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Upstate Medical University consults with Wuhan, China doctors on handling COVID-19 pandemic

By Eric Reinhardt (


Doctors in Wuhan, China speak with medical professionals from Upstate Medical University via videoconferencing on Saturday, March 28. (Photo provided by Upstate Medical University)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University on Saturday facilitated a video conference call with a team of doctors and hospital administrators in Wuhan, China “to share common experiences and best practices.”

Wuhan, China is where the coronavirus was first detected in the global coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Lawrence Chin, dean of the Upstate College of Medicine, worked with neurosurgery professor Li-Ru Zhao to arrange the call. Zhao has colleagues in Wuhan, Upstate said.

They used Project ECHO, a national telehealth teleconferencing network, to coordinate the 90-minute call between Upstate and Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Tongji Medical College, Union Hospital in Wuhan.

“We thought it would be really helpful to have the perspective and experience of doctors that have been dealing with this the longest,” Chin said.

The 90-minute call happened at 7:30 a.m. Syracuse time, which was 7:30 p.m. in Wuhan. Six clinical experts were on the call from Wuhan and more than 90 medical professionals — the vast majority from Upstate — participated from around the state.

Those on the call shared information about early identification and diagnosis; radiological exams; experimental drug use; hormone therapy; immune modulation; plasma exchange therapy; ECMO treatment; and anesthesia management. Chin said both sides discussed “at length” best practices in protecting hospital staff from the virus.

“It validated many of the things that we’re doing at Upstate in terms of proper protocols: isolating patients, protecting the staff and protecting the patients,” he said. “So I think that was good to know that the things we’re doing here were effective there.”

COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan late last year and the city and surrounding provinces were locked down for more than two months, affecting 58 million people. The doctors on the call from Wuhan have “extensive experience” treating coronavirus, Chin noted.

“They emphasized the fact that social distancing is a very effective way of mitigating the spread of the virus,” Chin said. “The other thing that we’re learning and was also confirmed by our colleagues is that it can be spread by people who are asymptomatic.”

The doctors agreed to continue to share information about the ongoing pandemic and a future Project ECHO session between Upstate Medical University and doctors in Wuhan could happen again in the near future, Chin said.

The videoconference call was conducted primarily in English with some Mandarin translation provided by second-year Upstate anesthesia resident Qi Yang, Upstate said.