The coronavirus pandemic came on fast, and the Dyson community has responded.
By definition, a liberal arts education prepares students to be flexible, think outside the box, and to see issues from a variety of perspectives. As the world battles the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Dyson College community has turned to those characteristics to help in the fight. Here are a few of the ways that students, faculty, and alumni are contributing to ongoing relief and support efforts.
Across the nation, one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic has been the severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), which threatens our ability to save lives and reduce the impact of the virus.
To safeguard healthcare professionals on the front lines, Pace University’s College of Health Professions and Dyson College have donated more than 15,000 gloves, 250 standard face masks, more than 60 N95 masks, and nearly 50 disposable gown kits to the Westchester Medical Center and New York State.
“Healthcare workers are literally putting their lives on the line to help patients with COVID-19,” said Professor Marcy Kelly, chairperson of the Biology Department on the New York City campus, “If [they] do not have PPE, they will most likely catch the virus. The more healthcare workers who are sick, the greater the impact on our ability to treat patients and keep the mortality rate down.”
Yutong Fan ’20, a returning student from China who is attending Pace to fulfill prerequisite courses for dental school, has also coordinated a separate donation of N95 masks, surgical masks, and gloves. She was able to secure several small shipments from family and friends in the medical field back home, and on arrival, the supplies will be disseminated to medical staff at several local nursing homes.
“As a resident of New York, I want to support my neighborhood and my city,” said Fan. “My family members in China worked at the frontline helping patients…I cannot imagine them working without proper protections. I fear for the medical personnel in New York as well as their families…I just want to do whatever I can to give them the protection they deserve.”
Standing on the Front Line
Dr. James Gasperino ’89, is one of the many physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals who are emerging as heroes. Dr. Gasperino is chair, Department of Medicine; vice president for Critical Care, Perioperative, and Hospital Medicine; and associate chief medical officer at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, and where intense struggles have been chronicled by The New York Times.
“We’re doing this because the alternative is death,” Gasperino told the paper in an April 4, 2020 article titled “‘Code Blue’: A Brooklyn I.C.U. Fights for Each Life in a Coronavirus Surge.” He was referring to his team’s efforts to create protocols for how to share ventilators between patients, a precarious idea that clearly illustrates the desperate situation at his hospital and many others.
Another major issue in the COVID-19 pandemic is the lack of clear strategic policy. As president and chief executive of Vital Strategies, José Luis Castro ’88 is working to change that. Vital Strategies is a leading global public health organization founded to develop effective solutions to major challenges for rapid, large-scale impact.
The organization has mobilized into an incident command structure (led by the Prevent Epidemics team) and partnered with the World Health Organization and Bloomberg Philanthropies in a new $40 million initiative to support global response to the pandemic focusing on Africa and vulnerable lower-income regions.
“We will strengthen systems and drive COVID-19 response with data, science and evidence to save lives,” said Castro, a member of the Dyson College Advisory Board. “Learning and knowledge management is an integral part of our response work, and the lessons learned from COVID-19 will be shared widely in hopes to prevent the next pandemic.”
As the world shuts in, a number of Dyson College alumni are out keeping the rest of us informed, including CNN business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci ’01, Charles (Charlie) Gasparino ’85, a senior correspondent for Fox Business Network, and News12 reporter Blaise Gomez, ’06, who said she and her colleagues have received an influx of viewers seeking help and wanting to share their stories.
“This crisis is unlike anything I’ve covered in my 13-year career as a journalist in the Hudson Valley,” said Gomez. “Of course, there are always stories that hit close to home, but this is something that we are all experiencing together. That said, I enjoy helping people and giving them a voice they’d otherwise not have. That hasn’t changed during this crisis, and now, more than ever, that job is my duty.”
Inspiring Joy and Hope
While the news media provides the facts and straight talk, others from the Dyson community are working to spread joy.
As reported in The New York Times, aspiring lighting designerMatt Carino ’20, Production and Design for Stage and Screen, used his skills to create a lighted lawn display with the words “Together, Apart” at his family home in Montclair, New Jersey.
“I wanted to send a simple, strong and positive message to the community,” Carino told the paper. “This pandemic is really hitting people hard, from having to work remotely, schools being canceled, and businesses being closed or limited.”
His work is part of a worldwide movement to spark happiness during this dark time with holiday lights.
On-air radio personality Anna Zap (Zapotosky) ’02, co-host of The Anna and Raven Show on Connoisseur Media’s Star 99.9 Connecticut and Walk 97.5 Long Island, says her job during the crisis is to balance providing information while still being entertaining and supportive of advertisers who may be struggling. To that end, Zap and her co-host have devoted more time to communicating via social media and interacting directly with the audience in other ways. They organized Zumba and Rave events on Facebook, shared funny videos of their homes (now their remote studios), and hosted various forums. They have also started "Open for Business," a new daily segment featuring interviews with various advertising clients about how they’re adapting and how listeners can be supportive.
“We've received so many messages from listeners thanking us for providing normalcy, but the truth is that there isn't anything normal about what's happening right now,” said Zap. “What I've found is that in times of emergency...we need to work harder than ever to provide accurate info and familiarity, while staying true to our brand.”
Making Sense of it All
How do we deal with the stress of being shut in? In what ways will the pandemic shape our future? These are important questions, and Dyson faculty members are contributing their expertise to provide answers and help us process what’s happening. Professor of Psychology Sally Dickerson, Associate Professor of Psychology Anthony Mancini, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Economics Todd Yarbrough have all shared their varying perspectives on the pandemic and its implications via Medium.com.
- Read “Managing COVID-19 Stress” (Dickerson)
- Read “Potential Positives Amidst a Major Tragedy” (Mancini)
- Read “The Economic Fallout of COVID-19” (Yarbrough)
“In any crisis, each academic discipline has an important role to play by providing the social consciousness with the best available insights from their work. Psychologists can help us emotionally cope, literary scholars can help us appreciate themes that resonate during bleak times, and economists can assist with understanding the mechanisms of the economy,” said Yarborough. “Interdisciplinary understanding and togetherness are an incredibly powerful force, and I think any academic wants to be a part of that force for good.”