Q&A with Dr. Brian French

Since 2008, Dr. Brian French ’94 (biology) has been an internal medicine hospitalist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, the largest hospital in the Twin Cities. This winter his work ramped up as he helped plan and prepare for COVID-19 ahead of its arrival to the land of 10,000 lakes.

Along with the help he provides to patients and coworkers at the hospital, Brian is trying to support an even broader circle of people and programs during these tough times.

Today for #GivingTuesdayNow, Brian and his wife Dawn ’95 are encouraging others to donate to the science programs at MSUM by providing a $2,000 matching gift. When 10 gifts or more are made to the campaign for science, health and the environment, $2,000 for the Ken Sjegstad Scholarship endowment will be unlocked, thanks to the donation by the Frenchs. You can give today at www.mnstate.edu/givingday.

Read more below on how the coronavirus has impacted Brian’s job and his approach in helping others during these pivotal times.

How is COVID-19 impacting my world and why I think it is important to support sciences?
While my job has never been “routine” or “boring,”  it has been extremely fast paced, stressful, and intense since the initial COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In anticipation of the inevitability of eventually caring for COVID-19 patients, my hospitalist partners and I were planning how to care for COVID-19 patients long before the first cases showed up in Minnesota. Caring for COVID patients has been a unique experience as this is the first disease I have encountered in which there was no established body of literature on which to base treatment. Until days ago, treatment of COVID-19 patients was mostly supportive. However, there has been a deluge of research publications from scientists around the world on their experiences treating COVID-19 patients and what interventions worked and which didn’t. In lots of instances, there are conflicting conclusions in the literature for this very novel disease of which we know so little. Therefore, physicians like myself treating COVID-19 patients have had to rely heavily on our understanding of science to wade through the extensive emerging COVID-19 scientific literature and sort through disparate results and treatment recommendations. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of rigorous science education in the quest for determining the infectious potential of the virus, how it is transmitted, potential cures and the ultimate goal: a vaccine. One also needs to be armed with a good science education to interpret sometimes conflicting literature on this emerging disease. 

Why do you think it’s especially vital to support others and, specifically, science programs during this time in history?

Without scientists at the forefront of the fight against pandemics, our world will be very different––one in which emerging pathogens are much less contained, putting the world’s population at great risk. Thus, it is important that colleges and universities continue to train scientists, and that science programs, albeit expensive, receive much needed vital financial support. This current pandemic has highlighted the fact that we can ill-afford to inhabit a country that does not train an adequate number of scientists. 

What has MSUM meant to you?

I arrived at MSUM in the fall of 1990 with the clear goal of majoring in biology and eventually proceeding to medical school. I formed an immediate kinship with my fellow biology majors and remember fondly our late-night study sessions at King Hall. My biology and other science professors were readily accessible and provided smart guidance enabling me to major in biology, minor in chemistry, enroll in a graduate program in molecular genetics and eventually attend medical school. I will forever be grateful to MSUM for not only the rigorous scientific education I received but also the very eye-opening liberal arts education, which I found invaluable. I would not have achieved all I have without the superb education I received at MSUM.

This story is being featured as part of #GivingTuesdayNow. You can give to support MSU Moorhead programs and scholarships at www.mnstate.edu/givingday.