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As so many throughout the school’s nine campuses provide support and leadership during this unprecedented time, one team has enabled thousands to remain connected. 

More than just 1s and 0s: IT staff keeps school community connected during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions throughout Indiana, and around the world. From working remotely or switching to classes online to rarely seeing loved ones—Hoosiers have had to adapt to new ways of communicating and collaborating, and Indiana University School of Medicine is no exception.

Faculty, staff, residents and students at the school have had to change how they approach education and training while ensuring individuals stay connected and engaged. As so many throughout the school’s nine campuses provide support and leadership during this unprecedented time, one team has enabled thousands to remain connected.

Patrick Phillips, director of IT Experience for Health Technology Services (HTS), leads a team of 68 computer technicians and staff based throughout the state. Together they support the IU Health Sciences community and a fleet of about 10,000+ computers. As IU School of Medicine employees began to transition to working from home in February due to COVID-19 concerns, Phillips and his team set a path forward to ensure thousands of employees had access to a computer and could connect to their desktops, emails, files and with their colleagues.

“The work didn’t stop just because folks went home,” Phillips said.

During the initial weeks of the pandemic, HTS had to ensure all computers were outfitted appropriately with all necessary peripheral equipment so individuals would have everything they needed for a swift transition. Phillips’s team experienced a surge in support tickets as employees began to adjust to life with Zoom and using IU’s virtual private network. Additionally, physicians and essential workers who remained on campus were still in need of tech support on all nine IU Health Science campuses, so the HTS team continued to assist with those onsite technology needs.

From transporting equipment to physicians at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health to delivering a loaner laptop to a PhD student so they could defend their thesis virtually—the team has spent countless hours supporting essential workers on campus.

“The experience really grounded me,” Phillips said. “I’ve been a manager for a while, but one crucial thing I’ve been reminded of throughout this experience is how hectic it is to be a computer support technician.”

In addition to providing onsite technical support, Phillips volunteered to assist the IUPUI Crimson Card office to ensure new and replacement Crimson Cards, the official photo ID card for all IU campuses, could continue to be distributed when the campus center location closed indefinitely. In fact, he became the only person on the IUPUI campus distributing CrimsonCards and continued to do so until June 8.

Through their resilience and dedication, Phillips and his team have paved the way for thousands in the IU community to not only thrive in their positions during a pandemic, but also remain connected to their colleagues and create new ways for engagement.

“The work that you do when there isn’t a pandemic is what really prepares you for a seamless transition when there is a crisis,” Phillips commented.

And the evidence is spread across the school as countless departments, centers and offices have managed to pull together and evolve just as quickly as new information is learned about the coronavirus.

When not leading the way for Health Sciences IT support, Phillips’ team has started virtual “hang out” sessions for IT staff to connect on a regular basis. The opportunity has been excellent for team members who normally wouldn’t interact and for colleagues outside of Indianapolis to feel connected.

“It’s really humanized our team members,” Phillips said. “It’s opened people up to the fact that there’s more to life than just 1s and 0s.”

The pandemic has shed light onto the heroes who don’t wear capes. Some wear scrubs, some drive buses, some stack grocery shelves and some deliver mail. Nonetheless, at IU School of Medicine more and more heroes are being revealed, including the technical support staff that enable thousands to stay connected and maintain a sense of humanity in a time when human connection is constrained. How individuals, like Phillips, and offices, like HTS, connect and evolve during this time is a testament to the ingenuity and spirit of IU and how its community adapts to an ever-evolving environment.

Learn more about HTS, which provides specialized tech support, data management, application development, security and infrastructure to IU Health Sciences schools, affiliated organizations and health care partners.

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Sonder Collins

Having joined IU School of Medicine in 2016, Sonder uses a poetry and theatre background to bridge the academic world with the creative. A graduate of University of Evansville, he works with faculty, staff and trainees to create unique marketing ideas that connect the public to research, education and clinical initiatives taking place at IU School of Medicine. From writing stories on groundbreaking equipment to orchestrating digital marketing strategies, Sonder collaborates with experts across the school to help departments thrive in their marketing and communication ambitions. His specific area of focus is the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences and the Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.  

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.