Acts of courage, acts of Eagles: ASL heroes during COVID-19

We have always known that ASL alumni make a difference. Helpers and doers, risk-takers and game-changers, community volunteers and global activists—our Eagles take flight, ready to take on the world. But were they prepared to take on a public health pandemic that closed schools and businesses, made billions of citizens homebound, and cost millions of jobs and hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide? Yes. They are. Here, we highlight some of ASL’s COVID-19 heroes. Know of others? Let us know so we can express our gratitude! 

Debra prepares for her shift as a nurse in Houston, TX

Debra (DeJarnett) Brogan ’77, registered nurse and health coach in Spring, Texas

After retiring from her nursing career, Debby and husband Tim launched a health-coaching business last year. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached her native Texas, Debby re-entered the nursing workforce to help relieve nurses stationed at the Houston County Jail in treating COVID-postive inmates. Her extraordinary service is a testament to ASL’s Core Values, particularly the Courage to Act. 

Dana, middle, celebrating Mother's Day with her mother, left, and 9-year-old daughter

Dana (Roslinski) Dunn '89 DPT, physical therapist in Hamburg, Michigan

Dana, a physical therapist, works for a hospital-based company in southeast Michigan that provides home health care services. For people recovering from surgery or hospitalization, who can’t easily access outpatient care, physical therapists like Dana make house calls so patients can work on resuming normal function in their own environment. As the coronavirus spread to the US and social distancing measures were introduced, patients requiring home care were wary of receiving health visitors. Dana adapted her work to offer more patient education during a session, reducing the number of visits typically required for recovery. She wears gloves, a mask and a face shield to each appointment. As businesses slowly re-open and people resume ancillary surgeries or routine doctor’s appointments, Dana is treating more and more patients, all of whom are grateful that they can still receive in-home PT services during a pandemic. Despite the challenges and risks she faces, Dana is proud that she and her team can continue to help those in need. Thank you for your heroic service, Dana!

Lisa, left, with Colleen O'Shaughnessy '81 (middle) and a friend at ASL's Seattle 2018 reunion

Lisa (Smith) Houghton ’79, labor and delivery nurse in Commerce City, Colorado

Since 2013, Lisa has been busy helping to deliver babies as an RN of Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, Colorado. For the past several months, she has been caring for expectant mothers infected with COVID-19 as well as babies who become COVID-positive post-delivery. On call for women requiring maternity services during this pandemic, Lisa is a bright light looking after the welfare of the next generation.

Doug at home

Doug Johnston ’82, ICU registered nurse in San Jacinto, California

Doug spent 13 years as entertainment program supervisor of the San Diego Zoo in Southern California before deciding he was ready for a change of location and career. So he moved a few hours north to the San Jacinto Valley, enrolled in a nursing program and joined the staff of Hemet Global Medical Center Hospital two years later, in 2013. Doug has spent the past year on HGMC’s ICU ward, tending to the most critically ill patients. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, his hospital developed three COVID-19 units, including a COVID-19 specific ICU unit, where Doug has done back-to-back shifts caring for patients suffering from COVID’s worst symptoms. We are grateful for his bravery.

Matthew in his office at Midwestern University

Matthew Kaiser ’85, systems developer in Grange Park, Illinois

As a student in John Servente’s (ASL 1980-2008) first computer class, Matthew learned coding on an Apple II system. He spent the next 10 years studying computer science before growing his career in information technology, eventually landing in the web development team at Midwestern University, a graduate medical school outside of Chicago. A “jack-of-all-trades” programmer, Matthew’s typical tasks include coordinating medical student rotations, tracking cadavers used for research, and supporting the computer systems at MWU’s two campuses in Illinois and Arizona. Following the university’s closure in March owing to COVID-19, and the sudden scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE) in overwhelmed healthcare facilities, Matthew started printing plastic face shields on his department’s 3D printer for the students and faculty working at MWU’s medical clinics. It wasn’t long before MWU’s COVID-19 response team recruited Matthew to coordinate the 3D print production of all PPE university-wide. To date, he and his colleagues have made 400 face shields for healthcare workers, and he is now at work creating 300 pairs of dental goggles to help safeguard MWU’s dentistry staff. For Matthew, whose line of work has always been conducive to an introverted, remote lifestyle, the COVID-19 pandemic has not caused him any drastic professional changes. He is grateful for the extra time he has with his wife and teenage children and looks forward to getting a haircut when social distancing measures have been lifted.

Marta works at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Virginia

Dr. Marta Satin-Smith ’79, pediatric endocrinologist in Virginia Beach, Virginia

In medical school, Marta discovered her passion for helping patients feel better quickly, even if she couldn’t cure them. After a fellowship in endocrinology at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and a residency at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, also in Philadelphia, she made her way south to care for diabetic children and other young patients with growth or hormone disorders at a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. As the Coronavirus reduced the public's access to health services, Marta started offering telehealth appointments, mitigating fears for diabetics and their families during a stressful time, and helping them adapt their health management to their new, erratic schedules. “I wish I could be doing more,” Marta commented recently. We are deeply appreciative of her commitment to helping others when they need it the most.