OSU Health Care Heroes: Dr. Johnny Stephens
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
OSU Health Care Heroes is a series highlighting those from the OSU-CHS community who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve their institution, community and state.
What is your role here at OSU-CHS and how long have you been here?
I have been at OSU-CHS since 2001 starting in the Department of Internal Medicine and am now in administration as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
What do you enjoy about working at OSU-CHS?
I enjoy the people and culture at OSU-CHS. Everyone believes in the mission of educating physicians and scientists that will make a difference in rural Oklahoma.
Tell us about what you’ve done in terms of our COVID-19 response?
OSU-CHS was able to partner very early with OSU and the Animal Diagnostic Lab (OADDL) with the leadership of Presidents Hargis and Shrum. Utilizing the joint talent at CHS and OADDL with the existing diagnostic equipment we were able to get a lab operational for human testing in 10 days. This allowed the state to have an Oklahoma solution for testing. When we started we were one of the bottom five states for testing. In a short amount of time, Oklahoma was able to move into the upper half of states testing per capita. This gave us better data to plan around hot spots and reopening plans. The OSU Diagnostic Lab has represented about a third of the testing completed in the state.
What have been some of the challenges during this time and how have you and the OSU-CHS community met those challenges?
There have been many challenges. I’m proud to say, though, that CHS has met every challenge thrown at us. The State of Oklahoma asked for a COVID designated hospital and our hospital stepped forward. Oklahoma needed expanded testing and we opened a swab pod for the community on our campus. Education was needed for the health care workforce and how to treat COVID patients and the Project ECHO team stepped forward with a COVID-19 Oklahoma Update ECHO three times a week with more than 500 participants per call. We transformed our clinic care in about a week to virtual visits which allowed for more than 1,500 patients per week to see their doctor in our clinics, and a plan was put in place to cover the state with 54 telemedicine carts at rural hospitals. This is not to mention the pivot by our faculty, staff and students to finish out the academic year with a seamless transition to virtual learning. I could go on and on about the challenges that were met by OSU-CHS. If you can’t tell, I am proud of our team.
What do you hope is the next step for OSU-CHS and Oklahoma during this time?
I am excited for the continued reopening and the spotlight that has been cast on us because of our efforts during the pandemic. We all knew about our capabilities and ability to solve problems. Many more people know about it now. One thing learned during this pandemic is that we might be right one day, but are wrong the next. We will stay creative and meet the challenge.
"Dr. Stephens is very modest, but he worked day and night— both virtually and in person— to solve and streamline manpower, logistics, and supply chain issues to ensure the success of the COVID-19 testing in the state. There were many late-night phone calls and task force planning sessions that required overnight solutions. Dr. Stephens was tenacious in his efforts."
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