Srinivas resigns from Community Health Center
Focuses efforts on COVID-19 vaccine trials
Dr. Megan Srinivas has departed from Community Health Center of Fort Dodge after two years of service, she announced this week.
An infectious disease specialist — one of a select few in rural and north central Iowa — Srinivas became a go-to source of expertise for local, state and national media as the pandemic’s COVID-19 infections shifted focus from coastal areas and densely-populated cities to rural areas and small towns in the Midwest and South.
Srinivas, who left on July 31, opted not to renew her contract after two years at CHC, saying that she could now longer fully devote her attention to patients given her escalating responsibilities at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, one of four universities conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials for Moderna.
Renae Kruckenberg, CEO of CHC, said that Srinivas’ positive energy, genuine care and thought for patients will be missed, noting that people with her credentials are “few and far between,” often out of reach for community health clinics focused on accessibility for underserved populations.
Despite Srinivas’ credentials from Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University that could easily have afforded her a life in large cities, Srinivas came back to Iowa to focus on advocating for vulnerable populations and educating about the disparities between rural and urban health care systems.
At CHC, some of the physician’s primary passions were treating HIV and hepatitis among populations with few resources for treatment in the area. She was the only internal medician physician in Fort Dodge when she was contracted with CHC.
As the pandemic hit, Kruckenberg said Srinivas was instrumental in helping the clinic brace for impact as an early adopter of face masks and shields.
In addition to her duties as a faculty member, Srinivas said a research project she’s working on looks at how to enhance public health education to populations that have been often overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is also working with vaccine trials to create educational tools that will help with recruitment and comprehension.
“It all became so much that I didn’t have the time to dedicate to the clinic,” Srinivas said.
As the UNC enters phase 3 of trials, the first one involving humans to determine the efficacy of a vaccine, she said she’ll remain in Fort Dodge. There are four phases in vaccine trials.
“I’m very optimistic and hopeful,” she said of the vaccine, excited about how unusual it is to reach this phase of testing so quickly.
The vaccine will focus on T-cell-mediated immunity, rather than the B-cell immunity related to antibodies.
The new vaccine would work “based on your body’s memory to the antigen (COVID-19) and how it can react quickly in boosting the immune system to attack that antigen before it attacks your body,” Srinivas explained.
The infectious disease specialist noted that her decision not to continue with CHC was made before the discovery of apparent system errors in test reporting at the clinic. Srinivas, who worked one to two shifts each month between other responsibilities, was not involved with testing itself or the reporting of COVID-19 test results.
“While I am no longer associated with this incredible asset to our community, I do believe that the current situation was a systems error and that there was no malicious intent,” she said.
She wishes CHC well, saying the presence of such a clinic in a town of Fort Dodge’s size is rare, but helps to ensure “that everyone gets access to care, regardless of ability to pay.”
Srinivas said a transparent system to relay COVID-19 data at all levels will be critical to rebuilding trust with the public as clinics and public health agencies work to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“Transparency will be key moving forward to building trust in decision makers,” she said.
Kruckenberg was unsure if finding another physician with comparable credentials to fill the vacancy would be feasible.