March 16, 2023

CGU Faculty and Students Co-author COVID-19 Research Focusing on Local Latino Population

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt, but for researchers at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, the work was just beginning.

Spanning from March 2020 to April 2021, Professor and former CGU President Debbie Freund formed a team with clinicians at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center to better understand the effects of the pandemic on the local community. Dr. Daniel Gluckstein, co-author and Director of Infectious Diseases at PVHMC during the study, indicated “the partnership was essential to focus on careful data collection and to leverage local expertise to facilitate sophisticated statistical analysis.”

Freund noted that initially, they battled issues all too common at the time. “When we started off, it was a huge challenge to get resources to deal with the large number of patients and understand rapidly evolving treatments and care protocols. Freund recounted that it became clear that to treat COVID-19 effectively, early diagnosis and severe disease risk assessment were essential.

Despite extensive research on COVID-19’s ethnic and racial health disparities, few studies focused on a single US facility with a predominantly Latino population. Freund noted that most research on COVID-19 tends to come from teaching hospitals, which often serve less diverse communities. US community hospitals are therefore a rich but rarely studied source of data, making the study unique. With this blind spot in public health research in mind, the co-authors sought to focus specifically on the majority Latino population and its experience of COVID-19 at PVHMC.

They found that COVID-19 studies seeking to identify correlates of mortality should consider the variability within the population and the proportion of Latino persons in their population. Freund recounted, “you often hear of obesity as being an important predictor of death, but not in our study. We found that other risk factors, including some demographic and clinical parameters, as well as comorbid diseases, were more important predictors than obesity in our population.”

The research corroborated several previously identified mortality risk factors and found that patients over 65, males, and those with renal disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, or pulse oxygen levels less than 88%, were independently associated with increased mortality, and that some COVID-19 therapeutics, such as remdesivir, reduced the probability of death.

The study, which included 4,881 patients through the first 14 months of the pandemic, was published in Open Forum Infectious Disease, a journal of the Infectious Disease Society of America, and Oxford University Press.

Freund noted that some of the findings were counterintuitive: “We found that there was a lower mortality rate in individuals from households with more than one family member who had COVID-19. We do not know why, but it could be that when someone witnessed a household member with COVID-19, that they were more likely to seek medical care earlier.”

Freund’s research highlights CGU’s commitment to applied research. Dr. Gluckstein notes that “these productive collaborative partnerships are essential to bringing research expertise into local communities, particularly those with vulnerable populations”.