WVSOM COVID-19 Update - Message from the President

Updated 5/7/2020 10:15AM

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope you and your families are well.  I appreciate all your hard work, cooperation and understanding as we move forward during these challenging times.  I want to update you on a number of important items.

Reopening of the WVSOM Campus:  This is a complex and challenging process.  My administrative staff is putting together a comprehensive reopening plan that will include directives for both employees and students.  We anticipate testing, following safety protocols (mask wearing in public areas, good hygiene and social distancing practices, and not meeting in groups larger than ten at this time, etc.), cleaning of facilities, monitoring, quarantining when necessary and tracking if an outbreak occurs. A detailed reopening plan with directives will be released soon.

Please note that I do not anticipate the campus reopening to employees until June.  Employees who have essential duties or those who cannot work from home will continue to be allowed to work on campus.  Those employees who are able to work from home are encouraged to continue to work from home until further notice as directed by the Governor’s “Safer at Home” order; you may come on campus to obtain office items as needed. Also, some employees may be asked to come onto campus to help get ready for the reopening. GTAs will be allowed on campus only for essential work-related responsibilities. The campus will not be open to students unless approved by Administration.  Leave options are still available for those who are not able to work; please contact your supervisor and HR to discuss if needed.

The Founder’s Gym and O’Café will remain closed, we will notify you when they reopen.  The campus will remain closed to the Public and only employees and approved students are to be on campus.

Travel continues to be restricted, especially for out-of-state travel.  I encourage everyone to continue to use audio and video conferencing to conduct business until further notice. I want to commend the IT and Media Services departments for keeping us connected!

Institutional Strategic Plan:  Just before the coronavirus pandemic started to impact us, the WVSOM BOG passed our new Institutional Strategic Plan at the March board meeting.  I have attached the plan to this message so that everyone will become familiar with the direction the institution will be taking in the coming years.  Dr. Ed Bridges will be reaching out to departments/offices to develop their departmental strategic plan based on the institutional plan.  I look forward to continuing to move the institution forward together!

In closing, I hope you and your families continue to be safe.  It is critical during this reopening phase that we are even more vigilant to practice accepted safety measures so that we can all be as safe as possible.

Take care and be well!

Thank you,

Jim Nemitz, Ph.D.
President


Updated 4/2/2020 12:15PM

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

As you know the Spring Awards Ceremony scheduled for April 2 is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Spring Awards is a very special event recognizing our medical students for their academic and community achievements through scholarships and employees for their commitment to educate our future physicians. Even though our gathering has been canceled, we are working on and will be producing a virtual awards ceremony to acknowledge the award recipients and our donors. We will be broadcasting the ceremony live so you can view it online and we will also have it recorded so that it can be placed on our website to be shared with family and friends after the ceremony. We have a number of departments, as well as the SGA, working remotely to put this event together which will be announced later this month.  I want to thank everyone’s efforts to make this event special and I appreciate everyone’s understanding during these unprecedented and challenging times.

In closing, I have seen faculty, staff and students come together to make incredible changes in a very short amount of time. I have seen departments working together as never before, and I have seen more appreciation of colleagues and communication.  Let’s continue to keep up each other’s spirits, let’s continue to reach out to each other to make sure we are all okay and let’s focus on the positives in spite of the difficulties we are currently facing.

I am so proud of ALL of you! 

Take care and be safe!

Jim Nemitz, Ph.D.


Updated 3/25/2020 2:09PM

Dear Community Members,

I want to provide you with an update on what WVSOM is doing regarding the COVID-19 crisis.  

WVSOM is abiding by the Governor’s Stay At Home Order.  The following actions have been taken:

  • All WVSOM students have been told to Stay at Home.  Students who have left the Lewisburg area for Spring Break have been told NOT to return to campus at this time and to stay where they are.  All on-campus classes and labs have been suspended for the remainder of the semester.  A modified curriculum will be delivered electronically so students can complete the school year in their home locations. Please note that over a hundred students decided not to go away for Spring Break and are therefore in the community; these students have been told to Stay at Home to continue their studies.
  • Students will NOT be allowed on campus and will NOT have access to facilities unless they have been given permission in order to continue their studies, ex. poor internet signal at home.
  • All WVSOM employees have been told to Stay at Home unless they have an essential responsibility that requires them to be on campus in order for the school to remain operational to deliver the curriculum on-line and other critical functions.  All employees who are sick and/or have family members who are sick or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus have been told to Stay at Home.  The WVSOM O’Café and Founders’ Activity Center (gym) are closed to employees and students at this time.
  • The WVSOM campus facilities are closed to the public at this time. 

The safety of our community and our students are of paramount concern.  We are doing everything we can at WVSOM to keep our community safe during this national crisis.  I will continue to keep you updated as things change.  I encourage you to visit our coronavirus webpage at http://www.wvsom.edu/news/coronavirus 

In closing, I am asking everyone to do their part and follow the Governor’s directive to Stay At Home to protect yourself and others.  Only go to public places if you are well and minimize the amount of time you are in those places, such as grocery stores.  I am also asking you to adhere to CDC guidelines and practice good hygiene, including regular hand washing and social distancing.  Let’s keep ourselves and our community safe!

Take care and be safe!

Jim Nemitz, Ph.D.  
WVSOM President


Updated 3/18/2020

Dear Community Members,

I want you to know what WVSOM is doing to safeguard our students, employees and the community at large in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.  I along with my staff have been monitoring and making decisions daily regarding how to keep everyone safe during this crisis.  We are following specific guidelines provided to higher education institutions provided by the CDC, our Governor, the West Virginia Higher Education Commission, the Greenbrier County Health Department and our accrediting bodies.  Please note that the guidance being given to higher education institutions differs from the messaging to the general public.   

Governor Justice has provided the following directives today, March 18, to West Virginia Higher Education Institutions:

At this time Higher Education operations should remain open to meet the needs of students. 
Non-essential employees should be working from home as needed. 
Essential employees are needed on campus to keep the institution operational and should follow CDC guidelines including social distancing, good hygiene, deep cleaning, and no more than ten (10) people are to congregate at any time, including at work, for the next 15 days.

WVSOM is adhering to these directives and have informed our employees and students.  Please visit our website to keep updated on changes at WVSOM at www.wvsom.edu/news/coronavirus

Spring Break for our first and second year students is scheduled to begin on Friday, March 20.

We will be providing specific directives to our students regarding what to do if and when they return from Spring Break to keep everyone safe.  While we have not made the decision at this time to ask them not to return, we will continue to monitor this very fluid situation and make decisions as appropriate to keep our community safe while helping our students complete their academic year.  If and when students are allowed to return, the plan will include self-quarantining and self-monitoring for at least two weeks. Also note that we are surveying our students to determine where they are traveling during their break to identify students who will be visiting hot spots.  Many of our students have already made the decision not to travel during Spring Break and will remain in the area.

I recognize this is a difficult and fearful time for our community and our nation.  Please know that I have lived in this community that I love for almost 40 years, that my daughter and her family live in Lewisburg and that I have other family and many friends who I deeply care about. I also have a responsibility to my students, and please know that they share your concerns of unduly exposing the community to the virus. I will keep the community updated as WVSOM makes decisions during this health crisis.

In closing, I appreciate your continued support, patience, and understanding as WVSOM addresses the concerns of the community regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Sincerely,

Jim Nemitz, Ph.D.

WVSOM President


Updated 3/18/20

WVSOM Faculty & Staff –

In light of the ongoing situation with the novel Coronavirus, additional guidance has been provided by Governor Justice specifically for Higher Education Institutions in West Virginia.  The Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) has been working with the Governor’s Office and the Presidents at each institution on a regular and ongoing basis.  I have been working with the Vice Presidents daily to address the needs of employees and students.  I appreciate your continued patience, understanding and cooperation as we make decisions affecting our institution.

Governor Justice has provided the following directives to WV Institutions of Higher Education:

At this time Higher Education operations should remain open to meet the needs of students. 
Non-essential employees should be working from home as needed. 
Essential employees are needed on campus to keep the institution operational and should follow CDC guidelines including social distancing, good hygiene, deep cleaning, and no more than ten (10) people should congregate at any time including at work for the next 15 days.  We need everyone’s help to maintain the 10 person rule until it is lifted.

We are providing specific guidance for our employees below.  Students are being informed through communication from their appropriate Associate Deans.

Before I go into the details, please know that we are entering this crisis from a position of strength –

We are a community of health care providers and educators that are accustomed to addressing healthcare issues and determining how to deliver quality education under a variety of conditions. Every employee at WVSOM is focused on doing their job to the best of their ability under these extraordinary circumstances. 
Our students, faculty and staff are digital natives and can quickly and effectively respond to these altered learning and work conditions. Plus, we have a robust IT infrastructure that includes knowledgeable IT personnel and resources to support these changes. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has approved our request to use online learning for the delivery of the curriculum. AOA COCA has allowed colleges of osteopathic medicine to modify their curricula to on-line experiences, including third and fourth year rotations.
The majority of our faculty and staff are located in their own offices and can easily minimize or change how they are working together. 
Those tasked with cleaning our campus are working hard and are committed to maintaining a clean and safe environment.  
WVSOM is fortunate to have the resources needed to respond to this pandemic – we have the people, financial stability, and passion to find solutions regardless of the obstacles. 

The goals are to keep employees and students safe, to continue to deliver the curriculum so that students can stay on track and to keep the campus open to enable employees to be paid who cannot work at home.

I greatly appreciate the efforts of Dr. Boisvert, Dr. Russ, Dr. Pepper, our SWC Assistant Deans, faculty and staff to take care of the needs of our students. I also greatly appreciate the work of Leslie Bicksler, Larry Ware, Dr. Ed Bridges, Dr. Mace, Marilea Butcher, Jeffrey Shawver and their respective employees for their efforts to keep WVSOM operational during these challenging times.

As this situation evolves, additional precautions at this time makes sense. We are undertaking the following changes to continue our educational mission:

Effective immediately, the WVSOM Founder’s Gym will be closed. 
WVSOM Bookstore and Café will be moving to card payment.  Cash payments are no longer being accepted as of March 19th.
Effective March 20th at 4:30 PM all doors will be accessed only by a WVSOM prox card, including during business hours.  Employees should be sure to have their prox cards on them to access buildings after this time.  If you do not have a prox card or if your prox card needs to be reprogrammed, contact your supervisor.   
The Dean is working with his Associate Deans and Faculty and will continue to provide updates to our students as changes are made to the curriculum and curricular schedule.  Continue to visit the COVID-19 webpage for updates.
Student study space will remain open including the Library.  Everyone is to continue to follow the directive from the Governor that no more than 10 people are to congregate at a time and to follow all other social distancing guidelines.
No decision has been made regarding Commencement.  I anticipate that a decision will be made sometime in April.
The BOG meeting scheduled for this Friday, March 20, starting at 10:00 am will occur; finance committee will meet at 9:00 am.  Board members will be participating via video conferencing; employees are encouraged to listen to the BOG meeting via the audio link provided by my office.  The meeting agenda will include the budget which contains a 2% increase for employees, review of our mission statement for accreditation purposes, institutional strategic plan and the President’s evaluation.

WVSOM will remain open and operational at this time until directed otherwise by the Governor and WV HEPC.  Please note that the guidance being given to higher education institutions differs from the messaging to the general public.   

Any employee who feels that they need to work at home, regardless of the reason, high risk, child care, quarantined must request to work from home through their supervisor.  HR is managing these requests to ensure that employees have the necessary devices, job tasks and parameters to achieve this goal.  Further specific guidance is below:

Approved non-essential employees can work at home, must be approved and monitored by supervisor, written report of activities will be required – supervisors are to inform their VP and HR. 
Essential employees will work on campus as needed to keep the campus open and functional unless they can do their job remotely and have been approved.
Employees who cannot work at home will be allowed to work on campus, ie. blue crew, they cannot congregate in groups larger than 10 and they will follow social distancing guidelines
Employees who are able to work at home, but choose to work on campus will be allowed, they cannot congregate in groups larger than 10 and they will follow social distancing guidelines

Also note that our students will continue to be allowed on campus to study and for other academic activities as needed.  The campus will be closed to the general public.

We are committed to working with each of you to address the extraordinary and unique circumstances that are evolving from this pandemic. We will do our best to keep you safe as we work together to keep our campus open and to continue to deliver the curriculum to our students. Please continue to let us know your questions, concerns and solutions as we move forward together.

I very much appreciate your patience, understanding and cooperation as we continue to address the needs of our students and employees during this public health crisis. 

Sincerely,

Jim

James W. Nemitz, Ph.D.

President

Date Added: 
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
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