Making Things Just A Little Easier

by Peter Killian and Molly K. McCarthy

 

“The best way to prepare a bright future is to experience the present as best we can, with commitment and generosity.”
Pope Francis

With commitment and generosity, Dolphins around the world have stepped forward to serve their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. All have made a difference in the lives of those they’ve touched, helping to make this difficult time just a little easier. These are the stories of three ‘Phins making an impact.


Meaghan

He could feel her weight press against his feet and he smiled. Over the past six months of isolation, Zoom calls and working from home with little interaction with the world around him, she was the one who continually brought consolation to his day. “Man’s best friend couldn’t be a truer statement,” he thought as he reached down to gently scratch her behind her ears.

Meaghan Burrows ’20 knows firsthand the benefits of a pet’s company during this pandemic. As a first-year graduate student at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Meaghan is learning quickly about the collective benefits of having a pet. During times of isolation and loneliness, a dog or cat can bring great emotional comfort to an individual who is alone. In fact, Meaghan herself has adopted a pet while she is at home taking classes online during the pandemic.

While shelters and kennels are empty and adoptions are at all-time highs, veterinary hospitals are busier than ever with some very unexpected consequences. They have remained open during the pandemic, resulting in appointments booked solid, emergency clinics at or over capacity and staffing limited. “The influx of new adoptions has put a real strain on the staff at animal hospitals. Yet people don’t necessarily think about the similarities we share with the medical community, Veterinary hospitals are understaffed, overworked and struggling to obtain PPE, just like our counterparts,” Meaghan said.

In addition to working with animals, veterinary staff are also dealing with owners who have significant emotional investments in their pets. They become frustrated at not being able to book an appointment or having to see a veterinarian curb side. Unfortunately, these clients sometimes take their frustration out on the staff. A combination of all of these stressors during the pandemic has led the veterinary profession to see a higher than
average rate of suicide than is typical.

Meaghan offered the following advice: “Be nice to your veterinary staff. They are working as hard as they can to triage and treat every pet that walks in the door, often meaning they are working longer and more strenuous hours. We are here for your pets and we love them, but please be kind, have patience and understand the new stressors that the veterinary profession is facing during COVID-19.”


Sarah

As she swallowed the last bite of her sandwich, she closed her eyes and felt the late-summer breeze blow through the window and cool her clammy skin. She took a deep breath, smiled at the sound of the birds in the trees and wished for a normal lunch. Yet as she gathered herself and opened the car door, she realized that this might be as normal as it gets in today’s anomalous world.

For Sarah Fellows ’21, a biology major, her car was the safest place she could find to take a break, remove her mask and enjoy her lunch. “Working at a health clinic, and being with COVID-19 patients all day, I just didn’t feel safe removing my mask and eating in the break room,” Sarah recalled recently over Zoom.

During the past year Sarah has been a medical assistant with a variety of organizations, including hospitals in Rochester and Syracuse, as well as Urgent Care facilities in both cities. Seeing over 100 patients a day, many of them exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, she has lived the reality of being a frontline worker. When asked what it is like being in the field, she described it this way, “At times I’ve felt extremely scared, where I was putting myself at risk as were my colleagues, and at the same time I have grown so much, and have become more compassionate, patient and understanding.” She continued in a more philosophical manner, “I’ve learned to expect the worst and to continue to think ahead. If I can get through this, I can get through anything.”

Her advice to her fellow Dolphins? Take this very seriously. Your actions affect more than just you and your family; they affect those at grocery stores, restaurants, work and other places you go. Put your creativity to work in opening up social avenues while being smart and safe. But most of all, she said, “Be kind and always give what you can. Every day you have the opportunity to be a positive and calming influence on the lives you touch.”

Now that she has graduated, Sarah can’t help but look back on her experiences and those along the way who have helped mold her into the person she is today. From coaches and faculty to friends and mentors, she has grown into a woman for and with others with a huge amount of magis absorbed into the mold. What’s next for Sarah? She plans to continue to work in healthcare over the next year to gain more hours and experience, and then apply to a physician assistant studies program for the fall of 2022.


Jenn

America’s Foreign Service officers allow the U.S. to maintain critical relationships with other nations around the world. It is all-consuming and deeply intense work, with national and global security hanging in the balance. The success of these missions would not be possible without the aid of caring professionals like Jennifer Monna ’12. As a medical provider with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Medical Services, Monna is tasked with safeguarding the well-being of America’s diplomatic community. She is, in effect, a health care provider, a diplomat and a logistical expert all in one. There is nothing she would rather do, and no place she’d rather be than wherever she is most urgently needed.

“It’s pretty much the coolest job ever,” she said.

Jenn, who felt the tug toward service as a student in Le Moyne’s Physician Assistant Studies Program, recently returned from a two-year tour as a medical attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. There she led a team of
10 healthcare professionals at the embassy medical unit providing primary, urgent, and emergent care services to over 500 embassy staff members and their families. Before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, a typical day for her included treating acute and chronic disease; coordinating Medevacs; educating the community on the infectious diseases unique to Nigeria and developing strategies to safeguard the community against them; managing wellness programs; coordinating disaster preparedness; collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies; providing medical intelligence to Washington; and briefing Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard and others leading the mission on emerging disease trends.

Once COVID-19 took hold around the world, it became the focus of Jenn’s work. She helped lead the embassy’s response to the health crisis, building a field hospital, establishing a standardized approach to contact tracing, and assisting the ambassador in crafting her remarks. Jenn also communicated regularly with medical professionals leading the federal government’s response to the pandemic stateside. She is proud to say that throughout her time in Nigeria, with carefully crafted policies, a sound testing strategy, and robust contact tracing efforts, there was no staff-to-staff transmission of the virus inside of the embassy once a case was identified.

“I think one of the major things I learned through all of this is how important and valuable it is to work together with other agencies and medical experts and bring all of the ideas to the table to craft thoughtful policy,” she said of the experience. “In the future I will continue to work outside of the box with other resources to include many different voices and perspectives.”

Jenn recently began a new tour in Brazil, where combatting the pandemic remains among the highest priorities for her and her colleagues. Once the pandemic is under control, she is looking forward to exploring her new home. Her other goals during the tour include developing a wellness and resilience program for staff. And, of course, she will continue to work to craft health care policy that is compassionate, effective and which earns the trust of the community.