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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

ChBE alumni on the frontlines of COVID-19 pandemic: Dr. Ed Chien

After receiving his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1984, Dr. Ed Chien went on to earn his MD from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1988. He is currently chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Dr. Ed Chien

What’s the situation like where you are? How is it evolving?

The state of Ohio was one of the first states to ramp up social isolation, by closing restaurants and bars. The leadership of the Governor is probably one of the reasons Ohio appears to be flattening the curve. We all continue to follow admission rates and plan for increasing admissions. We are all putting together contingency plans. 

What is it like be a physician and in particular an OB/GYN during this unprecedented time?

There is a lot of fear both from patients and from caregivers. We are constantly communicating with the staff and providers. Communications can vary from very specific questions on managing a given situation to discussing what we have set in place for a variety of situations. What is creating the greatest anxiety is the uncertainty. The next greatest challenge is social isolation. We have taken for granted so many things in our lives such as going to restaurants, going to a movie and even going to the grocery with a feeling of relative safety. 

What are your concerns as a medical provider now and what are you optimistic about in terms of testing, managing the disease, treatments, possibility of vaccines?

We need to realize that we may be able to flatten the curve. But by doing so we also prolong the process. This also allows us more time to address all the issues you list, increase testing capabilities, identify new treatments, and develop vaccines. We also need to understand how we can normalize our lives while still reducing the risk of transmitting the infection to other people. 

Any message you’d like to share to fellow alumni?

Be creative and think outside the box. We can come up with new ways to manage and address all aspects of Covid-19 pandemic. 

How has your education in med school or in chemical engineering prepared you for this time?

Engineering has given excellent problem solving skills and understanding process development. 

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