Boasting 80-plus higher education institutions, Wuhan is one of the cities with the highest concentrations of elite universities and colleges. Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the HEIs in this epicenter city have been working together to support the national battle against the disease with their research expertise, academic strength, alumni network and a commitment to serving the public.
(1) Frontline defenders of COVID-19
Medical workers of the Zhongnan Hospital affiliated with Wuhan University have been working tirelessly at the forefront since the Wuhan Keting temporary hospital and the makeshift Leishensheng Hospital opened on February 7 and 8, respectively. To ensure provision of the best medical treatments available, they developed therapies combining traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine, set up an expert group on mental health, and organized a reading club for patients. To the great delight of LI Zhiqiang, vice president of the Wuhan University Zhongnan Hospital, many patients who were hospitalized had recovered and were discharged.
All affiliated hospitals of Wuhan’s HEIs have sent out their top medics in combating the coronavirus outbreak. Healthcare professionals of the Tongji Hospital affiliated with Huazhong University of Science and Technology helped an expectant mother who was infected with COVID-19 successfully give birth to a healthy baby, and the specialist team of the Renmin Hospital affiliated with Wuhan University saved two of the sickest COVID-19 patients who had been suffering from underlying chronic diseases before their admission.
Putting themselves at risk and working around the clock to fight the coronavirus, doctors, nurses and other medical staff of the university-affiliated hospitals in Wuhan have displayed great courage, compassion, determination, and self-sacrifice for serving their country and people.
(2) Action-oriented researchers and think tanks
Besides the medical schools that have made outstanding contribution, other departments and schools in Wuhan’s HEIs have also been standing ready to act on the needs of society in the coronavirus crisis.
Based on their research focused on reactions by local authorities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, vice chancellor of South Central University for Nationalities (SCUN) ZHAO Xiaoshan and dean of SCUN’s Public Administration School WU Kaisong jointly submitted on January 27 a proposal to the Wuhan municipal government, recommending immediate formulation of normative policy documents to regulate the emergency measures and procedures in addressing the impact of the novel coronavirus. Only two days after their submission, the Interim Measures of Wuhan City for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia Caused by COVID-19 were officially promulgated, which according to Wu Kaisong would help improve the rule-based governance and assist Wuhan citizens in dealing with stress or panic attacks.
Likewise, the Institute of State Governance in Huazhong University of Science and Technology took the lead in conducting integrated researches into the prevention and control of pneumonia caused by COVID-19 and the modernization of public health governance, with a view to playing their advisory role and providing substantive intellectual support in the fight against coronavirus. Their research outcomes have been published or presented to the Hubei provincial government or state authorities, many of which were adopted within a short time-span and translated into specific initiatives and practices.
A lot of faculties and students in HEIs have been racing against time to create opportunities that can be utilized in saving lives. JIN Meilin, deputy director of the Bio-safety Level 3 Laboratory in Huazhong Agricultural University, and his team of scientists have been ramping up their efforts in the search for the source of COVID-19 and potential therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients. Central China Normal University, in collaboration with the Chinese Psychological Society and other related organizations, has established a 400-strong volunteer group of psychiatrists offering online and hotline counseling and psychotherapy services every day. WU Chong, a freshman student of the School of Geodesy and Geomatics in Wuhan University, developed a system for prevention, control and monitoring of COVID-19 in merely three days, which was already pilot tested and proven to work in Sanhui County, Guizhou Province.
(3) Most supportive alumni networks
Alumni are always part of a university. To support their alma mater and help the residents in their place of study through this difficult time, the alumni of HEIs in Wuhan voluntarily gave a hand without any hesitation.
On January 23, the Wuhan University Alumni Association Shenzhen Chapter first launched a fundraising campaign to buy medical supplies for the front-line healthcare personnel working in hospitals affiliated with Wuhan University, and for only a half day they raised nearly 2 million yuan. Later, alumni of the Beijing Chapter and the New York Chapter and from elsewhere around the world also responded to the call for donations, bringing the total funds raised to over 60 million yuan. Their experience mirrored what happened in the alumni network of Huazhong University of Science and Technology at the same time, which also raised record medical-aid donations for Wuhan.
The alumni associations not only fast brought together financial and material resources in urgent need by the medical staff battling against the virus in Wuhan, but also followed up closely how the supplies were used and distributed. They directly connected with hospitals to check which resources needed replenishing and plan procurements accordingly. They also worked closely with logistics to ensure accurate and efficient delivery of essential resources to where they were most needed.
In these loving, supportive actions, alumni entrepreneurs have played a leading role and showed their special prowess. The Taikang Insurance Group, an alumni enterprise, “donated” a hospital—Taikang Tongji Hospital, which was put into operation under the control of military medics on February 14—to Wuhan. The hospital with a planned capacity of 860 beds and 400 well-trained healthcare professionals has transformed into another useful bulwark against COVID-19 in the city.
From campuses in Wuhan to the front line of exposure and everyday fight against the novel coronavirus all over the world, the teachers, students, and alumni of HEIs have best exemplified the spirit of the university.