Dr. Melissa Brunsvold Finds Preparation is Key in Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic
July 21, 2020
After completing her surgery training at Henry Ford Hospital, Surgical Critical Care Fellowship at the University of Michigan and working as faculty at the University of Michigan for four years, Melissa Brunsvold, MD, decided to return to her home state of Minnesota.
“I was excited for an opportunity to open up at the University of Minnesota Medical School,” Dr. Brunsvold said. “I came here because one of my main interests was in surgical education, and the U of M has a reputation for developing programs in surgical education, as well as excellence in research.”
Preparing the Next Generation of Surgeons
Dr. Brunsvold currently serves as an associate professor in the Department of Surgery and the program director of the general surgery residency. She is also the medical director of the surgical intensive care unit and the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program for the M Health Fairview system.
As program director, Dr. Brunsvold is in charge of training the next generation of surgeons.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding things that I do,” she said. “I love the ‘a-ha’ moments when young surgeons figure out how a procedure works or understand how to hold an instrument just right.”
Preparing for COVID-19
As soon as she knew the pandemic was imminent, Dr. Brunsvold began to devise preparation plans.
“I wanted to help develop the surge plan, so that our system was able to effectively reallocate our residents in the case of a surge. From there, I worked with each individual program to efficiently identify the best use of resident talents and where they could be redeployed during the pandemic,” she said.
As the medical director of the ECMO program, Dr. Brunsvold also worked with the team to develop a plan for increasing the system’s capacity and reach in case of emergency.
“Because of the pandemic, we’ve had to have processes to start patients on ECMO at new hospitals––like Bethesda and St. Joes––which before the pandemic, were not hospitals we were set up at,” she said. “Prior to the pandemic, eight patients was our maximum. Now, we have developed plans to be able to go much higher just in case it’s needed in the crisis state of the pandemic.”
Dr. Brunsvold is a firm believer that planning is the key to success for the future and in uncertain times.
“I think if we can be well-planned and organized, we will have success even when the crisis hits––even though the plans are unlikely to completely fit the situation,” she said. “This is an incredibly unique time to be a healthcare provider. I hope that I can look back and say that I’ve made a difference in the lives of the patients I’ve served, and that we learn something throughout this about treating our patients in a more efficient way for the future.”