Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, frontline healthcare workers have made heroic efforts, risking their own safety and well-being to look after others. In camaraderie with their counterparts in the field and patients in need, NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) is lending support in a variety of ways, from delivering meals and running errands, to ensuring that isolated patients remain connected.
Physicians and healthcare professionals working at the epicenter of the crisis are challenged with juggling both the pandemic’s unprecedented demands and their own daily needs. Now, NYITCOM students have launched the “Help Our Heroes” initiative, a volunteer program that provides items and services such as personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital food deliveries, grocery shopping, childcare, and pet care for these essential workers. Led by third-year medical student Sarah Korn, the initiative is managed by five student committees that oversee the various volunteer activities. The intiative’s “Meals from Med Students” program, which collaborates with local restaurants to deliver meals to area hospitals, was recently featured in the Long Island media outlet The Island Now.
Separate from “Help Our Heroes,” NYITCOM’s Department of Alumni Relations has teamed up with New York Tech’s Dining Services to deliver upwards of twenty meals to frontline workers at Catholic Health Services hospitals, including St. Francis Hospital (Roslyn, N.Y.), Good Samaritan Hospital (West Islip, N.Y.), and many others. Dining Services has also graciously delivered meals to NYITCOM clinicians at the Academic Health Care Centers in Old Westbury, N.Y., and Family Health Care Center in Central Islip, N.Y.
Medical school community members have also banded together to lift the spirits of COVID-19 patients isolated in local hospitals. Visits from family and friends typically allow hospitalized patients to remain hopeful during recovery, but COVID-19 visitation restrictions have led patients to become distant from their loved ones. Now NYITCOM Director of Student Life, Linda Darroch-Short, Medical Director and Assistant Professor, Hallie Zwibel, D.O., and third-year medical student Brandon Burg have initiated a tech drive to help patients stay connected. The team is collecting used iPads, iPhones, and chargers, which will help hospitalized patients communicate with their loved ones and provide a sense of comfort when visitors can’t be physically present at their bedside. To date, the team has donated devices to North Shore University Hospital (Manhasset, N.Y.) and St. Charles Hospital (Port Jefferson, N.Y.), with plans to expand donations to additional facilities.
Student volunteers from the Adele Smithers Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Center and the NYIT Rock Steady Boxing program are also keeping Parkinson’s disease patients company. The American Parkinson’s Disease Association notes that stress can worsen disease symptoms, and staying connected with others during this difficult time can provide a much-needed outlet and coping mechanism. With this in mind, the group has formed the “Buddies Program,” where students provide companionship or support to patients isolated at home via phone calls or Zoom.
On top of these kindhearted gestures, NYITCOM students are making efforts to collect and donate PPE, and approximately 80 percent of this year’s graduating class expressed interest in joining the frontlines early in the fight against COVID-19.