Long-COVID Treatment Database | PCOM DO Student
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Long-COVID Treatment Database 
Shreya Dundumalla (DO `24)

April 19, 2022
Shreya Dundumalla (DO `24)

In 2019, Shreya Dundumalla graduated from Drexel University with a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a minor in biology. Ms. Dundumalla was the first in her family to graduate from an American university and she was often tasked with interpreting legal and medical files for her family. At Drexel, she discovered her passion for work lay at the intersection of language and science, leading her to deviate from the traditional pre-med route to pursue journalism, a field that requires translation through storytelling.

In speaking with Ms. Dundumalla, she shared, “Medicine is its own language for those of us who are fortunate enough to have the resources to learn it. Being a doctor requires the intellectual challenge of knowing how to treat your patient, but often overlooked is its creative challenge of being able to educate your patient in order for them to take care of themselves.”

Ms. Dundumalla is currently involved in a long-term research project that seeks to create a uniform database for those experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19. The database also provides consistent treatment recommendations for physicians treating patients experiencing long-COVID. Below, Ms. Dundumalla shares her journey to research and the impact she hopes it will have. 

What prompted you to pursue research?

In undergrad, I originally pursued research thinking it was just another requirement to get into medical school but ended up having a deep appreciation for how research can shape both your personal and career growth. By defaulting to a textbook education in undergrad and preclinical years of medical school we tend not to go outside of our comfort zones. Working on research projects helped me have autonomy in an often stagnant learning process by reminding myself that my own project could be making a difference, no matter how small, in the field I will work in one day.

What are you currently researching?

There are so many uncertainties with COVID that research has expanded on in the past few years. More recently research has been trying to understand COVID’s long term effects. Physicians first noticed patients recovered from COVID have been coming in complaining of the same symptoms. After identifying that COVID-19 can result in sequelae lasting months after initial disease recovery, physician clinics specifically tailored to seeing these patients with COVID sequelae, better known as ‘long-COVID’ started popping up. Each long-COVID clinic has their own standards for measuring and treating long-COVID symptoms. A patient complaining of brain fog 3 months after COVID may be assessed and treated completely differently if they move or decide to seek their treatment at a different institution.

This variation does not give healthcare workers a greater understanding of long-COVID and such treatment measures that may result in better patient outcomes. With how new COVID is, our healthcare system still has not figured out a set of procedural guidelines for physicians to follow when patients present with long-COVID symptoms. Our project identified this deficit and aimed to close this communication gap between physicians and the general public.

We first tried to establish a database of long-COVID clinics around the country that could be easily accessible to patients and clinicians. This database proves especially useful for lead clinicians to refer to other institutions to improve upon their own practices or to create new practices. This can also be useful for physicians that are looking to create brand new clinics to look at nearby clinics in their area and specifically tailor their new clinic to a niche in long-COVID treatment not provided by other clinics nearby. Patients can also find this database useful while looking at clinics in their area and the services they provide and clinic requirements before initial patient visits. After establishing a database of over 100 clinics across the country, we identified what information new and old clinics could benefit from by distributing a survey to all lead clinicians.

Where is this research being conducted?

My mentor for this project was Dr. Benjamin Abramoff, the lead clinician in UPenn’s Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic. This project was with The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine alongside other clinicians part of American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Long COVID collaborative from The University of Colorado, University of Texas Southwestern, Albert Einstein and Johns Hopkins.

What were your responsibilities in the research project?

I was the lead researcher on this project. My responsibilities first involved establishing our database of nationwide long-COVID clinics where I then had to contact the lead clinician to include them in our study. From there, I was involved in creating the objectives in our research study and design from what knowledge we wanted to gain in the study to interpreting and portraying our data findings in a way that could easily help clinicians.

What is the broader impact of your research?

We created survey questions focused on three major areas of these clinics 1.) clinic infrastructure 2.) treatment and clinical models 3.) patient follow-up and clinic collaboration. The first part of the survey would be particularly helpful for clinics looking to create their own long-COVID clinic by having an understanding of the logistics of how other clinics function from their patient intake to other healthcare departments that work to support the clinic. Most significant was helping clinics identify their own clinical obstacles as this could be a foundational basis for physicians looking to create a new clinic. The second part of the survey aimed to identify a set of guidelines all physicians could follow in treating specific long-COVID symptoms to reduce clinical variation between institutions. The last part of the survey examined how clinicians would follow-up with patients including multi-disciplinary methods of extended treatment. This part also aimed to establish a long-COVID collaborative network between physicians at different clinic institutions to share resources, ideas and guidelines for a more cohesive long-COVID treatment nationwide.

*The work of Ms. Dundumalla and her team was cited in the article “The Implications of Long-COVID on Rural Communities,” which was published in the Journal of Rural Health

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