Dr. Teena Chopra has spent her entire career caring for patients in her role as a physician at the Detroit Medical Center and nurturing up-and-coming doctors in her role as a clinical educator at Wayne State University. As the mother of a 7-year-old daughter, she knows a thing or two about childhood illnesses and delivering comfort and TLC to sick people. But two years ago, she couldn’t have imagined that most of her work would focus on the COVID-19 coronavirus.
From managing the initial influx of patients with the virus and working feverishly against an illness for which there was no vaccine, Chopra and her colleagues put in long days and nights at the hospital. Overburdened by patient capacities that soon eclipsed the hospital’s ability to keep up, Chopra and her colleagues were frustrated by the quickly evolving virus and by how sick it was making those infected by it.
“The hardest part at first was telling families they could not visit their loved ones because of the imminent danger it presented to them in terms of getting infected,” Chopra said. “We spent a lot of time sitting with patients who were dying, trying to comfort them in their final hours.”
Chopra was part of Wayne State’s Campus Health Committee, a body that studied trends and recommended safety protocols to keep the campus safe. Beginning in April 2020, the committee met each Monday to look at the data and strategize ways to navigate the campus community through this public health crisis.
Of course, Chopra also had domestic responsibilities that beckoned. As a wife, daughter and mother of a young child her thoughts were constantly focused on how to keep her husband, mother and daughter safe.
Simran Adnani, Chopra’s daughter, is one of 570 students who attend The Roeper School and is in stage three of her education there. School officials asked Chopra to help design COVID policies right when the pandemic first surged in spring 2020 and she sits on Roeper’s COVID task force.
“From the very beginning, Dr. Chopra worked with our school's task force on health and wellbeing to keep us up to date on the latest challenges and the newest science,” said Dr. David Feldman, head of The Roeper School. “At a time when schools have had to adjust on a regular basis to new variants, Dr. Chopra has been a dependable guide, a thoughtful voice, and a reassuring friend I could consult with whenever I had a question or concern."
“Over the past two years I have provided counsel on various issues like quarantine policy, mandating K95 masks, keeping students in cohorts and not allowing mixing of cohorts,” Chopra said. “I have also provided scientific literature to help answer questions from parents and teachers. I have counseled them on the safest ways to hold sporting events, music classes and other on-site activities.”
The emergence of the omicron variant of the virus the stakes were suddenly raised to a higher level. “With the start of school after the holidays, we witnessed the surge of omicron and the school really wanted to offer testing to the students but there was a huge shortage,” Chopra said. “I arranged a meeting with Dr. Phil Levy who readily agreed to help the school through his Wayne Health mobile testing clinic.”
Levy is a tenured professor of Emergency Medicine and assistant VP for translational science and clinical research innovation at Wayne State. He is also Chief Innovation Officer of Wayne Health where he led the development of a mobile health outreach program at the height of the first surge of the coronavirus, offering wider access to testing (and ultimately vaccines) for residents of Detroit and surrounding communities. He also has a child enrolled at The Roeper School.
“Dr. Chopra is a phenomenal asset to Wayne State, the DMC and the entire metro Detroit region, providing unrivaled expertise in infectious diseases and much needed leadership throughout the pandemic” said Levy. “Her effort at Roeper is just one of many examples that come to mind where, without Dr. Chopra’s involvement, people in the community would not have gotten the care they need. I am glad to count Dr. Chopra as a close colleague and friend.”
Feldman agrees wholeheartedly. “Dr. Chopra has been a voice of reason and clarity throughout the pandemic. In a time when there is inconsistency from the county, state, and federal leadership on how to form protocols for schools, Dr. Chopra has guided us with care, wisdom, and strength. Her insight is based on science and her daily experience in battling the Covid virus. Because of her shared wisdom, I have been able to work with my team to craft school protocols to keep children safe and to sustain in-person learning.”
As the coronavirus continues to pose a public health threat in Michigan, Chopra is still involved in keeping The Roeper School community safe and well. It’s a role she’s happy to continue to fill. “I have been part of the Roeper family for the last four years and it has been my honor to volunteer for COVID-19 prevention efforts at Roeper to allow our kids to continue learning in a safe environment despite the pandemic.”