Behind the scenes of COVID-19 testing with Mr. Rick Chandler

Mr.+Rick+Chandler+is+the+Senior+Vice+President+for+Strategic+Development+at+Montefiore+Hospital+in+The+Bronx%2C+New+York.+

Charlotte Burchetta '22

Mr. Rick Chandler is the Senior Vice President for Strategic Development at Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx, New York.

By Charlotte Burchetta and Libby Kaseta

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, healthcare and other essential workers are dedicating their time and skills to serve others in this time of need.  Mr. Rick Chandler, Senior Vice President for Strategic Development at Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx, New York, helps organize and coordinate COVID-19 testing efforts.

Mr. Chandler and the team at the Montefiore Hospital testing site in The Bronx, New York perform multiple tasks each day.  Aspects of his job include scheduling, ensuring all staff is present, and overseeing employees.  Mr. Chandler also confirms that enough people are at the site to administer tests.  Along with the rest of the team, he receives a list of people scheduled for testing.  According to Mr. Chandler, dealing with the number of tests can be a challenge.

The Montefiore Hospital Moses Campus where Mr. Rick Chandler works is in The Bronx, New York.  Courtesy of Montefiore.org

“We’re told about how many people are coming. And then if we can’t handle that number of people, then that’s a problem,” Mr. Chandler said. “The role that I’m in, which I share with several other people, is to deal with those problems and devise systems that make the testing successful.”

Many laboratories have created multiple tests since the outbreak of COVID-19. Some of these tests are self-administered, and involve collecting and sending saliva samples to Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory, according to statenews.comMore recently-developed serological tests draw blood and detect if a person had the virus and has already recovered.

In New York, the The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the State’s 28 labs, private and public, to manufacture manual, semi-automated, and automated testing.  With a clinician’s authorization, all eligible New York residents have access to free testing, according to coronavirus.health.ny.gov.  Residents can also conduct self-administered tests in the presence of a healthcare professional which involve saliva samples and nasal swabs.

The state of New York created and oversees the Montefiore Hospital test site.  The site is similar to one of the original drive-through test sites in New Rochelle in the sense that doctors swab the patients at the test site.

Mr. Chandler credits the other leaders at the testing site with helping schedule the on-site staff day-to-day.  Communication among the hospital’s leaders is important in order for the day’s tests to run smoothly.

Libby Kaseta ’22, Charlotte Burchetta ’22, and Mr. Rick Chandler discuss the coronavirus pandemic over a video call.  Charlotte Burchetta ’22

“There are leaders to help find and schedule and staff. There are leaders who lead to make sure that the physical boundaries of this test site are here,” Mr. Chandler said. “Several times a day we get together at this site, we stand in the parking lot. There’s about ten of us, all leaders, and so we all stand in a circle and we tell each other what we know about the previous few hours.”

Montefiore Hospital began in 1884 through donations and received its name from Sir Moses Montefiore, a well-known benefactor at the time.  Montefiore has been leading the nation in medical breakthroughs since its founding, according to montefiore.org.  The center currently has 13 locations in the state of New York, including The Bronx, New Rochelle, Eastchester, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon, Tarrytown, Yonkers, Rockland County, White Plains, Wakefield, and Newburgh.

Due to the large size of the Montefiore health system, which includes 13 hospitals between The Bronx and upstate New York and over 45,000 patients, every member of the staff must work to strategize.  Mr. Chandler believes that it is crucial to devise long-term plans for the health system. While not a clinician, Mr. Chandler’s background of engineering is a pivotal element of his current contributions.

“I’m an engineer. That’s my background, and that’s what has led me to be able to contribute to our system as it relates to planning,” Mr. Chandler said.

The clinical staff at the Montefiore Hospital testing site administer drive-through tests to cars in two lanes.  Courtesy of Mr. Rick Chandler

Previously, Mr. Chandler worked as the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings for four years.  In total, he worked for 20 years in The Department of Buildings (DOB), and 31 years with New York City.  During that time, Mr. Chandler launched DOB NOW, a program permitting New Yorkers to conduct business with DOB online and provided many jobs, according to nyc.gov, which modernized DOB, granted faster public service, and allowed clarity and transparency in the DOB.

Mr. Chandler tries to look at the big picture in terms of his everyday work.  He is part of the team that is fighting the virus along with the rest of the world.

“I liked the fact that I’m part of that team and they [the other leaders] are a part of the team, so that there’s lots of different leaders, and then we all play our role,” Mr. Chandler said. “I enjoy and feel a sense of pride that I am one piece of very many pieces that has to make the whole thing move forward toward the solution.”

Listen to Mr. Rick Chandler speak about his experience working at the Montefiore test site during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Audio Edited by Sydney Kim ’20, Managing Editor

Featured Image by Charlotte Burchetta ’22

This story was originally published on King Street Chronicle on May 26, 2020.