As an Assistant Professor of Medicine – Infectious Disease at Temple University Hospital, Brionna Kifer Matt ’09, D.O., expected to find herself treating COVID-19 patients in the hospital that would become the treatment epicenter of Philadelphia. What she didn’t expect was that she would quickly be enlisted as one of the teaching hospital’s key designated resident experts for the duration of the outbreak.
Her title: COVID Czar.
Matt, who majored in psychology and minored in neuroscience at W&J, says she and seven other hospital physicians, along with six training fellows, were recruited for what became a rather Herculean role that put her and her fellow czars on call “24/7 to answer any and all questions about COVID,” she says of their sometimes weeks-long rotational shifts.
“Obviously, at the beginning of the pandemic, Temple University Hospital was getting hit pretty hard,” she says of the volume of COVID-related hospitalizations as the Philadelphia area became of pandemic hotspot. “We had the largest number of hospitalized COVID patients in the city.”
The biggest challenge, especially during the early days of the pandemic, Matt says, was the “overwhelming” amount of information – not all of it true or accurate – being shared by the media and other external sources, which the Czar team then had to sort and filter to support the hospital’s treatment efforts.
“It was a heavy weight to bear,” she says of her team’s efforts to keep colleagues informed – and safe.
“It was always tricky, with information coming at you so fast and determining what is true and what is not. In the beginning, we had many, many phone calls asking how to care for these patients,” Matt says. “We had a lot of trust among our colleagues. I think it was really great.”
So how did Matt handle the role of COVID Czar while continuing her clinical role of teaching medical residents and fellows? “It was stressful, definitely, and overwhelming,” she says. “There’s so much we don’t know. It felt like we had been doing this forever, but it had only been a few months.”
Says Matt of the Czar team’s efforts, “I’m really proud of the work Temple did from the very beginning.”