MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jeremiah Hayanga, M.D., ECMO program director at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, has been appointed as a special advisor by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric D. Hargan.
“This is a federal response to what has been an enormous blow to our country’s people and economy,” Dr. Hayanga said. “COVID-19 has been a wakeup call because perhaps not enough attention had been paid to the possibility of a viral outbreak. The federal government is engaging people in the field to gather intelligence to better understand what we need in terms of capacity and equipment.”
“Dr. Hayanga’s expertise sought out by the Department of Health and Human Services is representative of how WVU is fulfilling its core mission to bring the most advanced nation-leading care and expertise to the citizens of West Virginia,” Vinay Badhwar, M.D., executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, said. “We remain proud of the leadership of Dr. Hayanga and our entire team of critical care providers, who have propelled the WVU ECMO program to national recognition though award-winning quality and outcomes.”
Hayanga will bring his proficiency in both ECMO and public health policy to an expert panel with the RAND Corporation, a non-profit research organization that advises the government on matters of healthcare and defense. The panel will address healthcare outcomes, preparedness, and the development of a coherent list of priorities in the event of outbreaks.
“I am very grateful for the leadership and support of Dr. Badhwar, the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, and indeed the WVU platform for making opportunities like this possible to serve our state and country,” Hayanga said.
Hayanga was selected because of his background in healthcare policy and his current research on the use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, such as mitigation strategies in the prevention of an outbreak. These strategies address supply interruptions, changing local attitudes and legislation toward vaccination, and vaccine efficacy and aim at reducing the impact of outbreaks. This information also provides insight into what modalities are most effective as frontline treatments in the case of a viral outbreak.
“Epidemics can actually be slowed down quite a bit as we have seen, and what our governor and Dr. Clay Marsh have done in West Virginia is highly commendable,” Hayanga said. “By implementing measures such as social distancing, hand washing, and good hygiene, we can deal with the slow trickle of cases much easier than an avalanche.”
“We should maintain the seriousness we are taking with COVID-19 when dealing with influenza, which is also a high mortality rate illness. Vaccines are important, and access to that vaccine can be the link in preventing a pandemic. We should encourage people to view a COVID-19 vaccine as seriously as we are viewing the virus itself. I worry that as the virus begins to fade, so, too, does the seriousness with which people take it, and some may opt out of the vaccine when it is available, which will be a mistake.”