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News

Carthaginians pitch in toward pandemic response

  • Tommy Green ’22 learned to sew while helping his mother make protective masks for hospital staff and local seniors during the COVID-19 outbreak.
    Submitted photo
April 09, 2020

Besides continuing their educational mission remotely, those in the Carthage community have taken steps to support the broader community response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Protective Equipment

The Nursing Department at Carthage donated hundreds of medical supplies and equipment to area health care facilities. Items included face masks (including those with face shields), isolation gowns, sterile gloves, and nitrile gloves.

“This donation is helping ensure the safety of our staff who are fighting this pandemic on the front lines and of our patients who so desperately need our help,” said Dr. Julie Schuller, president and CEO of Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. “The number of people it impacts is beyond measure.”

Samantha (Chavez) Hoogland ’13 owns TH3D Studio LLC in Hobart, Indiana, which has been using its 3-D printers to make face shields for health care workers. Other than shipping charges, customers can order up to 50 shields at no cost.

“We know and love so many health care workers, and we want nothing more than to keep them safe,” said Ms. Hoogland. “We have hired an additional person just to handle the requests.”

To help his mother make protective masks, Tommy Green ’22 of Culver, Indiana, learned to sew. Together, they have turned fabric into masks for hospital staff and local seniors, in addition to family and friends.

“While this pandemic is a horrible illness, it has brought our family closer together learning new skills and helping our community,” said Tommy’s mother, Tammi.

Research and Development

Michael Rowan ’98, an enterprise sales manager at Abbott Laboratories in suburban Chicago, is part of a team that helped to roll out a molecular lab test for the novel coronavirus in the northeastern United States.

Recently promoted to senior talent development specialist at IDEX Corporation in Lake Forest, Illinois, Haleigh McPeek ’15 is part of a team that manufactures components for machines that have been used to sequence the RNA of COVID-19. Ms. McPeek reports that the sequencing is “a critical step toward testing for the virus, identifying potential treatments, and ultimately developing a vaccine.”

The virus quickly became a “nearly all-encompassing” focus for Ylan Kazi ’07, vice president of data science and machine learning at UnitedHealth Group in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Primarily focused on Medicare patients, his group is trying to use machine learning to help the insurer’s staff support members who are particularly at risk for COVID-19. The initial data has been skewed and difficult to parse, he said, but there’s hope for the future.

Health Care

As an emergency room physician at Froedtert Hospital, Dr. Jill Theobald ’01 had a scare while tending to a patient who tested positive for COVID-19. The Milwaukee-area employer placed her in quarantine as a precaution, and she was cleared to return after eight days.

Overall, she said there’s a “calm before the storm” feel in the ER as staff prepare for a possible spike in cases. Dr. Theobald has multiple other roles, including associate medical director for the Poison Control Center, where she’s noticed an increase in calls (for accidental overdoses or kids accessing toxic substances) since the statewide “Safer at Home” order took effect.

Nursing professor Trish Flannery, an experienced emergency department nurse who continues to work part-time during the academic year, was able to put in a few shifts at Froedtert South’s downtown Kenosha hospital early in the virus’ spread to the Midwest. She hasn’t been needed since then, as patients with minor concerns have correctly stayed home and avoided the ER.

Policy

Normally this time of year, Dr. Mike Harrison ’01 would be trying to grow membership in BioForward, an advocacy group for Wisconsin’s biohealth industry. Both existing and potential members are busy with research or manufacturing related to the crisis, so the association is serving as a central liaison connecting those in need with organizations supplying protective equipment and testing supplies. BioForward also lobbied to ensure that the state deemed employers in its vital industry “essential” during the stay-home mandate.

In his position as director of value-based policy for Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Paul Eiting ’02 of Alexandria, Virginia, has worked with 36 insurers under the association’s umbrella to improve members’ access to COVID-19 testing and treatment — for which the plans are covering the full cost. He’s also part of a public policy team that successfully lobbied in Washington for regulatory flexibility to expand telehealth services for patients seeking care while under shelter-in-place orders.

Military

Serving in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, Nathan Clark ’21 assisted at a Kenosha polling site on the day of the April 7 election. The state called in Guard members to compensate for an extreme shortage of poll workers. In the days leading up to the election, he was trained to ensure voters maintained proper social distancing and other safety precautions.

Food Service

With the campus mostly empty during the COVID-19 outbreak, Carthage Dining gave hundreds of pound...With all but a few Carthage students living off campus for the remainder of the spring semester, campus dining vendor Sodexo had plenty of excess food sitting around. Carthage Dining donated 1,604 pounds of it to the Shalom Center, which continues to provide emergency food and shelter to low-income residents in Kenosha County.

In just four days, a Facebook fundraiser created by Professor Peter Dennee brought in $3,000 to support the Oonte Centre for Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s services in Namibia during the outbreak. Prof. Dennee regularly leads study tours that include a service component at Oonte. The center will use the donations to distribute food, water buckets, and soap to families.

Several other Carthaginians have volunteered to supply meals and snacks for children in need.

“This volunteer work helps remind me just how fortunate I am and gets me out of the house, which is nice,” said Jane Thurow ’20, a volunteer at Second Harvest Foodbank in Madison.

Likewise, Jordan Booth ’21 of Birmingham, Alabama, has helped to pack bags and boxes of food and distribute it with nonprofit Alabama Childhood Food Solutions.

Mary Zorn, a Carthage parent and wife of Professor Matthew Zorn, has supervised distribution at the ELCA Outreach Center in Kenosha. Cameron and Sophie Swallow (wife and daughter of Carthage president John Swallow) and alumna Jan (Ryden) Deaton ’74 also are among a small group who help regularly at the site.

Business

As president and CEO of Las Vegas-based HPP Coach, Amanda (Jackson) Prochaska ’04 estimates 85 percent of her team’s focus has shifted to guiding small and mid-sized businesses through the application process for federal disaster loans.

Errors in the complex forms could lessen or wipe out the benefits for borrowers trying to weather the storm, said Ms. Prochaska, who has helped dozens of clients from restaurants to manufacturers. Clients can use the services at no charge because of HPP and its preferred lender, which receives payment from the Small Business Administration.

With disinfectants and other cleaning products in heavy demand, SC Johnson account manager Hollis (McPeek) McMartin ’12 of Lake Bluff, Illinois, has worked with retailers to replenish their stock. The company makes popular brands like Scrubbing Bubbles, Bon Ami, Method, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day.

Community-Building

As the Easter bunny, Brent Allen Caputo ’14 cheered Kenoshans on Easter Sunday during the coron...On Easter Sunday, Brent Allen Caputo ’14 put on an Easter bunny costume and spread cheer throughout Kenosha. Wearing a protective mask, the bunny waved to patients and health care workers at Froedtert South’s downtown hospital, as well as residents of local nursing homes and neighborhoods. Drivers honked their horns in support, kids professed their admiration, and he even “had the honor of making a couple of unplanned socially distance-compliant Easter basket deliveries along the way.”

Adjunct music faculty member Peter Thomas and his wife, both cellists with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, have started performing for neighbors with weekly “concerts” in their Wauwatosa driveway. The feel-good story is highlighted in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

Emma Swain ’20 created a shared drive online to share art, writing, music, dance, or other creative works crafted during the pandemic. She invites anyone to join the project by emailing emmaswain28@gmail.com for access to the Google Drive.

“Hopefully, at the end of this, we will have a time capsule of the art we made during this stressful time,” she said.

Through the leadership of the Alpha Phi Omega executive board, the coed service fraternity has continued to pursue its goals in service, leadership, and fellowship. Members have written thank you notes to health care workers, donated blood, exchanged leadership resources, and just gathered to talk.

“It’s important to try and run things as normally as possible,” said Annie Shirley ’20, “because it helps me and the rest of the chapter to continue to be there for each other.”

Olivia Young ’22 created a sidewalk chalk obstacle course for the kids in her neighborhood.

Marielle Shiring ’23 and her mother have done grocery shopping for at-risk friends and neighbors.

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Carthage and COVID-19