Second COVID-19 Symposium: Well Done and Much Appreciated

May 15, 2020

Second COVID-19 Symposium: Well Done and Much Appreciated

May 15, 2020

“Thanks you so much for today, and to all of your panelists. The citizens of our area are truly lucky for your hard work in your preparation for this informational webinar.  The public needs more of these types of forums for the detail education that this provided on COVID-19.”

That was one of the unsolicited comments praising the second COVID-19 Symposium organized and moderated by UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal.

If you missed the symposium, held May 14, not to worry. It's online at Offering up-to-date information from physicians and scientists on the front lines,  the symposium to date has drawn more than 2000 viewers from 10 countries: United States, UK, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Peru, and Slovakia. 

UC Systemwide President Janet Napolitano, introduced by UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, delivered the welcoming address, noting that UC Davis and UC Davis Health are meeting the challenges. 

Four panelists presented information and answered questions:

Brashear related that UC Davis has 24 active COVID-19 studies and is pursuing possible treatments on many fronts, including plasma transfusions from blood donors who recovered from COVID-19 used in an effort to boost another patient's ability to neutralize the virus.

Others participating included Dr. Jane Sykes, professor of small animal internal medicine (infectious diseases emphasis) and chief veterinary medical officer, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; and Dr. James M. Hotaling, associate professor, Department of Urology, School of Medicine, University of Utah.

Viewers, including Steve Robinson, former NASA astronaut-turned UC Davis professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, asked a number of questions. Lubarsky cautioned against opening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. “It is cavalier to simply open elementary schools without understanding this," he said. "We can't assume that because they may be asymptomatic and relatively less affected that they aren't less contagious."

Sykes said that although dogs and cas can get the virus, there "is still absolutely no evidence" that they can "transmit infections back to people."

Then came the surprise guest.

Professor Leal earlier indicated earlier that a special guest would probably bring the viewers to tears. 

He did.

Dr. Anoop Maheshwari, pulmonary and critical care specialist in Riverside, chronicled how he turned from doctor to patient; from helping patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and then himself being diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease and nearly losing his life.

He suspects he may have contracted the virus in early April from a former healthy 35-year-old who entered the emergency room with a cough and congestion, and who wound up in ICU 12 hours later on a respirator.

The doctor remembers the onset well. He recalled feeling so tired after one of his regular 12-14 hour work days that he took an uncustomary nap at the hospital. Over the next two days, fatigue gripped him; he was sleeping 18 to 20 hours a day and had no appetite.

He wound up in the ICU, diagnosed with COVID-19.

"It was quite worrisome," Dr. Maheshwari told the symposium viewers. "I knew what was coming up next, which was intubation and you know the survival of intubation is very low with COVID-19 pneumonia. So that night was very, very emotional and very difficult. I talked with my family by video-conference and, you know, said my goodbyes. It was very difficult talking to the children, talking to my wife, mother, sister, father, everyone. It was an experience that I hope no one has to go through."

He told critical care specialist and longtime friend Dr. Adarsh Sharma that he wasn't going to make it. "He knew what I was talking about, and you know, he had the same intuition that I was not going to make it. And we're very close friends. He had tears in his eyes and you know, he just told me that I have to fight; I have no choice, I have to fight. You cannot give up on me.

Dr. Maheshwari credits the drug Remdesivir (then in clinical trials at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach), and the team of physicians and other healthcare workers, with saving his life. 

"On Monday, April 28, all the doctors said that you're good to go home."

Sad Leal: "It's a powerful story. COVID-19 is a very serious disease."  

Leal, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, a member of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology faculty and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, hosted the two COVID-19 symposiums as a public service. The first symposium spotlighted the cutting-edge expertise of physicians, researchers, and a recovering COVID-19 patient.  It is online at  "You are our heroes," one viewer wrote.

The second symposium prompted a viewer to say: "It was a great symposium--the personal story of the frontline physician was incredible.”

Added another viewer: "Well, what an amazing finale and yes, we are taking it seriously, especially those of us older office workers.  What a story of your life and death experience.  Amazing presentation!"

"Congratulations on today's new webinar," another viewer commented. "It was excellent again. I look forward to the next one."