A Better Tomorrow

A national research university such as Tulane brings individuals from the widest range of backgrounds, geographies and viewpoints together for an intensive, yearslong living and learning experience.

Nurse Giselle Salvant is administered a COVID-19 vaccine
Giselle Salvant, a nurse at Tulane Medical Center, receives the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine distribution began at the medical center on Dec. 16, 2020.

Such breadth of knowledge and perspectives helps drive collaboration, innovation and the pursuit of excellence as we work to create a better tomorrow.

And a better tomorrow is something all of us have been hoping for, especially over the last two years. COVID-19 presented an existential challenge to universities while also highlighting our raison d’être. It made university-based research and health care more relevant than ever while simultaneously leading some to question the wisdom of the residential university model.

College students were sometimes cast as particularly virulent vectors of this disease and many commentators opined that universities should halt in-person instruction.

At Tulane, we knew our research, healthcare and educational mission had an important role to play in confronting this global threat. We had to stay open but do so with the health of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors as our top priority. The resulting testing, contact tracing and quarantine/isolation program we implemented, along with strict safety protocols, made Tulane one of the nation’s leaders in adapting to the challenges of COVID-19.

We had to stay open but do so with the health of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors as our top priority.

MIKE FITTS, president

The importance of maintaining on-ground operations became apparent immediately. Our healthcare professionals cared for the sickest COVID-19 patients, our researchers pursued the fastest tests and most effective treatments and vaccines, and our social work and other mental health professionals provided emotional care and support for the most vulnerable. Every school and facet of the university marshaled its expertise, knowledge and skill against a common foe.

But we didn’t do it by ourselves or only for ourselves. In partnership with the city of New Orleans, we provided testing to city and state first responders. We made inoculations available to community members and other neighboring universities in the early days of the vaccine rollout. 
Knowing the devastating effect COVID-19 was having on local businesses — especially in such a service-oriented, public-facing economy like our city’s, School of Medicine students and faculty established the Business Resilience and Community Education (BRACE) program, which advised restaurants and other local enterprises on how to reopen during the pandemic, while also protecting public health. I joined university leaders and faculty in serving on the mayor’s COVID-19 advisory panel and conferred with other universities on the next steps forward.

We cannot tell what the months ahead will bring in terms of COVID-19. But we do know that we are better prepared to meet the next challenge thanks to the knowledge we have gained by our shared experiences, the insights and the skills we have acquired through our collective efforts, and the spirit of innovation and determination that defines Tulane.