Publication Alert: Preparing the Intensive Care Unit for Future Pandemics

Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, lead author on a new publication detailing the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

From SARS to H1N1 to Ebola and now COVID-19, it is clear that pandemic infectious diseases are likely to be a constant challenge to the healthcare system and humanity for the foreseeable future. Luckily, past pandemics can help us learn to better combat these diseases in the future. This is the case made by a new article authored by Drs. Cawcutt, Kalil, and Hewlett. Their thesis: best summed up by the Winston Churchhill quote “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Dr. Andre Kalil, co-author on this new pandemic preparedness publication.

The article begins with an overview of the impact of pandemics on medicine and society at large. They note that there is a silver lining to these damaging events- namely, they have been shown to accelerate improvements in patient care, especially among critically ill patient populations. We can emerge from pandemics better equipped to handle complex medical cases than we were before they started, but only if we are willing to study and learn from our mistakes.

Dr. Angela Hewlett, also a co-author on this new pandemic preparedness publication.

The next section of the paper explores the specific lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes anything from supply chain management to ethics and the use of media, each throughly described. They conclude this section exploring mistakes instead with an exploration of the triumphs of the medical community during the pandemic, as not all lessons learned were negative. We make significant advancements and accomplished incredible feats during the past few years, showing the community’s ability to rise to a challenge.

Next, the authors cover the intensive care unit specifically, outlining lessons learned in the four S’s of surge capacity: Space, Staffing, Stuff, and Systems. For each ‘S’, detailed and actionable considerations are enumerated for better pandemic preparedness in the future.

Lastly, the authors explore some final thoughts regarding the importance of research and addressing inequality in health care. They end with a call to action:


If history has taught us anything, it is that future pandemics are inevitable. COVID-19 highlighted the critical infrastructure failures in preparedness for a large-scale lethal respiratory viral pandemic and those failures must be the lessons on which future pandemic preparedness strategies are built. This must be a multidisciplinary, broad reaching strategy, and perhaps there are no areas more critical to ensure preparedness than within ICUs.

Preparing the Intensive Care Unit for a Lethal Viral Respiratory Pandemic, 2022


To read this article in its entirety, including for specific details regarding how we can better prepare for a future pandemic, see the full text here.

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