted “new normal” schedules that recognize the additional time and precautions needed for in-person interactions during the pandemic. With California now allowing some counties to begin gradually re-opening services, we can hope we’ll eventually reach a new normal in our daily lives as well.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – Thank you to all the research scientists, infrastructure directors and managers who replied to our survey to request access for their employees in June. We also appreciate the effort of all who’ve arranged to continue working remotely for the coming month. We recognize this isn’t easy for most people, and it helps everyone. 

Based on your responses, we’re planning to have each floor of our building at no higher than 25% occupancy on any given day in June. Special thanks go to Cathy Chou for very capably analyzing the results and formulating the plan for us. We discussed the plan with the DOR Management Team today, and tomorrow we’ll be contacting each research scientist, director, and manager to give you the instructions for your employees’ building access in June.

For June, if you need to access our building to work on a day where you’re not already approved, please send an email to DORFacilityOps@kp.org, preferably 24 hours in advance. Your request will be reviewed by facilities manager Shelby Anguiano and managing director Tom Dang. If you need to come in briefly to simply pick up items, please follow the instructions to give appropriate notification on our DOR COVID website.

  • Safety -- To help keep employees safe, we’re taking similar steps as other KP regional offices, including requiring face masks in common areas, extra cleaning, signage to guide social distancing, and building access tracing. We’ve received infrared thermometers and plan to start daily temperature checking for all persons entering our building June 1st.  Please look out for signage with instructions at entrance doors.
  • Research – For a high-level summary of work in progress on COVID, please visit the website of our regional COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, which has received more than 200 ideas and inquiries so far.
  • Planning next steps – As we’ve mentioned in meetings and via this email update, Kaiser Permanente is requiring higher-order approvals for opening new job postings. This is to help protect the job security of our existing employees. While our business model in research relies primarily on grants and contracts, we still operate within the larger organization. We and DOR associate director for HR Wanda Harmon will continue working to secure the needed approvals to open job postings so we can recruit personnel who are vital to our work. 
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Even with our state mostly sheltering in place, the Memorial Day holiday provided many of us a welcome break from our new normal routines. We hope we’ll all be able to find more time for contemplation and for asking new questions as we move forward together.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - May 18, 2020 – Sustainability

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

DOR alumna Julia Marcus had a thoughtful piece this week in the Atlantic advocating for all of us to choose sustainable approaches to social distancing as we deal with the pandemic. She draws on her research background in HIV prevention, including the fact that abstinence-only education has been found ineffective. Julia recommends against “pandemic shaming” – invective directed against those perceived as violating social-distancing rules. Instead, she calls for recognizing that people are going to take risks, so it’s best to offer strategies to reduce potential harms. This will be a more sustainable approach to life amid the pandemic.

Julia worked with Mike Silverberg as a postdoctoral research fellow here from 2013-17 before decamping to the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard as an assistant professor. For those of us who know her, it’s been fun to see her in the news stories on MSNBC and National Public Radio.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access – As we mentioned in our Town Hall meeting last Tuesday, we’re asking all employees who are able to work remotely to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. This will help support physical distancing for employees who do need to work on-site.

Last Wednesday, Tom emailed a Building Access Survey to all research scientists and infrastructure directors. The research scientist or infrastructure director needs to complete this survey to require building access for each employee who needs to work in our building between June 1 and 30. We’re aiming to have each floor of our building at no higher than 25% occupancy on any given day. This translates to approximately 20-25 employees per floor.

Please note that building access approvals made in previous rounds will no longer be valid starting June 1. This is because our needs and guidelines are still changing month by month. If an employee needs building access in June, their research scientist or infrastructure director needs to request access for them via the current survey, even if they were approved earlier.

The survey is due by tomorrow. Our Management Team will reply to each respondent on Wednesday, May 27 regarding approvals and instructions.

If you need to come in briefly to simply pick up items, please follow the instructions to give appropriate notification on our DOR COVID website.

  • Safety -- To help keep employees safe, we’re taking similar steps as other KP regional offices, including requiring face masks in common areas, extra cleaning, signage to guide social distancing, and building access tracing. We’ve received infrared thermometers and plan to start daily temperature checking for all persons entering our building this month.
  • IT – We’d like to acknowledge our IT user support team members, who continue to work very hard helping people as we improve our technology and methods for working remotely. As Richard Navarro mentioned during our Town Hall meeting, there’s been an increase in IT security attacks worldwide recently and some of it focuses on groups doing COVID research.

Please remember that you need to connect your laptop to the KP network at least once a week so it can receive the needed security patches to keep your work safe. Failing to do this will initially result in a reminder from DOR IT, and could eventually result in your losing access to the KP network.

  • Research – Clinical trials of remdesivir, an intravenous drug, are closing May 29, as the studies have reached their target sample size and the FDA has approved it for emergency use. Our Clinical Trials Program (CTP) has a trial of selinexor, an oral medication, open in Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Convalescent plasma is being made available via an expanded access program now open at 5 medical centers, thanks to the dedication of the CTP team.

A shout-out to our grant administrators, who’ve been very busy lately with proposals for both COVID and non-COVID research. For a high-level summary of work in progress on COVID, please visit the website of our regional COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, which has received 198 ideas and inquiries so far.

  • Planning next steps – As we mentioned during our Town Hall meeting last week, Kaiser Permanente is requiring higher-order approvals for opening new job postings. This is to help protect the job security of our existing employees. While our business model in research relies primarily on grants and contracts, we still operate within the larger organization. We and DOR associate director for HR Wanda Harmon will continue working to secure the needed approvals for DOR research scientists and other managers to open job postings so we can recruit personnel who are vital to our work. 
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

There are more people out in downtown Oakland and other neighborhoods these days. We hope that you’re getting a chance to take walks, runs, or bike rides in your local environment as well. We all can count on exercise, enough sleep, and good food as part of our toolbox for sustainable healthy living during the pandemic and beyond.  

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - May 11, 2020 – Video

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

If you’re anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship these days with video as a mode of real-time communication. While it’s far less satisfying than in-person interaction, it’s much richer than audio-only. Video has been a lifeline for physicians and patients working to maintain connectedness in this pandemic. Delivering care via video whenever possible is a major strategic initiative for Kaiser Permanente for not only this period but for the long-term future.

Video interactions can consume a surprising amount of energy. This recent New York Times article, circulated by one of my fellow pediatricians, helps explain “video fatigue.” In some situations, photos or sound alone are better than video. For example, it’s well-known to physicians that for viewing skin rashes, the quality of resolution is better via photos than video. In interpersonal conversations, voice-only calls might help increase the listener’s sensitivity to what’s actually being said.

Mostly, I feel fortunate to live and work in settings where video is readily available. How else would I get to see my work colleagues every day, or to continue doing group exercise classes in this time of physical distancing? The pandemic has launched many of us on a steep learning curve in many aspects of life, and video is just one of them. I hope we’ll all keep working to refine our skills in communicating through video and other newer modalities and that in the long term, we’ll be able to use them as helpful adjuncts to in-person interaction.

Here are our updates for this week:

Building Access – Mandated temporary remote work continues. This month we have approximately 20 research staff members who are being allowed building access due to specific project or other needs that can’t be met through off-site work. If you need to come in, please follow the instructions to seek permission and/or give appropriate notification on our DOR COVID website.

To help keep employees safe, we’re taking similar steps as other KP regional offices, including requiring face masks in common areas, extra cleaning, signage to guide social distancing, and building access tracing. We plan to start daily temperature checking for all persons entering our building this month.

Research – Our Scientific Leadership Council and its Data Sharing Subcommittee met last week to discuss how to best coordinate when proposed COVID projects may have overlap. This applies especially to multi-site studies that involve data sharing. There’s a great deal of work in progress or being proposed on COVID – NIH, CDC, FDA, and PCORI have issued many short-turnaround funding opportunities. For a high-level summary of work in progress on COVID, please visit the website of our COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, which has received 175 inquiries so far.

Planning Next Steps – We’ll be talking with our investigators today and with all at DOR tomorrow (at our Town Hall meeting) about our plan for June. We’ll be asking all employees who are able to work remotely to continue doing so. This will help support physical distancing for employees who do need to work on-site. We’re picturing allowing up to 25% occupancy on each floor on any given day in June.

For employees who can’t work effectively without spending some time in the building in June, their research scientist or infrastructure director will be asked to complete a Building Access Request survey. This survey will be distributed this Weds, 5/13 and due back next Tues, 5/19. Our Management Team will review these requests to determine who can be approved to work in the building in June and will reply to research scientists and infrastructure directors by Weds, 5/27.

Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news. Our next Town Hall is tomorrow from 12:30-1:30.

Thank you for all you’ve been doing to work through the many changes and new skills required by the pandemic. We look forward to seeing you at our Town Hall tomorrow, and to continuing with our shared mission to transform health through research.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - May 4, 2020 – Syncopation

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

If you’ve listened to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, you might have noticed that they sometimes involve syncopation -- a variety of different rhythms played together. Right now it feels like our research, clinical, and external worlds are moving in a syncopated way, with some processes moving much more rapidly and others much more slowly than usual.

Coronavirus is forcing medical research to speed up Our research related to COVID has been proceeding very quickly. This speed is consistent with national trends described in an April 21 New York Times report. In the past 8 weeks, our colleagues have accomplished a great deal. The:

  • Systems Research Initiative team (led by Gabriel Escobar and Vinnie Liu) has been conducting predictive and operational analytics that are informing decisions about medical center planning day by day
  • Clinical Trials Program (Alan Go and Victor Chen) has worked with regional infectious disease research leader Jacek Skarbinski to get several trials and arrangements for expanded access to COVID therapies for hospitalized patients up and running in record time
  • Vaccine Study Center (Nicky Klein) has initiated CDC-sponsored surveillance research
  • Delivery Science and Applied Research (DARE) program (Doug Corley) took on a new study last week and received IRB approval within a day
  • and, in parallel, many investigators are seeking funding supplements and writing proposals to get new studies started.

Our research not related to COVID has been affected in variable ways. Some studies have been able to continue on track amid the restrictions. Others, especially those that involve interacting with patients in person, have been stalled. For example, the CARDIA Project, which has conducted in-person exams with a cohort of now-elderly patients in our research clinic and other sites for more than 30 years, has made a nationwide decision to postpone the exam cycle it had planned for this summer until at least January. We want to acknowledge how discouraging the uncertainty created by the pandemic can be for our research teams, especially those that have had to pause on interacting with patients. We’ll do all we can to continue acquiring relevant information, confer with other leaders, and encourage decisions about how to proceed in a way that recognizes our needs to make progress with research as well as our patients’ safety and welfare.

Syncopated music can be interesting and beautiful. It also requires some skillful coordination by the musicians. Our research portfolio is wonderful in its variety, and it likewise requires a great deal of coordination and planning. We appreciate all you’re doing to stay connected with us and integrated with one another even as the pandemic exerts different effects on the rhythms of different teams at DOR.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Building Access and Management – Our mandated temporary remote work continues. In May we have approximately 20 research staff members who will be allowed building access due to specific project or other needs that can’t be met through off-site work. If you need to come in, please follow the instructions to seek permission and/or give appropriate notification on our DOR COVID website.

To help keep employees safe, we’re taking similar steps as other KP regional offices, including requiring face masks in common areas, extra cleaning, signage to guide social distancing, and building access tracing. Daily temperature checking for all persons entering our building hasn’t yet begun, but is being planned to start this month.

  • Research – At our monthly Scientific Leadership Council today, we’ll be discussing developments and how to best support and advise our researchers on both COVID and non-COVID projects. For a high-level summary of work in progress on COVID, please visit the website of our COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, organized by the Delivery Science and Applied Research program.
  • Planning Next Steps – We’re following state, local, and KP guidance, including the Bay Area counties’ shelter-in-place order, now extended through May 30. When we have the go-ahead from authorities, DOR’s return-to-work plan will be a phased process where the first phase starts with our building at far less than our pre-COVID occupancy on any given day. If we’re able to allow more employees to come in during June, we’re picturing allowing up to 25% occupancy on each floor on any given day that month. We’ll be surveying our investigators and infrastructure directors in mid-May about employees for whom their team needs building access in June. More on this next week.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news. Our next Town Hall is May 12 from 12:30-1:30. 

We greatly appreciate all you’ve been doing to work remotely and constructively amid the challenges of the past two months. By way of perspective, Bach wrote the Brandenburg Concertos in the early 1700s, right at the start of the Age of Enlightenment. We believe that we at DOR, like Bach, can become increasingly expert at syncopation as we move forward in our work. That will make us better positioned than ever to help illuminate the way forward in our pandemic and post-pandemic world.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - April 27, 2020 – Essential

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

You might wonder how essential our work is. After all, we don’t sell groceries or gas, dispense prescription medications, or maintain the drinking water supply. The news carries daily stories of the heroism of health care workers and others. Here’s a photo from an April 23 Washington Post story about 43 factory workers who staged a 28-day “live-in” at the Braskem plant in Pennsylvania, where they created tens of millions of pounds of raw materials for face masks and surgical gowns to protect front-line health care workers. Braskem

Our research is essential in a different way. While daily life wouldn’t stop immediately without our work, our skills in research are crucial to finding ways to mitigate, suppress, treat and prevent COVID-19. Our research outside COVID remains critical to understanding disease and transforming health. Our first studies to help the world understand the pandemic’s effects are being submitted and published. Our new research scientist and pulmonary/intensive care physician Laura Myers, along with Steve Parodi, Gabriel Escobar, and Vinnie Liu, authored our first empirical study on COVID in a research letter in JAMA. For the inside story on this, see our new communications team member Sue Rochman’s first Q&A for DOR with Laura and Vinnie.

Here are our updates for this week:

  • Supporting Our Employees – On Friday we sent DOR investigators and managers an email extending our guidance to continue paying employees for their usual hours and from their usual funding sources from May 10 – June 19. Our employees are our most valuable assets, and we’ll keep working on ways to support people through this turbulent period.
  • Building Access – Our mandate for temporary remote work continues, and very few employees are being allowed in. If you do need to come in, please follow the instructions to seek permission and/or give appropriate notification on our DOR COVID website. Please bring a face mask to wear when not at your own workspace.
  • COVID Research – It was a week of firsts for us, in addition to the study in JAMA above. Our Strategic Programming Group, led by Jamila Gul and thanks to Mei Lee, Sri Chimmula and Bruce Folck, unveiled new COVID test variables in our Virtual Data Warehouse. These will be a cornerstone of many studies we’re doing and planning. Our Clinical Trials Program this week is opening a new Phase II trial of selinexor, a selective inhibitor of nuclear export to treat hospitalized patients, and continues to work very hard on trials of remdesivir and expanded access for remdesivir and convalescent plasma. For a high-level summary of work in progress, please visit the website of our COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, organized by the Delivery Science and Applied Research program.
  • temperature Planning Next Steps – We’ll be following state, local, and KP guidance on when employees can start returning to workplaces. Our state’s shelter-in-place order doesn’t have an expiration date, and Bay Area authorities are signaling that the May 3 date for the county mandates is likely to be extended. When we do have the go-ahead from authorities, DOR’s return-to-work plan will likely be a phased process where the first phase starts with our building at far less than our pre-COVID occupancy on any given day. Our Management Team will be in touch with our investigators and managers in the near future about what the process will look like. When we start the first phase of return-to-work at 2000 Broadway, we’ll be taking similar steps as other KP regional offices, including temperature checking, requiring face masks in common areas, extra cleaning, social distancing guidelines, and building access tracing. Here’s a photo from the lobby of 1950 Franklin so you can start to picture what we’ll also be doing at DOR.   
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news. I look forward to seeing you virtually at our next Town Hall, May 12 from 12:30-1:30. 

One of my mentors at Penn used to say that medical school rotations (which are usually 4-6 weeks long) and Philadelphia winters prove that you can survive any adversity for 6 weeks. It gets harder after that. We’re going into week 7 of shelter-in-place, and if you’re feeling restless, you’re probably not alone! Thank you for all you’re doing to make progress with work and to take care of yourself and others. Our contributions are essential, and we’ll all persevere together.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - April 20, 2020 – Experience

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

You might wonder how we got lucky here in Northern California. Why were our local leaders smarter and more decisive about imposing social distancing than others around the country in the early phases of this pandemic? This article in The Atlantic observes that one factor may be the personal life experiences of San Francisco mayor London Breed. Another factor is likely the city’s senior public health officials’ knowledge of the history of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic four decades ago. On a related note, check out this 4-minute video of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ first virtual performance, which was shared by our East Bay medical center leaders. It’s dedicated to the courageous health care workers who are risking their own well-being to help patients at this difficult time.

Here are some updates for this week:

  • Supporting Our Employees – DOR’s Management Team surveyed our researchers last week about their teams’ status in case current restrictions extend into May or June. The results were encouraging. Our scientific associate directors will be talking with the investigators whose teams could be affected to make appropriate plans. NIH has signaled it will offer flexibility to researchers and we will work with the sponsors of our KP research projects on this as well.
  • Building Access – Our mandate for temporary remote work continues, and very few employees are being allowed in. If you do need to come in, please follow the instructions to seek permission and/or give appropriate notification on our DOR COVID website.
  • Planning Research on COVID – Our Clinical Trials Program team continues to work very hard on opening access to remdesivir at multiple medical centers and is settling arrangements to make convalescent plasma available at an initial site in San Jose. Our COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team (CCRCT) continues to receive ideas and to help connect physicians, researchers, and others with common interests. For FAQs about the CCRCT and a high-level summary of work in progress, please visit the team’s website.
  • Planning Next Steps – We support Governor Gavin Newsom’s measured approach to considering when social distancing restrictions can be eased. For us at DOR, we anticipate the process of letting more employees return to work in our building will be a gradual one. In our “new normal,” we’ll be taking a number of steps to reduce risk and help keep our employees safe, while still providing a robust structure for our research. DOR’s Management Team discussed options this morning and will continue meeting frequently over the next few weeks to form details of the plan, in consonance with KP organizational guidelines.
  • Communication – Please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

As we begin the sixth week of shelter-in-place, we hope you’re not going stir-crazy! We admire your initiative and persistence in making progress with our work despite the challenges. Our work in research is important, now more so than ever. We are so grateful to have you as colleagues in this challenging period in history.   

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - April 13, 2020 – Transformations

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

Our associate executive directors Steve Parodi and Irene Chen gave an update for the TPMG Board of Directors on Friday. They highlighted the amazing work our medical group accomplished in just the last 3 weeks to prepare for COVID (see slide at right). Very impressive transformations are going on, including a dramatic shift in the outpatient setting from in-person visits to > 80% telemedicine (phone and video) visits. Since COVID erupted, every outpatient practice in the country has been TPMG numbers trying to increase their use of telemedicine, and here in KP Northern California we’ve already done it, thanks to our technology group’s sophistication and our willingness to innovate. At the slide’s bottom right, Steve and Irene also mentioned the work of our new COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team having vetted 80+ research topics so far. In parallel news, our regional laboratory is currently executing a major expansion. Our lab is currently able to do 1,000 COVID tests per day and aims to ramp up to 10,000 tests per day by mid-May.

The next several weeks will be a period of watchful waiting, as we hope for continued evidence that our social distancing in Northern California has succeeded in flattening the curve. Living with social distancing is hard, and it’s lucky that we in research know how to sit tight and persist when needed.

Here are some updates for this week:

  • Supporting Our Employees – DOR’s Management Team recently issued guidance to managers to continue paying all employees for their usual hours and from their usual funding sources through May 9. We’re currently surveying our researchers about their teams’ status in case current restrictions extend into May or June. NIH and other major sponsors have signaled they will offer flexibility to researchers. We’re seeking to understand the scope of potential needs at DOR so we can develop our best possible options.
  • Building Access – Our mandate for temporary remote work continues, and very few employees are being allowed to come in. We anticipate this will continue through at least early May.
  • Planning Research on COVID – Our Clinical Trials Program team, led by Alan Go and Victor Chen, continues to work very hard on opening access to Phase 3 trials of remdesivir at multiple medical centers and to initiate additional trials in our region. Our COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, co-chaired by Gabriel Escobar, Nicky Klein, and Jacek Skarbinski, has received 100 ideas and inquiries to date. The co-chairs met with the DOR Scientific Leadership Council last week to relay information and discuss how to best coordinate efforts. So far, DOR researchers have submitted 11 requests for director’s approval of proposals destined for NIH, foundation, and industry funders.
  • Planning Next Steps – Our Management Team will continue to focus on the question, “How can we best keep our employees safe when public health authorities signal restrictions can be loosened? We’ve already established daily building access tracing and have developed guidance in case of a COVID exposure. We anticipate the process of our employees returning to work in our building will be a gradual one, and that we’ll consider additional ways to minimize risk while still allowing progress on our research. 
  • Communication – You’ll continue to hear from us via email about once a week this month. As always, please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.

Thank you for all you’re doing with social distancing and temporary remote work. It’s difficult, but really seems to be making a difference. We’re all gaining new skills in working together virtually, but we also miss seeing you in person. We’re hanging in there with you, preparing for the next phase in this unprecedented time. 

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - April 6, 2020 – Calm

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

oakland_clinic Our East Bay clinical setting has a sense of being totally focused on preparations for the predicted surge in COVID-19 needs, and also of the calm before the storm. We’ve been receiving encouraging messages from Rich Isaacs and other leaders that social distancing seems to be flattening the pandemic curve here in Northern California. We’re all doing our part – here’s a social distancing birthday party in the Oakland pediatrics clinic (photo thanks to Dr. Susie Goddard).

KPNC internal models are now projecting the peak of COVID activity in Northern California for early May – a gentler and slower increase than in New York. This is a very welcome prospect. It does mean that we’ll likely remain under at least some restrictions beyond May 3, so we’re actively planning for that time.

Updates for this week:

  • Supporting Our Employees – Last week DOR’s Management Team decided to extend our guidance to DOR managers to continue paying all employees for their usual hours and from their usual funding sources through May 9. We view keeping our professional community stable as a top priority during this period. Fortunately, NIH is signaling that it will offer flexibility and support to projects nationwide, though it’s too early to know all the specifics. In case current restrictions extend into May or June, we’re seeking to understand the scope of potential needs at DOR so we can develop options. We’ll be surveying our researchers about their teams’ plans soon.  
  • Communication Plans – We’ll be holding a DOR Town Hall tomorrow, April 7, from 12:30-1:30. We’ll continue to send emails at least once a week during April. Remember that we’re all invited to dial in to the East Bay Town Hall meetings, which are Mon - Fri from 5:30-6:00. As always, please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.
  • Building Access Policy – Thank you for all you’re doing to work remotely -- we know it’s not simple. We see that people are becoming skilled at using Teams for virtual meetings, which is great. Very few employees are being allowed to come into the building at present. If you need to come in to do work that’s time-sensitive, please discuss this with your manager, who will seek approval from their associate director or infrastructure director. If you need to come in for a few minutes just to pick up items, please email DORFacilityOps@kp.org in advance.
  • Planning Research on COVID – Many DOR research scientists are already helping lead studies that will help fight COVID. Our Clinical Trials Program, led by Alan Go and Victor Chen, is working on expanding access to Phase 3 trials of remdesivir at multiple medical centers; Oakland and San Francisco are already enrolling patients. Vinnie Liu and Gabriel Escobar are leading predictive analytics for regional operations. Our regional COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordinating Team, co-chaired by Gabriel Escobar, Nicky Klein, and Jacek Skarbinski, has been meeting frequently to evaluate ideas and connect our own physicians and researchers as well as outside requestors with one another as appropriate. Many of our investigators are currently initiating research proposals on COVID.
  • Planning Our Next Steps – Our Management Team is proactively planning for how to support our research teams through this period. We’re developing protocols for the future when more people can work in our building. We’ve established building use monitoring every day via badge reader reports, thanks to DOR administration, IT, and regional security. Guidance in case a DOR employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 is on our DOR COVID website. We continue to discuss additional approaches for helping keep our employees safe and healthy going forward.

We admire and appreciate all you’re doing to carry on with our research and support others around us. We hope you’re not going stir crazy and are figuring out some new routines! We’re confident that we at DOR have the resilience to adjust to the changes ahead this year.

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - March 30, 2020

Dear DOR colleagues (all),

We support the president’s decision to extend national shelter-in-place orders through April 30. Although none of us likes to be living with so many restrictions, this is the right decision for public health and our country at this point. Here are some updates:

  • KP Regional and East Bay News – Our clinical colleagues are intensely focused on preparing for a predicted surge of patients into our hospitals. The proactive organization and teamwork they’re showing is remarkable. All of us at DOR are invited to the phone-only Town Hall meetings for the East Bay medical centers. These are clinical in nature and are every day Mon – Fri from 5:30-6:00 at 800-935-1518; Steve Sidney tells me he finds them valuable. The connection information and also links to the recordings are on our DOR COVID webpage.

waiting room
Various models exist to predict when the pandemic will peak in different states. One model from the Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggests that California’s peak will be in late April.

In the outpatient setting, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in in-person doctor’s office visits and an increase in telephone and video visits, which Mary Reed’s work has shown that patients value. This photo shows the waiting area for adult and family medicine in our medical offices in Campbell during a workday last week.

One important bright spot is that our Clinical Trials Program has now succeeded in getting our patients access to Phase 3 trials of remdesivir, a medication from Gilead that’s shown promise against COVID-19. The trials are now open in the East Bay and San Francisco, and other medical centers will soon be participating as well. Congratulations to Alan Go, Victor Chen, Phenius Lathon and their team for collaborating with our leaders in infectious disease, pharmacy and our KPNC IRB to reach this important milestone.

  • Communication Plans – You can expect 1-2 emails from us each week with updates throughout April. We anticipate a regional Town Hall on April 1. We’re also planning a DOR Town Hall on April 7 from 12:30-1:30 – please look out for these invitations soon. As always, please visit our DOR COVID website for updates, policies, and links to KP news.
  • Building Access Policy – Thank you for all you’re doing to work remotely and not come into our building. Due to the shelter-in-place orders, we are mandating temporary remote work, and very few employees are being allowed to come in. If you need to come in just to pick up an item(s), please email DORFacilityOps@kp.org in advance. If you need to come in to do work that is time-sensitive and cannot be accomplished outside the building, please discuss this with your manager. Your manager will need to request approval from their Management Team member (associate or infrastructure director) before you’re allowed in. DOR Administration will be sending detailed instructions today.
  • Planning for the Future – As we’re settling into a remote work routine for April, it’s important for all of us to remain vigilant in ensuring research compliance and privacy are maintained even while we’re working at home. Please remember to not take Personal Health Information out of our building. At some future point, possibly in May or later, we’ll be able to loosen restrictions and start letting more people back in our building. Even then, we’ll continue to be vigilant. We’ve developed guidance in case a DOR employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 and may have unintentionally exposed others in our workplace. This is on our DOR COVID website and we’ll continue to refine and update it as we go.

We understand that this has been a disruptive and challenging time for many of our study teams. Our Management Team is actively monitoring NIH and other sponsor news and is developing guidance for our research scientists and managers on paying employees in late April and beyond.

Thank you for all you’ve been doing to adjust and carry on with our important work during this crisis. Our world is changing and our resilience will see us through to the next phase together.

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID exposure guidance - March 26, 2020

Employees who have symptoms should notify their manager promptly, stay home, and seek clinical advice by contacting the KP Appointment and Advice Center at 866-454-8855. 
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, the manager should contact their supervisor and their Management Team member (list below) and coordinate a plan to notify other employees of their possible exposure, while maintaining confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

If there is concern that an employee has been exposed to COVID-19 due to unprotected potential significant exposure to a person with confirmed COVID or a patient-under-investigation for COVID either at work or outside of the KP workplace, the employee’s manager should refer the employee to their physician. The physician should be asked to make an assessment regarding whether they need to be excluded from the workplace or whether other precautions would permit them to continue working.

Employees with additional specific questions should visit the KP coronavirus site for patients and/or call the KP Appointment and Advice Center at 866-454-8855. 

DOR Management Team members

Alyce Adams

Victor Chen

Tom Dang

Assiamira Ferrara

Alan Go

Jamila Gul

Laurel Habel

Tracy Lieu

Richard Navarro

Charles Quesenberry

Constance Weisner

 

COVID-19 update for DOR - March 26, 2020

Yesterday’s news that our local schools will stay closed until May 1 was discouraging, though not surprising. On the bright side, it’s possible that social distancing is working. In California, deaths have been increasing at a lower rate than in New York or Washington, which didn’t adopt shelter-in-place mandates as proactively as our state (see figure). We at DOR are doing our part: our building has been nearly empty this week, as it should be.

covid infection graph

 

We’d like to acknowledge the exceptional efforts you’re making to adapt to this challenging situation. Every team at DOR has adopted new ways of working together virtually. Our research teams have paused patient enrollment activities for virtually all studies that involve in-person interactions, except for clinical trials crucial for patients’ health. Many teams are creatively adopting telephone and online alternatives to working with participants. Our IT group has completed the first phase of providing laptops and mini-desktops to all who need them, and is proactively planning for our future needs. Our administration is making many adjustments to continue supporting managers and employees with the many new issues that have come up. Our employees with young children are heroically trying to work with them underfoot.

This week brought the news that Kaiser Permanente has canceled plans for the Thrive building at 21st and Telegraph. This means that we at DOR and other regional departments will be staying in our current buildings for at least the next few years. I was happy to hear this because we’re currently coping with a great deal of change. In addition, our major incentive for moving – that we’ll soon outgrow our current building – seems potentially addressable with creative approaches going forward.

Many people have asked what they can do to help in the battle against COVID. One simple way would be to donate unused masks or any other unused personal protective equipment you may have at home to our Oakland Medical Center (see attached). Our clinical colleagues are in great need of these supplies.

The unique contribution we at DOR can make against COVID is through research. In recent weeks, our TPMG physicians as well as DOR researchers have generated many COVID research ideas. We’ve also been inundated with inquiries from government agencies and universities seeking our collaboration. We’ve had to quickly devise an approach to evaluating these ideas and figuring out which ones to address first.

With Irene Chen’s endorsement, we’ve formed a regional COVID Clinical Research Coordinating Group that will develop a TPMG agenda for COVID research, appraise and prioritize ideas, and facilitate communication and collaboration among TPMG physicians, researchers, and external groups. The co-chairs of this group are Gabriel Escobar, Nicky Klein, and Jacek Skarbinski (infectious disease specialist in Oakland and DOR adjunct investigator). Other members are Doug Corley, Alan Go, Vinnie Liu, Mike Silverberg, and me. This group will work in concert with our DOR Scientific Leadership Council. This is a terrific group with representation from predictive analytics, clinical trials, and delivery science – our strongest areas in clinically oriented research. I look forward to working with them to help support and guide all of our researchers in developing high-impact studies to fight COVID.

Finally, thank you for all you’ve been doing to stay out of our building. During the shelter-in-place order, no one should be coming in unless absolutely necessary and unless they’ve sought and received approval from their manager and the appropriate DOR Management Team member (scientific associate director or infrastructure group director). Our Management Team has been busy, and is proactively planning for a future point in time when restrictions are loosened and we gradually start to allow some types of employees to return to work in our building. We’ll write to you with more detail on this as our plans firm up and the local and regional situation unfolds. Please keep using our DOR COVID website to keep up with the latest guidance and for useful news and reference information.

Answer to the question in Monday’s Update on COVID-19: The pantry in the photo belongs to Assia Ferrara. It provides evidence to support the observation that she’s especially fond of orecchiette!

Best regards,
Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - March 23, 2020

A week ago, we wrote you to ask that all employees who were able to work remotely avoid coming to the office unless absolutely necessary. Since then, our state’s governor has issued a shelter-in-place order with no specified end date.

The changes in our lives feel both surreal and all too real. For those of us with young children, it may mean trying to work with them underfoot – and I very much empathize, even though our own kids are now in their 20s. For those with no one else at home, and even for those of us with others at home, it means the social interactions we had in person at work have been suddenly curtailed.

Here are a few ways we plan to help you keep in touch during this period:

• Our Project Coordinator Advisory Group will be sending us Tips for Working Virtually each Tuesday. Thank you to Alexandra Anderson, Cecilia Doan, and Christina Grijalva, who’ve volunteered to lead this effort. Our wonderful PC Advisory Group is chaired by Janise Roh and also includes Kristin Goddard, Julia McDonald, and Nicole Varnado.

• Our DOR Community Forum, led by Steve Sidney and Nicole Varnado, will continue to organize activities that support connectedness and wellness for all of us. The Forum enriches our department through the efforts of many involved, including Debbie Jacobs, Cathy Chou, Laura Amsden, Are Gjellan, Rebecca Kucera, Liam O’Suilleabhain, Melissa Williams, Melissa Nelson, Raquel Guyadeen-Maloof, Noelle Liao, Hilda Cerros, Cimone Parker, Sam Savitz, and Lisa Powell. They’re already exploring new ways to keep building our community virtually and are open to your ideas. pantry

• We’ll be emailing you with DOR Leadership Updates like this one at least every few days in the coming weeks. For insightful commentary and news on what’s going on with the pandemic within KPNC as well as nationally, check out this JAMA video interview with TPMG Associate Executive Director Steve Parodi with JAMA editor Howard Bauchner. Thank you to Steve Sidney for pointing us to it.

On a related note, we’re working with the DOR Management Team to formulate guidance for employees whose roles make it absolutely necessary to come into the office. For now, please do not come in unless it’s unavoidable. We’ll be back in touch with more guidance soon.

The question of the day at our Management Team COVID huddle this morning was “Have you stocked your pantry for COVID?” See if you can guess whose pantry is pictured here! We’ll give you the answer when we next write.

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - March 19, 2020

Thank you to the many of you who participated in yesterday’s Town Hall meeting. It was reassuring to see how many of you were able to join us virtually via WebEx. I’d like to acknowledge our Town Hall “producer” Georgina Berrios, who tested several ways of setting this up. (I’m sorry we couldn’t find a reliable enough dial-in option for those without computers. We’ll keep trying for next time.) We’re all learning a great deal about technology these days!

The Town Hall slides are on our DOR COVID website (click for the link).

Many of our teams are working especially hard to adjust their processes and support others. Today I’d like to especially acknowledge our IT team members who’ve been working especially hard to deploy laptops and other equipment to our employees who need it. Christine Moreno, who manages our IT user support team and reports to Richard Navarro, led this effort and obtained all the necessary equipment. I’m very grateful for the expertise and dedication of our IT team members, who’ve been working with her, including Mark Fuentes, David Kramlich, Sinh Lo, Alex Lat and John Shaffer. It seems like a small miracle that we’re nearly done setting up everyone who needs remote access.

For those who like the “flattening the curve” visual, our Associate Director for Health Care Delivery and Policy Alyce Adams shared the below pic sent by her collaborator Connie Trinacty from KP Hawaii.

I really appreciate your flexibility and resilience as we adapt our work processes to the current state of affairs. Our DOR Management Team (scientific associate directors and infrastructure directors) continues to meet daily or every other day to monitor the situation and make recommendations. We’ll be back with updates soon.

curve


Best regards,

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH
Director, Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


DOR Town Hall slides (March 18)


COVID-19 update for DOR - March 16, 2020

Our world is changing in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. We at DOR will be changing as well. DOR’s Management Team and I have been conferring over the weekend and I’ve been in touch with other leaders within KP to obtain guidance and share information.

Below are our updated recommendations for DOR managers and employees. Please also see our DOR COVID website for helpful items and ongoing updates.

  1. Work protocols -- Managers should continue making arrangements to enable employees whose roles permit it to work remotely. All employees who are able to work remotely should avoid coming to the office where possible. This applies from today until April 1, 2020. We’ll send updated recommendations before April 1. KP Northern California has just issued the attached FAQs on Temporary Remote Work -- please read this helpful guidance.
  1. Remote access to IT -- See Richard Navarro’s email from 3/15/20 at 1:26 pm. Employees who need a laptop, desktop, or KP-issued phone to work remotely and have their manager’s approval should complete the survey indicated in his email by Tuesday at 10 am. We may have equipment shortages, so we will be reviewing the list centrally Tuesday afternoon in order to prioritize.

Please see the Tips for Remote Access on our DOR COVID website. You may be able to work remotely without KP-issued equipment, at least temporarily, if you can use Outlook, Office 365 applications and OneDrive and don’t need direct access to DOR network drives. Employees who need remote access should request it in KP Identity Manager, and their manager needs to approve once notified via email. Turnaround Is currently taking about 24 hours and may vary depending on the volume of requests.   

  1. Attendance tracking – The DOR Management Team is discussing how to best keep track of who’s in our building which days. We’ll send more guidance on this soon.
  1. In case of an exposure -- Employees who experience symptoms (cough, fever, or shortness of breath) should notify their managers immediately, seek medical advice (usually from the KP Appointment and Advice Call Center or via a telephone visit), and stay home to avoid exposing others. Managers who are notified about a COVID-positive or symptomatic employee should contact their scientific associate director or infrastructure group director.
  1. HR advice on time off, school and day care closures, and pay policies -- Our website has helpful documents about these topics. If you have questions, please review these first. Our HR team is glad to assist, but is also very busy at present. We’re aware that the existing documents don’t address all key questions. We’ll gather the most common questions, figure out the answers, and send a FAQ to assist you in the near future. 

This period of social distancing, including using virtual interactions wherever possible in our workplace, could last for several weeks or several months. As context, KPNC outpatient clinics are currently shifting to increase services via telephone and video visits where possible, in order to protect patients from having to visit in person. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully and share updates frequently. Please feel free to contact your supervisor or email either of us with questions.

Thank you for hanging in there. We’ll all make it through this together.

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - March 12, 2020

Dear DOR employees (all),

The DOR Management Team and I met this morning to make plans in light of the increased COVID-19 concerns throughout the country. This team consists of our scientific associate directors and our infrastructure directors (Administration, IT, Strategic Programming, and Clinical Trials).

We are actively monitoring the situation and working with others within TPMG and KFH to determine the best ways to protect our employees and research participants, while continuing to support our work. My boss Irene Chen, the TPMG associate executive director for quality and research, gives me frequent updates, and I get news from the KP East Bay leadership as a member of the East Bay chiefs’ group. As a pediatrician, I also get daily updates from my clinical chief. We are in well the loop about current regional, local, and national developments. 

Our country is now shifting from a strategy of containment (find and try to isolate cases) to one of mitigation (slow down the spread of the virus). The new school closures and social distancing measures we’re seeing are mitigation measures. It may be inevitable that many of us will be exposed to, or contract, the virus during the foreseeable future. However, the concern is that if COVID-19 spreads too rapidly, the number of cases can overwhelm our hospitals and health care system. We need to implement approaches to reduce our risk, as expediently as possible, and slow the spread of the virus down.

Here are our updated recommendations:

  • Working from home -- Managers should enable employees whose role makes it possible for them to work from home to do this. Employees at high risk as defined by CDC guidelines should be encouraged to work from home where possible.
  • Remote access to IT systems -- Our IT director Richard Navarro and his team have been proactively making plans to help more of our employees obtain remote access where needed. Please see Richard’s email from yesterday (March 11) at 10:15 am for tips on working remotely. You can access Outlook Mail and Office 365 applications without having a KP-issued laptop. Our IT team is managing a limited number of available laptops and we face delays in receiving more, so I’ll appreciate your understanding as we work on this. For employees who need to request equipment in order to work from home, we plan to formulate and send a DOR-wide survey to identify you on Monday.
  • Potential exposures -- If you’re concerned that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, notify your manager before returning to work. Your manager will ask you to seek medical advice. Managers should report and confer with their supervisors regarding any cases of potential exposures so that we can monitor and respond appropriately if these situations occur.
  • Additional measures -- For DOR, we’re taking several active measures to prepare for the probability that disease incidence increases in our local area and leads to more disruption in work processes. These include:
    • Developing a webpage to hold news and announcements (anticipated in 1-2 days)
    • Establishing firmer business continuity plans in IT and administration
    • Reviewing our organization’s HR policies and workflows
    • Converting group meetings to virtual where possible, and canceling events that could increase risk

Thank you for your continuing contributions to our work and our organization in this time of rapid changes. We’ll continue to share updates every day or two. If you have questions, please talk with your supervisor or send either of us an email.

Best regards,

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California


COVID-19 update for DOR - March 10, 2020

Dear DOR employees (all),

You may have heard that the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland yesterday. Our clinical leaders in the East Bay have been closely following the status of the situation. Our Oakland and San Leandro medical centers don’t expect to receive a high number of passengers from the ship, since other Bay Area hospitals are also preparing to receive them. Kaiser Permanente is working closely with public health authorities to manage the process.

Our medical center staff are prepared to provide any needed care for these and other COVID-exposed patients. As context, nearly all KP regions are already treating patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Here at DOR, we’re seeing that many research conferences planned for this spring are being canceled, including the SAS Global Forum normally held in late March. I met yesterday with our scientific and infrastructure leaders and we developed this updated guidance for our employees:

  • Travel for work: For the next 30 days, please cancel any plans to travel beyond Northern California for work. This is due to the increasing incidence of COVID-19 and our perception that it’s very uncommon for any single research meeting to be business-critical. If you feel your case warrants an exception, please email me for review and determination.

In addition, we recommend you reconsider participating in large in-person meetings, even within Northern California.

  • Personal travel: Please follow the precautions in the CDC guidelines.
  • Potential exposure cases: If you’re concerned that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 outside the workplace, notify your manager before returning to work. Your manager will ask you to seek medical advice, with the first line being our regional Appointments and Advice Call Center.

Other useful information is available on the KP national program office’s Employee Resource Page.

I appreciate your continuing contributions to our research, even as we all face the global uncertainty introduced by this new virus. We’ll continue to share regular updates with you. In the meantime, if you have questions, please talk with your manager or send either of us an email.

Best regards,

Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH, and Tom Dang, MBA, MSE
Director and Managing Director
Division of Research
Kaiser Permanente Northern California