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Nationwide Children's New Chief Medical Officer Takes Helm At Crucial Moment

Urgent care at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, on March 31, 2020.
David Holm
Urgent care at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, on March 31, 2020.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a new Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Rustin Morse is a faculty member at The Ohio State University and a pediatric emergency room physician.

Morse will oversee nearly 1,400 health care workers at the 673-bed hospital. He joins the team as anxiety rises around COVID-19, with cases increasing in Ohio just as children prepare to make a possible return to school.

“It has been a big disruption in healthcare delivery in both adults and pediatrics," Morse says. "I think it probably is the most pressing issue we’ve dealt with, certainly in 2020."

He’s confident, though, that Nationwide is prepared for any surge that may happen.

“We have thought through various scenarios, we have prepared appropriately to have appropriate protective personal equipment available, we have plans in place to take care of patients should the volume exceed our current capacity,” Morse says. “We’ve been preparing now for six months.”

But the coronavirus threw a wrench into another major effort from the hospital: their On Our Sleevesprogram for children’s mental health.

“We are still beginning to understand what that looks like, especially as school has been disrupted, and that has been a key factor for providing support services for children,” Morse says.

Things like telemedicine have allowed the hospital to bridge that gap. And looking to the future, Morse wants Nationwide to use that type of innovative strategy to get beyond the hospital’s walls. He points to behavioral health, where patients would struggle to access community resources once they’d received a diagnosis at the hospital.

“We opened up a very large free-standing Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion that now provides comprehensive care for pediatric patients with psychiatric patients, both in an out-patient and in-patient facility,” he says. “That’s transformative. That’s something very few communities have in place."

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.