Newman helps Sansum Clinic adapt on the fly

By Vianna Mabanag
Special to the Business Times

As COVID-19 made its way around the globe early this year, Sansum Clinic Medical Director Dr. Marjorie Newman and her staff prepared to adapt for the worst––and it’s working.

“We’ve done everything we could to change to ensure we’re keeping our patients as safe as possible with social distancing and developing completely new workflows in terms of how we manage patients,” Newman said.

A New York City native, Newman earned her medical training and completed residency at Mount Sinai School of Medicine before settling on California’s Central Coast. She now leads the medical staff at Sansum, a nonprofit network of medical clinics based in Santa Barbara.

“Coming from the city, you feel like health care can’t be better,” Newman said. “But then you realize that all the smart and talented people moved out here because of work-life balance and being in a beautiful place. Many of my colleagues came from incredible training programs. It’s a pretty impressive group.”

As Gov. Gavin Newsom officialized a “stay-at-home” order across California, Newman helped to quickly implementnew strategies within Sansum Clinic to decrease infection rates.

Sansum Clinic’s medical director Dr. Marjorie Newman.

“Once we started testing, we realized that the positive rate in our community was 14 percent,” she said. “We were only testing the most symptomatic people because supplies were limited, but that was still a hefty number. We realized the importance of being able to test people and do it quickly.”

From April to early June, Sansum adapted to work with the rules of social distancing. The majority of visits were conducted through telehealth and new protocols were developed to ensure protection: Patients were screened at the door, frontline staff were equipped with new gear and sterilizations techniques were adopted for masks.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding, incredibly interesting and incredibly exhausting at the same time,” Newman said.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky and happy to know that none of our healthcare workers have tested positive at least as a result of a healthcare exposure. We’re happy to know that everything we’ve been doing has been working.”

As for what’s next, Newman says that education is key.
“This isn’t a sprint, this is an endurance race,” she said. “We can’t educate people enough about the importance of wearing masks, limiting social gatherings, ensuring social distancing, and protecting themselves and their loved ones as much as possible.”

For now, Newman’s main priority is to stay on top of supply needs. Until a vaccine arrives, Newman says she and her staff are constantly on the lookout to purchase personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers and dealing with public health officials to help ease the stresses of the pandemic.

Sansum Clinic is independent from the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, which is also based in Santa Barbara.

Both are named for Dr. William Sansum a noted physician and pioneer in the treatment of diabetes with insulin.