Masked Research

SICHL Researcher Katharine Miller sporting a mask in the Grillet Lab.

Like everyone else on the planet, Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss (SICHL) researchers have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the shelter-in-place phase, each lab determined the minimal work required to pause the research enterprise, such as maintaining strains of animals or cell cultures. A limited number of researchers were authorized to access the campus to minimize person-to-person interaction. Strategies were developed and implemented to minimize risk, ensure continuity of research, and promote wellness, both physical and mental of all researchers. Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery (OHNS) research labs gathered their Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitizing agents and donated them to local hospitals. Many labs took advantage of this time away from the bench to write and submit papers and grant proposals. Many of the residents with clinician supervision researched best practices for otolaryngologists in the time of the pandemic, publishing numerous papers to help the broader community of first responders. The OHNS research community also continued many activities online, such as weekly departmental presentations, journal clubs, and lab meetings. In June, Stanford moved to phase 1, allowing a restricted number of researchers to come to the lab to perform critical experiments at the bench, equipped with masks and other PPE. By the end of June, we moved to phase 2, allowing a higher number of researchers in a room, up to one person per 250 square feet. These restrictions forced each researcher to be more efficient and to plan in greater detail than normal before going to the lab to execute experiments. New protocols have been and are being developed to take advantage of online technologies to continuing our mission of training and mentoring. Despite difficulties, we continue to make progress in understanding how the ear works and can be treated. The move to phase 3, which will allow more people to work in the labs at the same time, will happen when a vaccine provides protection. Until then we see many silver linings. Society is recognizing the importance of science and the heroism of our citizenry. We spend more time with our family and more time with our lab members. The research team has grown closer and more collaborative.  We are stronger together.

The temporary shutdown of OHNS clinics and reduced academic activity across campus have put a strain on our finances. Fortunately, the commitment of SICHL donors to our research has provided us with a critical lifeline during this unexpected time. We now, more than ever appreciate your support for our research mission. Thank you!