Prominent Ham Operators Lead Major Covid-19 Pandemic Effort

Amateur radio often helps out in emergencies. But hams have other lives besides what’s they’re licensed to do by the FCC under the Amateur Radio Service. One prominent ham, Dr. Scott Wright K0MD, edits the American Radio Relay League’s National Contesting Journal and contacts many, many other hams in official contests. But in his work life as a physician at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, he regularly saves lives as a cardiovascular physician. But now Dr. Wright and a fellow physician and ham operator, Dr. Peter Marx of the US Food and Drug Administration (call sign AB3XC), are engaged in a much broader life-saving activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Scott Wright, MD, Mayo Clinic (K0MD)

Convalescent plasma is the only antibody based therapy currently available for COVID-19 patients. The US Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program is a collaborative project between the US government and the Mayo Clinic to provide access to convalescent plasma for patients in the United States who are hospitalized with COVID-19. The study, goals and explanations for what convalescent plasma is can be found on the official website:

 If you would like to participate, please contact them at [email protected]

My role is to organize the infrastructure, the research approach, help lead the set up of the data collection teams and the website teams while overseeing the study conduct and regulatory compliance,” said Dr. Wright. The study started in early April under the leadership of Michael Joyner, MD of the Mayo Clinic, R Scott Wright, MD of the Mayo Clinic, Peter Marks, MD, PhD and Nicole Verdun, MD of the US FDA and Arturo Casavedall, MD, PhD of Johns Hopkins University. The regulations governing the treatment of human subjects in research studies are substantial and required by law.

Peer-reviewed publications are already rolling out of this fast-paced medical team. The first safety report on 5,000 patients was published in May in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the most recent safety report on 20,000 subjects published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings this past week. Dr. Wright added, “The FDA will be making an announcement in a week or less about the benefit of convalescent plasma. We are working on a third publication now to submit to a major international medical journal for publication on whether the study has shown that use of convalescent plasma reduces mortality.” Dr. Peter Marks and Dr. Nicole Verdun are the leaders at the Food and Drug Administration.

The work of this study has been on top of my regular day job, and has been intense and required working daily including weekends for all of April, most of May and all of June so far.

Dr. Scott Wright, Mayo Clinic and Editor, ARRL National Contesting Journal

The ability of team members like Dr. Wright and others at the Mayo Clinic to move at this fast pace has been remarkable. Most studies of this magnitude take months to a year with planning and execution to initiate the scientific study. Dr. Wright said, “We started in less than a week. Most studies recruit 2500-5000 patients. We have recruited over 30,000 patients in 10 weeks, exceeding all expectations. We have hospitals in all 50 states and several US territories who are participating and over 8000 physician scientists who are working with us as investigators at their hospitals. We also helped manage the start up of collection of convalescent plasma by the large blood organizations like the American Red Cross and others by strategically connecting donor pools and people willing to donate with the blood collection centers. The work of this study has been on top of my regular day job, and has been intense and required working daily including weekends for all of April, most of May and all of June so far.

Convalescent Plasma

Program participation

June 30, 2020

Dr. Marks and I love our hobby of amateur radio. But this study draws on our professional work and our compassion for our fellow human beings. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a shell-shock for me as I’ve worked the Emergency Room at Mayo Clinic. The Convalescent Plasma Program is clearly saving lives and preventing some of the terrible outcomes of the Covid-19 virus. I’ve had to hand over some of my editor duties at the League’s National Contesting Journal to another ham operator so as to meet the expectations of both roles. Dr. Marks and I, along with our complete team including Dr. Casavedall of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Joyner, our program leader at Mayo, are very optimistic that the intervention work in the clinical setting and the research publications that emerge from the Program will continue to make a different in the lives of all who are threatened by this deadly virus,” concluded Dr. Wright. The Amateur Radio Code beckons us to balance our hobby with our other callings. These two ham operators are living that Code daily now.

He also added for the ham radio community, “I will be the keynote speaker at the QSO Today International Ham radio Fair in early August talking about the study, its results, etc.,. and linking it to skills acquired through ham radio.” If readers are not yet familiar with the QSO Today Ham Radio Expo, please visit the website for that event. Registration is free and Scott’s Keynote Address will kick off the Expo with how amateur radio helped him take a leadership role in getting this major medical program up and running in record time. Just like amateur radio does in most emergencies. Except on a much grander scale in this case.

Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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