Why We Serve

From doctors and nurses to pharmacists, social workers, psychologists and hospital administrators, a vast network of health care heroes have been putting their lives at risk every day to keep us safe. We asked UB alumni from around the country about the front-line role they’re filling during the COVID-19 crisis, and how they’ve kept themselves motivated to give it their very best.

Lisa Yamagishi.

Lisa Yamagishi, PharmD ’17

Clinical Pharmacist and Narcotics Supervisor, NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, Brooklyn, N.Y.

We serve an indigent population here in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and our population has been hit especially hard with COVID-19. UB has taught me how to be compassionate and provide the best care for the underserved. What keeps me going every day is the outpouring of support I’ve received from friends and strangers who have reached out and provided sewn masks from around the country, N95 masks, gloves, isopropyl alcohol and encouragement. Pharmacists are crucial in this fight, and I could not be prouder to be a health care worker during this crisis.

Juliette Consigny.

Juliette Consigny, MSW ’19

Emergency Room Social Worker, Bassett Medical Center, Cooperstown, N.Y.

There are a lot of pandemic-related stressors affecting the patients I see. Isolation, financial stress and limitations on community resources are leading to increased anxiety, depression and hopelessness. I feel fortunate to have a job that entails getting people the help they need and might not otherwise find on their own. There are many concerns relating to social justice that are being highlighted by this pandemic, and being a member of a community of social workers arms me with the energy and determination to continue working for essential change.

Dorothy M. Urschel.

Dorothy M. Urschel, DNP ’18

Chief Operating Officer, Columbia Memorial Health, Hudson, N.Y.

I am accountable for hospital operations and along with my team have had direct oversight of the pandemic surge. In my 30-year career as a nurse and a nurse practitioner, I have never seen anything like this. What keeps me positive is seeing the nurses make every accommodation for the patients to allow them to see their families via iPad and the like, and during end-of-life care—watching them touch the lives of people they have just met. I am so very proud of them and to be a nurse practitioner.

Tawanna Gilford.

Tawanna Gilford, PhD ’12

Clinical Psychologist, NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, New York, N.Y.

I am the lead on a Health + Hospitals systemwide initiative titled “Helping Healers Heal.” I manage a team of volunteers who offer emotional/psychological support to hospital employees through multiple forms, including one-on-one peer meetings, group debriefings, a respite room and creative arts therapy. It is important for me to be on the front lines, because I have to support the people who are taking care of my community. I was born in Harlem Hospital, raised in Harlem and currently reside in Harlem. So for me, it’s important to show gratitude.

Jacquelyn “Jackie” Andula.

Jacquelyn “Jackie” Andula, MPH ’03, BS ’90

Specimen Collection Branch Director, Erie County Department of Health, Buffalo, N.Y.

I organize a team of nurses and support staff to assure proper execution of nasopharyngeal swab collection for people who want to be tested for COVID-19. I also do some tracking, notification and enforcement activities. I am not going to lie—staying positive is very difficult. Falling back on your knowledge and training is important. Also admitting that we are all very stressed, and taking a day off when you need it or speaking to a mental health counselor. We are living through a pandemic; when we come out the other side we will be stronger.

Abhilasha “Abby” Singh Jones.

Abhilasha “Abby” Singh Jones, MD ’00, BA ’96

Emergency Physician/Assistant Director of Freestanding Emergency Department, Rush Copley Medical Center, Aurora, Ill.

My job is to determine who meets criteria for testing for COVID-19, who merits a complete evaluation and who requires hospitalization. Along with examining the patients, I communicate a plan of care with the primary care doctor and/or the family waiting in their cars outside. In addition, I carry on with my usual duties for the emergency department. This is a crisis unlike any I have seen in my lifetime. We need to face each day with kindness toward others and a belief that if we apply knowledge and good sense, we will find a path forward.

Dennis Schrader, MS ’79.

Dennis Schrader, MS ’79

Chief Operating Officer and Medicaid Director, Maryland Department of Health, Baltimore, Md.

I was appointed by the governor to lead the Maryland Hospital Surge Task Force. In this role, I coordinate daily with government agencies, hospitals and health care systems to increase statewide hospital capacity. I am also responsible for acquiring sufficient PPE for the state. These are trying times, and keeping a positive attitude is key. I rely on years of leadership experience and training in different settings to maintain focus and an eye toward the future. Many individuals will step up to help one another during this time when they receive concerned and committed leadership.

Vivian Whitehead, BS ’72.

Vivian Whitehead, BS ’72

Emergency Registered Nurse, Temecula Valley Hospital, Temecula, Calif.

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, rehabilitation medicine and the emergency room. 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!