Rarely is a statement issued or comment uttered by Pac-12 conference and campus officials that doesn’t include a reference to a “COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee.”
That committee was behind the safety protocols put in place for athletes to return to campus for voluntary workouts beginning June 15.
That committee will play a major role in the decisions to proceed with training camp, the regular season and allowing fans into stadiums this fall.
That committee has the ears — both of them — of the presidents and chancellors, the athletic directors and the coaches.
Who are those guys, and gals?
Their names, school affiliations and areas of expertise are below.
But first, let’s step back to the beginning of the process that led to this point — to the formation of the Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative.
Created in 2013, the SAHWBI is described by the conference as a collective effort “to reduce injuries, share current best practices and latest studies, and conduct research to uncover new ways to keep student-athletes as safe as possible.”
The initiative is supported by more than $3 million in annual funding — cash that has been redirected from the Pac-12’s payout from the College Football Playoff.
The funds are turned into annual grants for campus-based research projects into head trauma research, injury prevention and mental health.
General counsel Woodie Dixon oversees the SAHWBI, which includes an advisory board comprised of one representative from each school: 12 trainers, team physicians and orthopedic surgeons that help set conference policy on student-athlete welfare.
The advisory board had all the expertise the conference ever needed, at least until a coronavirus jumped from a bat to a human on the streets of a province in central China.
When the sports shutdown arrived in March and the Pac-12’s challenge became clear — how to return the athletes to campus and create a safe environment for competition — the SAHWBI advisory committee sought, well, an advisory committee.
“We needed more expert help,” said Dr. Doug Aukerman, a sports medicine specialist at Oregon State who chairs the SAHWBI advisory committee.
So the conference asked 12 specialists in the fields of public health and infectious disease to join the endeavor.
The expanded group — 24 members in all — meets several times per week, provides updates to the athletic directors and conference officials on key Covid-19 developments and offers recommendations on issues at hand.
Lately, those issues have centered on getting athletes back to campus for voluntary workouts and keeping players, coaches and staff members safe.
“We had to determine how you set up areas to identify illness early in the process, how you isolate (positive cases) and reduce the spread, how to mitigate the spread of asymptomatic cases, proper cleaning measures, daily screenings, the number of people allowed in the buildings,” Aukerman said.
“Now, we’re working on the role of laboratory testing. In order to test the student-athletes, you have to have adequate supply.”
Testing is the key to Pac-12 football — and, more broadly, to campus life — this fall.
The schools must be able to identify and contain positive cases.
All the schedule models built for 2020 assume the testing improves — that by late July, when training camps must start in order for the season to begin on time, there are enough tests … enough accurate tests … enough accurate tests with rapid-response time … to satisfy the needs of athletics departments across the conference and the country.
“A lot potentially could change between now and then,” Aukerman said. “I’m optimistic about the additional developments.”
He’s also monitoring the infection rates as states reopen their economies and ease social restrictions.
“It could be that we step forward, then have to hit pause,” he said.
As for fans in the stadiums this fall, even at greatly reduced capacity: “It’s way too soon to know.”
The Pac-12’s coronavirus advisory board
(Information provided by the conference.)
– Dr. John Swartzberg: Clinical Professor Emeritus, Infectious Diseases & Vaccinology
– Stephanie Chu: Team Physician; NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards/Medical Aspects of Sports
– Sourav Poddar: Chair of Pac-12 Brain Trauma Task Force; Director, Primary Care Sports Medicine; CU Athletics Team Physician and Medical Director
– Dr. Patrick Luedtke: Senior Public Health Officer
* Oregon State
– Chunhuei Chi: Director of the Center for Global Health
– Dr. Bonnie Maldonado: Senior Associate Dean, Faculty Development and Diversity; Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases) and of Health Research and Policy
– Daniel Uslan: Director, Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, Division of Infectious Diseases; Assistant Clinical Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases
– Annabelle De St. Maurice: Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases; leads the Pediatric Infection Control and Antibiotic Stewardship Programs
– Dr. Michael Dube: Professor of Medicine; Associate Medical Director of the Rand Schrader AIDs Clinic; Interim Chief, Infectious Disease
– Dr. Sankar Swaminathan: Infectious Diseases Division Chief
– Dr. Jon Drezner: Director of the UW Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology; Team Physician for UW, Seattle Seahawks (NFL), and Reign FC (NWSL)
– Dr. Paul S Pottinger: Professor Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases; Director, Infectious Diseases Fellowship Training Program; Director, UWMC Antimocrobial Stewardship Program