Campus News

Wear a mask! Western New Yorkers make video that sends critical message


Published May 28, 2020

“Our video is an effort to try to pay homage to the people in Buffalo that are helping the community. ”
Natalia Crenesse-Cozien, student
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Most New Yorkers know that when they’re in public they should wear a mask, but as anyone who’s been outside lately knows, it’s a message that bears repeating.

That was the idea behind New York State’s “Wear a Mask” video contest, started by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The purpose was to solicit 30-second videos from around the state that would convey why it’s important to wear a mask. The winning video will be used as a public service announcement.

In less than a week, an enthusiastic collection of Western New Yorkers, all of whom are already performing essential tasks in the community, got together to make and submit a video to the statewide contest.

“Our video is an effort to try to pay homage to the people in Buffalo that are helping the community,” explains Natalia Crenesse-Cozien, a student in the Class of 2021 in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, who during the pandemic makes deliveries with fellow medical students to food-insecure families served by Buffalo Public Schools (BPS).

Crenesse-Cozien helped coordinate the video with Melinda Sanderson, director of upstate mentoring for the New York State Mentoring Program. She knows Sanderson through the Jacobs School’s partnership with the mentoring program, which was founded by the governor’s mother, Matilda Cuomo. The program matches medical and college students with local elementary and middle schools to provide supportive, one-on-one mentoring relationships to students.

Natalia Crenesse-Cozien pets neighbor's dog while Aaron Sing Bola watches from across the street. All three are wearing masks.

Natalia Crenesse-Cozien (left), a medical student in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, stops to pet her neighbor’s dog, while across the street, recent Jacobs School graduate Aaron Sing Bola prepares to videotape the scene. All three are wearing masks. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

The videographer was Aaron Sing Bola, who just graduated from the Jacobs School and who starts his residency this summer at New York University.

In true Queen City fashion, the Buffalo video submission came together as a cooperative venture. It features medical students from the Jacobs School, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) doctors and nurses, cashiers from Wegmans, a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority driver, a BPS nutrition services worker and a beloved Jacobs School security guard from Wisdom Protective Services.

“We wanted to find a way to portray the message without sounding condescending, to show people this is how to keep our community safe,” Crenesse-Cozien says. “With COVID-19 specifically, you can be asymptomatic and carry it and pass it on. And there are people in our community who are immunocompromised. Honestly, we don’t totally understand who is most at risk. So when you choose not to wear a mask, you are not making a choice for yourself; you are making a choice for every other person you come in contact with.”

The 30-second video begins with an ECMC surgeon (Matthew Chang, a first-year UB surgical resident) surrounded by other physicians, nurses and operating room technicians. He says the mask is part of his daily routine. “Make it part of yours,” he says. The remainder of the video focuses on people talking about the people in their lives that they wear masks for.

They include a BPS employee who provides food to BPS families (“To keep our kids safe”); an NFTA driver (“To transport essential workers”); a Jacobs School security guard (“To keep the students safe”); a Jacobs School student and student mentor at Futures Academy (“For my mentees’ dreams”); and two Wegmans employees (“To feed our community”).

The final shot shows a group of nurses at ECMC thanking people for wearing masks.

Although the Western New York video didn’t make it into the final round of the statewide contest, its creators are sharing it widely on social media.

Additional assistance on the video was provided by David Milling, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs in the Jacobs School; Renee Mapp, UB Science and Technology Entry Program coordinator; and James Lukan, director of the vascular access center at ECMC, who also initiated the BPS food-delivery program.