Behind the mask: How Sports Physician Dr. Robert Lutz helped Davidson College navigate the pandemic

Behind the mask: How Sports Physician Dr. Robert Lutz helped Davidson College navigate the pandemic
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This content was created in partnership with Atrium Health.

For the past year, Dr. Robert Lutz has helped Davidson College navigate COVID-19 and safely bring students back on campus.

In March of 2020, Davidson College sent students home mid-semester as uncertainty around the pandemic loomed. Now, over 70% of students are vaccinated and COVID-19 cases hover around 0. Dr. Lutz is largely to thank (although he’s far too humble to admit that).

Background: Dr. Lutz graduated from Davidson in 1987 and returned in 2018 after a 30-year career in the Army to serve as the school’s Primary Care Sports Physician. He’s also an Atrium Health Provider at Sports Medicine & Injury Care – Davidson.


He was appointed the Chief Medical Advisor of Davidson College in late May of 2020 and leaned on public health expertise he gained over 14 deployments.

We asked him a few questions about his new role:

How did the college’s response to COVID-19 evolve over the course of the pandemic?

Dr. Lutz describes the response in three phases:

  • Phase 1: During the summer of 2020, they focused on ironing out the feasibility and requirements for bringing students back on campus. Securing a vendor to supply accurate and timely COVID-19 testing was a big hurdle.
  • Phase 2: Over winter break, Dr. Lutz prepared for the spring semester using lessons he learned in the fall. “We knew that it was going to get worse over the holidays so we needed to be prepared for that,” he says.
  • Phase 3: Right now, they’re looking ahead and figuring out how to “adjust everything to make it the experience we want students to have, but one that’s indeed safe and protects everyone,” says Dr. Lutz.

Davidson College

What was it like on campus last year?

Students were tested regularly, starting at once a week and getting more frequent as the situation developed and tests became faster and more widely available.

The college also imposed mask mandates and gathering limits that were more strict than the state’s directives due to the communal living environments on campus.

“There’s always pressure…people want more freedoms yet the restrictions that were put in place are what got us where we’re at,” says Dr. Lutz. “You try and find a happy balance, and figure out what’s best for the college.”

Davidson is a small school (around 2,000 students), which Dr. Lutz says made enforcement and contract tracing a bit easier.

How were students vaccinated?

Thanks to his unique partnership with Atrium Health and Davidson College, Dr. Lutz was able to organize an on-campus vaccination clinic on April 1 (the first day students were eligible). Over 1,000 students, staff and members of the public were vaccinated that day.

Over 70% of the student population is vaccinated, which has opened the door for special events like formals and even an in-person graduation. After a year of strict social distancing, it’s a welcome relief for students during the last few weeks on campus.

Related story: Atrium Health brings vaccines to underserved communities in Charlotte and beyond

What’s next for you and Davidson College?

The Board of Trustees formally thanked Dr. Lutz for his service to the school and the processes he established will help guide the administration through the coming months. He’s also looking forward to getting back to his off-campus sports
medicine clinic.

“This was a group effort. There wasn’t a book to pull out to tell us what to do, so we all came at it from different perspectives,” says Dr. Lutz.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit Atrium Health.

This content was created in partnership with Atrium Health.

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