At the beginning of March, Dr. Konstantinos Economopoulos realized life was about to change.
The novel coronavirus, originally identified in December 2019, had infected hundreds of thousands of people across the world, and the World Health Organization declared the growing pandemic a global health emergency. Classes at Duke were moved online, and surgical residents in their research years at Duke University Medical Center, like Economopoulos, were instructed to return as clinical residents to pitch in with surgeries for the growing wave of patients.
The coronavirus pandemic not only brought changes to daily life, but a slew of unique problems for physicians and other health care workers to deal with.
“Across the country, we were seeing reports about shortages of personal protective equipment, like masks, face-shields, gowns, and we had to change our behaviors to reduce certain risk factors,” says Economopoulos. “We had to limit the amount of time we spent in patients’ rooms. We also had to delay procedures and delay regular patient check-ins to ensure that both health care workers and their patients stayed safe.”
As a physician, Economopoulos saw the challenges firsthand. But as a Design Health Fellow and master’s student in Duke Biomedical Engineering, he could also work with colleagues on the newly assembled Engineering Response Team to begin developing solutions to pressing clinical needs emerging during the pandemic.