The President’s Desk

Contributor: Maria Whitman, WG’05
To learn more about Maria, click here.


Fellow Alumni,

Maria_Whitman.jpgI have written previously about the deep thread that connects our community - a passionate commitment to the advancement of global health. As the new coronavirus pandemic unfolds, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to live our mission as vigorously and creatively as possible. 

The estimates are changing daily as we know, but as of my writing this in mid-March, the WHO shared global death rates at 3.4%. As of March 16th, the CDC estimated somewhere between 200,000 and 1.7 million deaths in the U.S. alone. But the challenge and pressure to our systems set in when we really started to look at the hospitalization rates the numbers portend vs. the beds and capacity for critically ill individuals. In recent days, non-critical medical procedures are being postponed. Long-term care facilities are being put on lock-down. Critical medical supplies such as hospital masks are running low. And I won’t address the development and distribution of testing in the U.S., though many are banding together to make progress in this area now. 

Beyond the impact on patient care and ability to meet demand, businesses that serve our global health system and beyond will be deeply challenged during this time. In fact, Bloomberg recently published an estimate of the global economic loss across all sectors as high as $2.7 trillion. 

But with extreme challenge comes action, innovation, and change. Science and technology have certainly equipped us to better handle this latest pandemic. When SARS first erupted in 2002, sequencing the genome of the virus took over a year, but it took less than a month for Covid-19. Countries like South Korea have created stand out responses, including their “drive through” testing protocols, that have led the way globally. Through this and other efforts, on March 12th South Korea reported more recoveries than new infections for the first time!

Many micro innovations are emerging, and positive stories are surfacing from in the industry and out. One of my favorite good news stories (besides the citizens of an Italian quarantined city standing on their balconies and singing together) is a high school aged boy from Seattle named Avi Shiffmann who created a website that tracks the data around the world, including recovery numbers. According to his numbers today, 41% of the global population with the new coronavirus have recovered. These numbers will continue to move; but at these times, these moments of positive change are important for us to reflect on.  

Across the world there is much work to be done to move us forward, and we need to continue to take the call. Many Wharton Alumni are doing so globally, like the Wharton Club of Bejing that have been hosting online chats with prominent Wharton graduates to discuss market impact and ideas. 

No matter what sector of healthcare you are in, whether you are leveraging or advancing technology to support the challenge, working with your companies to support the public good, generating thought leadership on the issue, or simply helping a neighbor in this time, thank you. The WHCMAA board is focused on doing what we can, including continuing to support June, the program, and students. In fact, if you are a mentor, check in with your students. Welcome Weekend has officially been canceled, and their last semester together has moved to a virtual experience. Let’s show our support. If you are not a mentor, but looking for opportunities to help, let us know. 

We are also working hard to listen and support our alumni and our global community at this time. For example, on our Knowledge Exchange, we are capturing needs from local healthcare providers for PPEs, reagents, etc. and connect them with potential resources. We are helping alumni connect and will be sharing proactively in the coming months efforts alumni are spearheading at this time to further connections and success. 

There is so much our community can accomplish individually and together. 

We encourage you to actively share your innovations, thought leadership, and ideas to address the novel coronavirus with the community in one of our social groups so we can bring together the power of our Alumni community: 

- Linked In: Wharton Health Care Management Alumni Association  

- Twitter: @WhartonHCMAA

- Facebook: Wharton Health Care Management Alumni Association 

- Wharton Knowledge Network: [email protected]

Lastly, please know that I am thinking of you all during this time. I hope your families stay healthy and thrive at this time in spite of this uncertainty (even if that means you have to remember math lessons for home schooling!). 

And for those of you who are facing coronavirus in your families, our thoughts are with you, and if there is anything we can do, please let us know. 


Kind regards, 

Maria Whitman, WG’05
President, Wharton Healthcare Management Alumni Association

Contact Maria at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @MariaWhitman