Hotchkiss Heroes Working to Flatten the Curve

Dr. Augy Kerschner '07, emergency medicine resident at Inspira Health Network, NJ

We asked the Hotchkiss community — students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff — to share how they are helping others through these unprecedented times.

Together, we are confronting a pandemic of historic proportions. More than four billion people, or half the world’s population, have been asked to stay home, according to The New York Times. As of this writing, more than one million people across 172 nations have tested positive for COVID-19; classrooms for 90 percent of the world’s students are closed; and more than seven million Americans have lost their jobs.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, countless members of the Hotchkiss family, near and far, have reached out to help others in their communities and beyond. Some are putting their own health at risk by working as medical professionals in hospitals, as civic leaders in government, as public servants, and by serving in the military. Others are delivering small acts of kindness: home-cooked meals, words of support, trips to the grocery store, homemade face masks, medical supplies — whatever they can do to make a difference. 

We honor and thank these heroes by sharing their stories. 

RECENT UPDATES:

David Yue '89, senior medical officer with the National Disaster Medical System, boards the Diamond Princess.

From our nation's capital, Dr. David Yue ’89, a senior medical officer with the National Disaster Medical System was part of a team that boarded the Diamond Princess to conduct wellness checks before the American passengers were evacuated. At the same time, he was on a team in Tokyo tracking down hospitalized Americans with COVID-19 and getting them compassionate use treatment with Remdesivir. He then led a team that collected SARS CoV specimens from over 300 of the Crown Princess passengers quarantined on Travis Air Force Base. “Recently, I worked with a small team of White House staff and the HHS Secretary's senior advisor on developing and launching a government website for telehealth, which is important for patients who aren't able to see their regular doctors for routine and chronic conditions," he writes. 

Also in D.C., Alexandra Hubbard-Gourlay '17, a student at Georgetown University, has been helping coordinate a relief fund in her college community. “We put together a relief fund for Georgetown students affected by coronavirus to help them with the emergency expenses associated with being forced to leave the university."Our fund thus far totaled 21K, and we have distributed all of these funds to over 100 applicants and gave out an average of $202," she reports.

Daniel Lippman '08, who covers the White House and Washington for POLITICO, offers this reflection:”I think the crisis has made Americans kinder to one another and more empathetic. We’re all going through this pandemic together and want what’s best for our country. I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve gotten where someone tells me: “hope you’re staying safe.” So hopefully the rebirth of kindness during a politically charged time will be a legacy that endures."

Also in D.C.,Richard Dana’71, a visual artist, recently organized a large-scale D.C. region virtual town hall meeting to address the impact of the pandemic on visual arts organizations and artists. His wife, Kitty, a senior public health advisor to the National League of Cities, is working on a COVID-19 crisis task force.

Katharine Givotovsky Birkett ’81 used to sew some of her own clothing during her Hotchkiss days, where she first tried her hand at making patterns. Living in hard-hit Bergen County, NJ, she put those skills to work designing a multi-sized mask with a removable wire. She has made how-to tutorials on Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF9PCfF0HME , and she is now designing patterns for other types of masks, including a mask that includes a clear window for those who need to read lips or need speech pathology services. 

In the Bronx, which has been hit hard by the virus, Tim Lord '83 and Jason Duchin '83 are founders of the nonprofit DreamYard, which has distributed over 3,000 free meals, partnered with agencies to deliver Chromebooks and develop tech support hubs, created a virtual classroom for 14 different art forms, offered paid summer internships, and served as the fiscal sponsor for The Bronx Community Relief Effort. 

And In Miami, Simon Strong '77 and his wife, Vilma, organized a food delivery of pasta, rice, beans, oats, and other staples and masks for a group of 40 undocumented seasonal agricultural workers from Guatemala who no longer have work due to the pandemic and whose children no longer have school (or the school lunch). Vilma is a reporter with Univision, a Spanish-language TV network, and recently reported on their situation.

Adanna Ogazi '21 brought a smile to the faces of young patients  at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, CT, with her hand-sewn Harry Potter-themed masks. 


Like hundreds of medical students across the country, Benjamin Ford ’11 graduated a month earlier than scheduled. Instead of beginning his residency in general surgery at the University of Rochester, he is spending eight weeks working as a doctor at Stony Brook University Hospital, assisting in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “These are trying times for everyone, and it is an honor that I will be able to contribute everything I have learned over the past four years in a way that utilizes it all,” he writes. Classmate Mark Cort, who graduated from NYU medical school April 3, is also putting his residency in neurology at UPenn on hold to fight the virus. Says Cort, "I am only a newly graduated intern, but I am willing to do anything I can to help relieve the stress other healthcare workers are currently under."

In the small town of Gilmanton, NH, Tom Howe ’75 has offered to deliver cords of his firewood to those who are in need for the balance of the heating season. He writes, “And believe it or not, there is a bit of Hotchkiss gear within the scene. Tucked behind one of those ‘rounds’ is a blue tote bag, with School insignia, which I received eons ago and have long been using for lugging around my maul, splitting axe, and wedges in our woodlot. Skills gained during three winters of Woods Squad have proven invaluable!”

Tom Howe'75 splits wood for his neighbors in Gilmanton, NH.

From the front lines, Emma Rouse Myers ’10 writes, “I am an emergency ER nurse at an urban Philadelphia hospital, and I can tell you that social distancing works. It’s hard, it’s challenging, it’s upsetting -- but it works. Every time you stay home, you save lives.”

Emma Rouse Myers'10 is an ER nurse in Philadelphia.

And, in Boston, Dan Jones ’82, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, reports, “We have canceled all elective surgery in Boston. Getting ready for a surge like NYC. Our lectures include ethical topics such as ‘triaging ventilators'. Appeal to all corporate leaders to change production lines for next 6 months to make ventilators, masks, medications, and PPE, ASAP. And please, everyone, practice social distancing.”

Across the globe, in Zimbabwe, Strive Masiyiwa P’16 has donated 45 ICU ventilators to be distributed to the country’s public hospitals, which are in dire need of the units. “This is a drop in the bucket, in terms of the actual requirement, so I hope groups like mining companies, bottling groups, banks and others will follow our example,” Masiyiwa said in an article appearing in SyndiGate Inc. He has also been active in lobbying the African governments to work toward mitigating the impact of the virus. 

From Napa, CA, Denny Olmsted ’60 teaches us of the value of reaching out to those who might feel especially alone during this time. “As I write this, our church, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, has been shut down for two weeks, and our services, including daily morning prayer, are online. The shutdown has affected all aspects of church life -- the choir, guild meetings, committee meetings, and classes.

“Concerned about the impact of the shutdown on our parishioners, our rector, Rev. Robin Denney, asked me to set up a group of 20 ‘stay at home’ volunteers to call all our parishioners at least once per week, some more often, just to keep in touch and let them know that they are on our minds. People have been delighted to receive these calls, and they’ve been uplifting for all of us. We also now have a group of younger parishioners who will do errands for our older folk (me included!).”

Hamasa Ebadi ’12 felt fortunate to have kept her job as a scientist in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 crisis. She and another colleague started 3.50CARES, which provides free care packages, including a full meal, snacks, hand sanitizer, and all other materials (bags, containers, forks, and napkins) to those families that are struggling. Each package costs them $3.50 and helps a person in need. Says Hamasa, “Let’s spread care! Search for 3.50CARES on FB or Messenger to get involved.”

Hamasa Ebadi '12 packs meals for those who are struggling.

Shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Seattle, WA, Robert D. Morris ’74, a physician and environmental epidemiologist who lives ten miles from the first nursing home hit by the virus and just up the hill from the second, began publishing a blog, Covid-19 - Ground Zero found at drbobmorris.com. Morris writes about the virus, its impact in Seattle and throughout the world, and provides useful information on how to keep safe.

In Crested Butte, CO, Katherine Spencer ’17 and her mother, Haden Spencer, started a virtual “tip jar” shortly after ski resorts in the area were forced to shut down during spring break. “It is the most important week of the ski season, and people rely on that money to carry them through April and May. We started a website, where people could donate to a general tip jar or to their favorite restaurants,” says Katherine, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis. 

All the funds were distributed directly to more than 210 restaurant employees who worked at 30 different restaurants. “In total, we raised just over $68,000 during our fundraising campaign and saw a total of 634 donations. Multiple restaurant employees texted us to say that the tip jar money was the reason they could cover their rent for the month. Amid social distancing efforts, we have been reminded of the strong community we have.” 

Katherine Spencer '17 and her mother, Haden Spencer, started "tip jar" to help restaurant workers in Created Butte, CO.

Priyanka Kumar ’19, a Harvard freshman, spent the first two weeks home from college in self-quarantine in Albany, NY. Cambridge is a hot spot for the virus, and Kumar didn’t want to risk the chance of passing the virus on to her parents, especially her mother, a nurse who works with the elderly and patients suffering with respiratory ailments. Instead, she turned to social media to encourage others to stay at home. 

“Albany has been hit really hard, and I have many neighbors and friends who have the virus. It’s definitely been a stressful time, but I’m thankful for the Hotchkiss community, which has been a support network for me,” she writes.

Kumar is also offering free online tutoring for students in K-12 in math, science, engineering, and technology. Visit: Instagram page @thestemgarden or email thestemgarden@gmail.com. Also, Blair Sullivan ’17 started Virtutor, an online college tutoring company, and will donate half of the proceeds to Feeding America and Direct Relief. 

Arhan Chhabra '22 expanded the digital education tools he created to help  students in villages in India to launch Project CoVidya (named after "Covid" as in the Covid-19 Virus and "Vidya" which means knowledge in Sanskrit). Project CoVidya aims to help those in need by providing free tutoring and education services through digital platforms. "Through my project, students who need help can simply apply and get matched to a compatible tutor for a free and personalized class," he writes. www.appvidya.com/covidya

Arhan Chhabra '22 launched a digital platform to provide free educational tutoring.

In business and manufacturing, William C. Ford Jr. ’75, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, is leading the company’s effort to manufacture much-needed ventilators. In April, Ford joined forces with General Motors to produce 50,000 ventilators, with a goal to produce 60 of these machines per hour. Ford has also redesigned the device so that it runs on compressed air rather than electricity, which is in short supply at makeshift hospitals. The company is also collaborating with other manufacturers to produce reusable gowns from airbag materials and providing manufacturing support to help expand production of coronavirus testing kits. 

As the shelves at food pantries across the country become increasingly depleted, Douglas Ostrover P’16, a co-founder of Owl Rock Capital, is helping to restock. The company has donated $1 million to Food Bank For New York City to assist with relief efforts related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will provide meals to families in need, including healthcare workers in all five boroughs of the city.

Meanwhile back in Lakeville, Wellness Director Nancy Vaughan has been delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) and infrared thermometers donated by parents and students to local health care centers and first responders.

Donated shipments of N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, and Tyvek suits arrive on campus.

Thank you to these students and their parents for their generous donations: Justin Han ’20, Phoenix Leng ’24, Stella Ren ’22, Jerry Sheng ’20, Oliver Chen ’22, Serena Zhou ’20, Rock Zhu '20, Marcus '23 and Max '24 Lam, Mike Xu '24, and Preston Leung ’23.  

A shout-out to the Hotchkiss science department for donating 50 boxes of plastic gloves to Sharon Hospital, and to Micheal Boone, instructor in physics and engineering, who turned out plastic face shields in the EFX Lab. Lisa Fenton, Amber Jordan, Marcie Wistar, Marta Eso and her daughter Reka Ladanyi '22, Jessica Craig, joined Nancy Vaughan's effort to sew face masks for the Hotchkiss community and and their families, and many continued working sewing protective gowns for local healthcare facilities, first responders, and for Hotchkiss's campus health professionals.

Employees of Noble Horizons in Salisbury sent a thank you note in appreciation of the N95s and surgical masks given to them donated by Hotchkiss families.

Check back as we continue to update this post. Share your stories: How are you helping to flatten the curve?

 

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