COVID-19: SON Stories from the Front Lines

Three alumni photos. The first is wearing PPE in a clinical setting. The second looks like Rosie the Riveter with the word nurse painted on her arm. The third is wearing a shirt with a bunny wearing a mask for Easter.

UB nurses are working tirelessly to prevent the spread of the virus in our communities locally and around the globe, and their efforts are helping to make the world a safer place. Even as this pandemic affects almost every aspect of our lives, our shared sense of purpose and pride grows stronger than ever.

Together, we are #UBuffaloStrong.

On this page:

Stories From the Front Lines

Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, BA ’81

Alumnia Rebec Rebecca McCormick-Boyle standing in front of St. Joseph's hospital.

“I am a nurse, and this highlights the sheer number of nurses helping people in close proximity,” she says. “But it has been a team effort. It’s also the people wiping counters and floors, and of course the physicians—the partnership between the providers has been extraordinary."

School of Nursing alumna and U.S. Navy leader returns to WNY to help steer the fight against COVID-19. Read her full story.

Vivian Whitehead, BS '72

SON alumni wearing a mask, gown and other PPE in a clinical setting.

"I’ve been in Nursing for 50 years and have never seen anything like this COVID 19 epidemic. I worked most of my time in critical care, rehab, and ER. I tried to retire, but it just wasn’t right for me. So back to work I go! I have never experienced the kindness I see now, even though the work is so hard. I am so proud to be a nurse!"

Cari Gavin, BS '19

Nursing alumni Cari Gavin flexing her arm, which has the word nurse painted on it, like Rosie the Riveter.

"Keep up the good work! I want to give my gratitude to the whole school and especially my professors for the teaching and preparation I had. I hope they are all proud of their work in preparing us for this unforeseen 'war.' May I speak for my classmates, I feel that our professors did a great job training us 'soldiers.' Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you are all proud of the alumni, that your hard work created. Thank you all for preparing us for the challenges we are facing."

Ashley Ward, BS '10

Alumna Ashley Ward wearing a shirt that says Easter 2020 and has an image of a bunny wearing a mask.

"Easter looks a little different this year!"

Leslie Begy, BS '14

A nurse wearing a mask on an airplane.

Leslie Begy was born and raised in New York, but she now lives in Germany with her husband who is stationed there as a Battalion Surgeon in the Army. When she saw how serious things were starting to get, particularly in her home state of New York, she felt compelled to be there. Read her story here (NEWS10).

“I really felt in my heart, I’m supposed to be there. I’m supposed to be helping. I have the experience. I’m from New York, this is my home. I’m used to the pace. I just felt so helpless. I was telling my husband I just want to be there.”

Maxwell Boasiako Antwi, DNP '19, BS '13

"The decision to volunteer is very important to me since my primary focus as a health care provider is to serve the vulnerable people in society. Having served in the Red Cross Society in Ghana as a first aider and a relief worker prior to being trained as a registered nurse, I always see the opportunity of serving as a place for me to do what I love."

Maxwell voluntarily registered to care for patients in heavily hit COVID-19 areas if needed.

Volunteer Stories

Sharon Hewner: Using Data for Safe Discharges of Homeless Community Members

Sharon Hewner.

Sharon Hewner, associate professor in the School of Nursing, is volunteering with a Housing Management Information System (HMIS) workgroup of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology sponsored Gravity project on integrating housing data into health information exchange.

Locally, she is working with HEALTHeLINK, who has made it possible to bring in data to support two COVID-19 related use cases about homeless people who are known to local agencies -- such as the Buffalo City Mission -- to alert them when someone is COVID-19 positive so that safe discharges (i.e., to a place where they can be isolated) can be facilitated.

This group was able to pull together HEALTHeLINK, UB SON, Housing Alliance of Western New York, and Gabe Cate of WellSKY (the electronic record vendor for the housing sector locally) here in Buffalo to make this happen.

Niomy Pena: Responding to the Desperate Need for Health Care Workers

Niomy Pena in personal protective equiment.

Niomy Pena, a junior in UB School of Nursing's traditional baccalaureate program, recently started a temporary position at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Center, NY, as a nurse assistant. The position was open to nursing students who want to help the hospital with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

"I wanted to help because of the desperate need for health care workers," says Pena.

She also wanted to gain valuable experience during the time in which clinical rotations were not available to students.

"I have floated to COVID-19 floors and the ICU throughout the few weeks that I have worked there. The patients that I have gotten to work with have put life into perspective for me and shown me that life is precious and we must cherish every moment," Pena says. "The changes in the hospital system have been a big adjustment for me but I am hopeful that there will soon be a light at the end of the tunnel." 

Carla Jungquist: Education and Isolation Surveillance for COVID-19 Patients

Carla Jungquist.

Carla Jungquist, UB SON adult/gerontology interim program coordinator and associate professor, volunteered for the Monroe County Department of Public Health to conduct home isolation surveillance and education visits to those testing positive for COVID-19. 

In March, the response team was activated to help the Monroe County Health Department track and confirm isolation restrictions with COVID-19 positive residents.

"I went out to homes and visited families that had a member of the household with active infection. I taught them about isolation procedures, confirmed their order of isolation from the health department and what that meant for the entire household. We also assessed for a safe housing environment and that the residents had food, medications, heat, masks, hand sanitizers and thermometers. When we returned to the health department, we reported to the team that provide support to the home isolated patients. Support included food or medication deliveries or referrals to social services for other needs.

"During one of my visits, I met a bus driver who was so thankful for the community support and our visit to his home. He offered to pay forward the support after his recovery. Unfortunately, now the need is way beyond the capabilities to provide individual home visits to all isolated families; isolated residents are now visited virtually by Facetime, Zoom, Skype visits or just phone calls when home visits are not possible."

Joann Sands: Checking In on COVID-19 Patients

Joann Sands.

In March, Joann Sands, UB SON clinical assistant professor, volunteered for two different roles with the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH).

In one role, Sands called and sent text messages to patients who were isolated or quarantined either due to being COVID-19 positive, or had been exposed to COVID-19 and were awaiting their test results.

"We texted and called to check up on them, see how they were doing, document their temperature, ensure they had everything they needed, asked about their symptoms, and answered any questions they had," Sands says.

Sands also volunteered for ECDOH as a "greeter" at a hotel in Amherst, NY, that housed COVID-19 patients who were discharged from the hospital and were not able to return home, or who needed to be quarantined but did not have a place to do so.

Paige Gerardi: Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Paige Gerardi, a student in UB SON's traditional baccalaureate program has been a part of her community's volunteer ambulance corps for four years and was recently certified as an EMT-B.

"When this first started, I was volunteering long hours due to the demand of first responders needed," Gerardi says. "Recently, after receiving an emergency call to my elderly neighbor's house after a fall, I have been spending my time there as much as possible due to her lack of mobility. Being able to help not only my neighbor, but my community during this crisis has allowed me to be grateful for the health of myself and my family. 

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