The Lauder Institute’s COVID-19 Response

The Lauder Institute recognizes that this is a deeply uncertain time for many in the Lauder community. We send best wishes to everyone who has been affected by the pandemic. In light of the recent events, the Lauder alumni community has banded together to create, an effort to support students with project opportunities and webinars for the students and alumni. Additionally, alumni on the front lines of fighting the pandemic are featured below.

Lauder Alumni at the Front Lines

Matthew Axelrod, G'11, WG'11

VP, Strategic Growth, Phosphorus

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Phosphorus is a genetics company with a high complexity laboratory. When COVID-19 hit, the company knew they could make a difference (and also keep the staff employed), by building a COVID-19 test. They took a novel approach by immediately building a test with an at-home collection device, and did so by designing a clinical trial to compare the test to other tests taken by actual patients, rather than an “analytical trial” where tests are validated against its ability to identify COVID-19 in a test tube (which is why some validated tests are failing in the clinical setting). It has taken a few weeks longer, but now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking other labs to follow this approach. Matthew shares that he is confident that the test is accurate and safe to administer. They are working with healthcare organizations to deploy the test and with research organizations to discover novel ways of testing at scale. Phosporus received FDA approval for their at home saliva test on June 8, 2020.

Contact Matthew here if you’d like to learn more.

Christine Harada, G’03 WG’03

President, i(x) investments

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At the outset of the Covid-19 crisis, a former Obama administration colleague reached out to recruit Christine Harada’s help to procure personal protective equipment for Los Angeles County. Christine Harada is President of i(x) investments. Her 20+ years of success in leading government and management consulting organizations, include a chapter as Chief Sustainability Officer for the United States. Connections through Christine’s current work enabled her to coordinate transport and funding for PPE very quickly, but procurement of the PPE itself proved to be quite challenging. Christine turned to Lauder classmates Mark Mechem, C’91, WG’03, G’06, and Grace Sheen, G’03, WG’03, to identify potential partners and navigate business and cultural differences that contributed additional complexity to the cross-disciplinary nature of this challenge. Her impact extended beyond assistance to LA County, Christine also connected Governor Gavin Newsom of California’s administration to a potential long term supplier for the state, a medical supply company with operations in 50 countries led by another classmate, David Chen, G’03 WG’03.

Jacqueline Mahal, MD, WG’94

Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals, Jacobi Medical Center, Bronx, NY Assistant Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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After attending Wharton and Lauder, Jacqueline Mahal decided to pursue another professional degree, earning an MD. She has enjoyed treating patients and educating medical students and residents in the United States, Singapore and East Africa. However, she could never have predicted that she would be working at the epi-center of a global pandemic in New York City’s public health system. Dr. Mahal has been at the front lines of the Covid-19 response treating patients in the Emergency Department (ED) at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

Much has changed in the hospital system since the first wave of Covid 19 patients in March – when understanding of the virus was limited, and the level preparedness was low. In the initial days of chaos, the team found new opportunities for innovation in terms of testing, treatment, patient flow and increased in-patient capacity. Now, as the tide of Covid-19 patients has ebbed, the volume of patients in her ED as well as those across the city and country has decreased notably. The typical array of gunshot wounds, car accidents, heart attacks, strokes and opioid overdoses are not presenting to the hospital begging the question of whether a secondary medical crisis will exist in wake of the COVID pandemic. She and her colleagues will be relieved when their patients show up again indicating some return to normalcy. The current reprieve in new Covid-19 infections is much welcomed but Dr. Mahal knows there will be more Covid patients and awaits to see what will transpire in the coming weeks and months, better prepared for future waves of outbreaks.

Dr. Mahal reflects, “This horrific and insidious illness has challenged us, forcing us to be both resilient and flexible. It has also highlighted to the public the dynamics and reality of our medical system as well as the science and art of medicine.”

Lauder Students Volunteer in Philadelphia

Logo for Welcoming Center for New PennsylvaniansAs many students mentioned a desire to connect and assist with the local Philadelphia community, the Lauder Institute connected with the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, in which students have been virtually matched with local small business owners (often in-language) for a mentoring program. Students are assisting new immigrants with building their businesses, language assistance, and navigating the complexities of the COVID-19 crisis.