Research Fellow Alumnus Leads COVID-19 Care in Wuhan

Zhiyong Peng, MD and Colleagues Win Golden Team Award

There are few physicians in the world with more COVID-19 experience than Zhiyong Peng, MD. He is head of Critical Care Medicine at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China and a former Pitt research fellow (CCM ’13). In early 2020, almost half of China’s COVID-19 patients were from Wuhan, with many of the sickest patients hospitalized in Dr. Peng’s ICUs.

Dr. Peng attributes his leadership skills and ability to manage teams to his eight years at Pitt conducting research and working for a year as a faculty member. As a research fellow, he studied sepsis pathophysiology and ran the sepsis lab under the mentorship of John Kellum (CCM ’94) while also evaluating best clinical practices in the US.

“Zhiyong’s initial paper in JAMA played a hugely important role in telling the world what was coming with COVID-19, and making people start to prepare in earnest,” said Derek Angus, MD, MPH (CCM ‘91), who is chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

His 2020 JAMA paper (online Feb. 7 and print Mar. 17) describes the demographics, symptoms, lab and imaging findings, treatment, and clinical course of COVID-19 in-patients at Zhongnan Hospital.

Dr. Peng’s team of 196 medical personnel was recognized with a Golden Team Award for outstanding work in saving the greatest number of critically ill COVID-19 patients while achieving the lowest ICU mortality and lowest infection rate of medical staff. He was honored to represent his colleagues at the awards ceremony in Beijing on November 25, 2020 that was attended by the vice chair of the National People’s Congress along with the leaders of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, People’s Daily and CCTV.

Pittwire spoke to Dr. Peng in February 2020 in the early days of the pandemic and then again in March this year for an update.