Project Summary

This research initiative seeks to engage healthcare workers (HCWs) to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their health and evaluate whether hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) can be used effectively to prevent COVID-19 infections in HCWs.

The focus on HCWs is especially important given their vital role on the front lines of treating this novel infection, and because they are particularly at high risk of developing the infection themselves. Recent data show that the rate of HCWs testing positive for COVID-19 is reported to be up to 20 percent, or one in five.

About the HERO Research Program

The HERO Research Program will be conducted in two parts—a registry and a clinical trial. The first part, a national registry, will identify and enroll a large number of HCWs who work on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and are at risk for developing COVID-19 infection. HCWs who choose to join the registry will have the option of providing health information about relevant COVID-19 risk factors, medical encounters, and health status.

Related News (April 13, 2020): DCRI-Led Registry Launches, Invites Healthcare Workers Nationwide to Fight COVID-19 Together

The second part of the program, a randomized clinical trial, will identify and seek consent from 15,000 HCWs from the registry who express interest in participating in the clinical trial. The trial will randomize participants to either one month of HCQ or placebo and will examine whether HCQ is effective in decreasing the rate of COVID-19 infection. In addition to evaluating HCQ benefits and risks, the study also will explore how well HCQ can prevent healthcare workers from unintentionally spreading the virus to others.

This study will utilize PCORnet®, the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, an established health research network of more than 850,000 clinicians and hundreds of health systems. Duke Clinical Research Institute will also oversee the HERO program, and study results will be shared widely with the healthcare community.

Journal Citations

Article Highlight: Results appearing in the Journal of General Internal Medicine show that COVID-19 healthcare workers experienced high rates of potential moral injury that are comparable to rates among combat veterans. Moral injuries are defined as actions that conflict with values and beliefs, causing psychological harm. The researchers relied on data from 618 post-9/11 combat veterans and a separate survey of 2,099 healthcare workers enrolled in the HERO Registry.

Veterans were asked about moral experiences in the context of their military service, while healthcare workers were asked about their experiences during COVID-19. Healthcare workers noted that witnessing the public’s disregard for preventing COVID-19 transmission, seeing people dying, experiencing staffing shortages, rationing personal protective equipment, and enforcing policies not allowing visitors to witness dying patients were among the experiences that conflicted with their moral values.

Project Information

Adrian Hernandez, MD, MHS; Emily O'Brien, PhD (HERO registry); Susanna Naggie, MD (HERO-HCQ trial)
Duke University

Key Dates

April 2020
March 2023

Study Registration Information


State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: April 13, 2022