COVID-19 Response and Reopening: A Letter from Neurology Chair Dr. Richard Mayeux

May 12, 2020

Dear Valued Patients and Supporters of Columbia Neurology,

As important members of our Columbia Neurology community, I am writing to update you on our COVID-19 response efforts, and to detail our plans for gradually resuming our regular clinical services and research.

In the weeks following the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New York City, our department was forced to scale-back our clinical, educational, and research activities on the NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center campus.  We transitioned our clinical workforce to telemedicine operations so that both our patients and staff could continue care in a safe manner.  

During the onslaught of desperately ill COVID-19 patients into NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, we increased our inpatient service by redeploying volunteers, clinical fellows, and neurology residents from our department to the frontlines, to work alongside our exceptionally talented Neurological Intensive Care Unit Team, led by Dr. Jan Claassen. We are incredibly proud of these heroic colleagues; their tireless dedication to the most vulnerable patients continues to this day. In early April, the remarkable details of this monumental reorganization, accomplished in record time, were reported in the academic journal Neurology®. This manuscript has served as a comprehensive guide for similar Neurology departments in the United States and internationally.

The displacement of our workforce has been difficult, but in many ways has also served to strengthen our commitment to patient care. This was particularly evident in the research realm, where a collaborative team of clinical, translational, and basic science investigators—led by Drs. Kiran Thakur and Dritan Agalliu—began investigating whether the severe inflammatory response associated with Sars-CoV-2 infection causes breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, resulting in dire neurological manifestations.

As we look to gradually resume a limited number of clinical, educational, and research activities on the Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian campus, the safety and wellbeing of patients and providers alike remains our top priority. Beginning on May 18, 2020, patients who MUST be seen by a neurologist in-person—as determined in consultation with our experienced clinical staff—will be able to do so, as will patients in need of urgent diagnostic testing. These visits will be conducted according to social distancing protocols and will require extra time and patience all around.

For other patients—both new and established—you will continue accessing appointments using our comprehensive TeleNeurology Program, which now encompasses every subspecialty of Neurology. If you would like to make an in-person or TeleNeurology appointment, please call 646-426-3876 (646-42-NEURO), Monday—Friday, during the hours of 9 AM—5 PM. You may also contact to request an appointment via email.

Thank you for your support of Columbia Neurology. Take care of one another, and be well!

Yours sincerely,

Richard Mayeux, MD, MSc
Sergievsky Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Epidemiology
Chair, Department of Neurology
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons