Dr. Underwood ’87 Battling COVID in New Mexico
Dr. Bob Underwood ’87, Chief Medical Officer at the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico and his team established an emergency operation center before there was a single COVID-19 case in the state. They curtailed elective surgery, established dedicated COVID-19 areas of the hospital, closed the normal ICU to all patients except for COVID patients, and converted a "stepdown" unit into a fully functional ICU for non-COVID patients. In March, the Center set up a drive-through "External Assessment Area" where patients could be tested for COVID-19.
As of May 20, 2020, 44 of their 123 patients were either COVID-19 positive or suspected of having COVID-19 pending test results. “We are feeling the surge here in the Northwest corner of New Mexico more than other parts of the state. We believe we have passed the “peak” of that surge. We are adjacent to the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the country. The COVID-19 infection is having a very serious impact on the Navajo Nation, in terms of total numbers as well as the intensity of the disease. That is a large proportion of the COVID-19 patients that we are currently seeing. We are working directly with the Indian Health Services (IHS), a federal health service, to care for this at-risk population.” The team is also working with local businesses to produce 3D printed face shields to augment their PPE. Underwood notes, “The response of our community, our providers, and of the local businesses to the needs of the healthcare organization have humbled to me in the sincerest way. I have not seen this level of unity and common goal before.”
WPAOG thanks Dr. Underwood and all of the West Point grads doing their part to help during this pandemic.