Cochlear Center and COVID-19

Author: Frank Lin, MD, PhD, Director of the Cochlear Center

 

It’s only April, but it feels like 2020 has already brought a year’s worth of challenges and changes as the world navigates the upheaval created by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Here at the Cochlear Center, we are following the directives of Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg School of Public Health leadership to protect our faculty, staff, students, and research participants from COVID-19 We are practicing social distancing and adhering to the current stay-at-home order issued by the state of Maryland.

Here at the Cochlear Center, we are following the directives of Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg School of Public Health leadership to protect our faculty, staff, students, and research participants from COVID-19

COVID-19 is profoundly re-shaping perceptions, priorities, and the types of interactions we value. It has prompted many organizations, including ours, to reconsider how they work.

 

We quickly ramped up how we use technology to stay in contact with each other and function as a center together. In the past, I’ve personally been slow to adopt some technology platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom videoconferencing (rather than an audio-only teleconference), but needless to say, I’m an avid convert now and am never going back. So although the team is working remotely, with these platforms, much of our work will continue uninterrupted.

In the past, I’ve personally been slow to adopt some technology platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom videoconferencing (rather than an audio-only teleconference), but needless to say, I’m an avid convert now and am never going back.

Some things will be different for the Cochlear Center until the worst of the crisis has passed. We have paused the direct, face-to-face elements of our ongoing research projects, particularly the ACHIEVE and HEARS clinical trials, in lieu of telephone calls for data collection. Fortunately, both trials are now well past the recruitment phase and are at a good stage to weather a pause in face-to-face visits. All didactic courses and seminars have been moved online, including our one-week course in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Summer Institute. And all nonessential university-sponsored travel (both international and domestic) is suspended.

 

While we endure this together (but separately!), we are also looking ahead and asking ourselves: how can we use this fresh momentum around embracing technology and work to expand our reach to more students and clinicians?

We see this crisis as a pivot point for using technology to scale up our programs and potentially offer access to even more participants.

We see this crisis as a pivot point for using technology to scale up our programs and potentially offer access to even more participants. Here’s an example: until now our Summer Fellows Program in Aging, Hearing, and Public Health was conducted in person. By developing an online format for this year’s Latin American Fellows Program in collaboration with SPH’s Center for Teaching and Learning, we will be able to use that platform later to expand our international training programs to a mix of both online and in-person training with just 1-3 faculty members traveling to the host country (rather than having 35 fellows having to travel from around the world to Baltimore!). Student instruction will continue as well: technology will enable us to remotely offer our one-week course in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Summer Institute, and our Center’s journal clubs, seminars, and mentoring meetings have all moved to Zoom videoconferences and Microsoft Teams.

 

This is the only center in the world focused on the topic of hearing loss in older adults and public health. Our successes come when we apply steady attention and resources to our work, over time. We know that meeting our challenges will take creativity and flexibility, and we are excited to consider how we use technology to expand the scale of our programs and offer access to an even larger number of participants.

We know that meeting our challenges will take creativity and flexibility, and we are excited to consider how we use technology to expand the scale of our programs and offer access to an even larger number of participants.

Everyone is managing a lot of uncertainty during this pandemic. But we look forward to withstanding this crisis and creating more opportunities for current and future trainees to launch their careers at the intersection of aging, hearing, and public health. Until then, we will follow the CDC, state, and local guidelines for social distancing and health protection, and I hope you too will prioritize health and safety for yourself and those around you.

 

Take care.