Helping University Hospitals Navigate the Pandemic
March 31, 2022
UH Clinical Update | April 2022
Claudia Hoyen, MD, a recent “Dinner with the Doc” honoree, is a reassuring source of infectious disease expertise for UH, the region and the nation during COVID
The last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need for calm, fact-based voices of infectious disease expertise. For UH, one such voice has been Claudia Hoyen, MD, Director of Pediatric Infection Control at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, as well as the hospital’s Director of Pediatric Innovation.
Dr. Hoyen has been a regular and reassuring presence in Cleveland and national media through all the twists and turns of the pandemic – a role she both relishes and takes very seriously.
“Media outreach is part of practicing medicine, especially when it comes to infectious diseases,” she says. “As an infectious disease specialist, I have an interest in public health so for me, it’s a very natural extension of what I do. It is important for people to truly understand what is going on so that they can make decisions that will help keep themselves and their families safe, whether it’s making sure that they vaccinate their kids or getting a flu shot, or now with the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccination. All of those things are, I think, the responsibility that we have as infectious disease specialists.”
At the state level, Dr. Hoyen has helped coordinate pandemic response with the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Children’s Hospitals Association, discussing COVID-19 impact and immunization efforts during regular phone calls. At the local level at UH Rainbow, she’s taken this state guidance and has worked to implement it, working, for example, with frontline staff and the Parent Family Advisory Council to develop pediatric visitation policies, including those for highly immunocompromised patients – a process that sometimes can be contentious.
“In developing these policies, she spent countless hours empathetically listening to frontline staff, as well as our Patient Family Advisory Council,” says Ethan Leonard, MD, Chief Medical Officer at UH Rainbow. “She deftly and respectfully responds to those who might disagree with decisions made by the central task force. At the same time, she very well may be the most frequently paged person at Rainbow. She constantly fields clinical and personal questions related to COVID. She has facilitated compassionate perioperative testing for our developmentally delayed patients. She has made herself accessible 24/7 to any of our staff.”
Dr. Hoyen was recently recognized for this dedication with a “Dinner with the Doc” honor from Cliff Megerian, MD, UH Chief Executive Officer, Jane and Henry Meyer Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair.
In point of fact, Dr. Hoyen’s dedication to UH and UH Rainbow should come as no surprise. She trained as a pediatric infectious disease fellow at UH under the direction of Bob Salata, MD, and Keith Armitage, MD, from 1996 to 1999. She never could have imagined that she and these mentors, along with later trainee Elie Saade, MD, would ultimately be helping to guide UH and Northeast Ohio through a once-in-a-century pandemic.
But that’s exactly what has happened.
“Bob and Keith trained Elie and me,” she says. “So we have this special relationship among the four of us because we have been together for so long. I feel extremely fortunate at this time to have them as my colleagues, working through this together. This one certainly takes a village.”
In addition to her infectious disease leadership position at UH Rainbow, Dr. Hoyen also serves as Director of Pediatric Innovation. Early in the pandemic, she worked with UH Ventures and Northeast Ohio companies, including manufacturers, to try to solve the problem of securing scarce PPE – and then decontaminating it safely.
Dr. Hoyen credits UH Rainbow’s decision about 12 years ago to take a more deliberate approach to innovation – and to support it financially – with such successes – and others.
“For years, innovation just happened,” she says. “Departments usually had a little bit of money or some discretionary funds that they could use for innovation. But about 10 years ago, we as an institution decided that innovation wasn’t something that our physicians should have to pursue on their own anymore, and that they needed more support. So developed a process to help our colleagues pursue their passion, dreams and ideas.”
“That’s a big part of why being part of UH gives me satisfaction and fulfillment in my days,” she adds. “I can help people do the next new, cool thing in medicine and make the lives of our patients and providers better by being innovative, whether it’s in developing a new technology, using a new technology or developing a program.”
For her part, Dr. Hoyen says she still really enjoys the medical detective work that drew her to infectious disease as a specialty so many years ago – even when answers on COVID-19 are elusive and evolving.
“Every day, we are making decisions based on limited data,” she says. “When there are no data, I try to use my experience and that of colleagues to develop solutions for situations that may be relatively similar.”
As she looks back on her career at UH Rainbow – and looks forward to what’s to come, Dr. Hoyen says there have been twists and turns, some borne of leadership changes at the hospital, some borne of changes to health care in general in the past 20 years. But, she says, she’s happy where she’s landed at UH Rainbow and has never been more excited and felt privileged to be here.
“I am delighted that my path led to Rainbow because it’s where I belong.”
Congratulations to Dr. Hoyen on her “Dinner with the Doc” honor.
To nominate a physician for this honor, please visit the UH Digital Workplace. The next deadline is April 15.