We reached out to members of the Elms community who are on the frontlines of the pandemic fight from a variety of perspectives: nurses, law enforcement officers, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, and a biostatistician, among others. Here is what they said, in their own words, about their experiences.

David Lussier ’00 – Frontline Nurse at Javits

Nurse David Lussier ‘00 knows war. A 20-year Army Reserves veteran, he’s seen it in Iraq as a hospital intelligence officer. He’s seen it as an operating room supervisor at Baystate Medical Center (BMC) in Springfield. And, most recently, he’s seen it in the heart of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City as the leader of a team of 85 U.S. Army Reserve soldiers.

After earning his bachelor of science in nursing at Elms in 2000, Lussier enlisted as a soldier in the Reserves. He completed a tour in Iraq in 2007, acting as the 325th Combat Support Hospital’s intelligence officer. He steadily worked his way up and, in 2019, became chief nurse of the 405th Field Hospital based in Worcester, MA.

On March 25, Lussier got the call that his troops should be prepared to mobilize and assist with state responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Ten days later, he was named Commander of the Urban Augment Medical Task Force 804-2 (TF3) and headed to Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, which had been transformed into a fully operational hospital with an ICU, pharmacy, labs, x-ray machines, and even patient showers.

“There were a lot of heartfelt thanks and appreciation from a lot of the people of NYC. They were glad to see us and wished us well,” Lussier said.

It was overwhelming walking into Javits and seeing the sheer number of beds, he added. The convention center ultimately treated 1,095 patients. Although it closed on May 1 due to a decline in new cases, medical equipment remains on-site in the event that personnel need to respond to a second wave of infections.

In addition to treating incoming patients, Lussier found ways to boost the morale of his team. After he learned of a Navy nurse making the extra effort to reunite two family members admitted to Javits, Lussier presented her with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. Presenting the internationally-recognized honor was something that “boosted the morale of the entire team,” he said.

Lussier’s experience as a nurse leader has taught him to appreciate the resiliency of the American public. His faith in God and his relationship with his wife provide him with the strength to get through the bad days and continue working for the good ones. 

“I have been a nurse now for about 20 years and I have seen people make it through things that you would think would not be possible,” Lussier said. “The human body is an amazing thing.”

Hannah Liggett, ABA ’21 – Behavior Analyst

Hannah Liggett faced an unprecedented challenge as a behavior analyst once Massachusetts issued its stay-at-home advisory: the telehealth model for behavioral therapy simply doesn’t exist. This change in circumstances ultimately prompted Hannah to get more creative with how she interacts with young children requiring therapy.

“It’s been a roller coaster of ‘trial and error.’ But, the younger kids respond well to themed sessions, which has resulted in facilitating treatment dressed as the Lorax or Wolverine from X-Men. Some of the children have responded in savvy or entertaining ways we hadn’t predicted. I found that the transition to working from home wasn’t just my physical location; my work had drastically changed, too.”

Leanne Price ’13, Psy.D. – Post Doctoral Psychology Resident at Clifford Beers Clinic

A typical day for Dr. Price involves sitting down with clients one-on-one, communicating about personal anxieties and hurdles, and providing treatment. When she made the transition to virtual consultations, she discovered an innate sense of strength in her patients.

“ I admire the parents, guardians, and caregivers for being able to utilize the many tools we have discussed in session to help with this transition, as well the clients for remembering the skills that they have learned to handle the stress that comes with unexpected changes to their routines.  While I miss the chances to visit and embrace family and close friends, enjoy a live sporting event, or go out for a meal, this effort to socially distance has provided me a chance to take a step back and take stock of what is essential.” 

Kaylee Hotchkiss ’12, M.Ed. ’20 Spanish Teacher at Palmer High School

Kaylee Hotchkiss is a Spanish teacher at Palmer High School,
where she has taught beginner, intermediate, and advanced foreign language classes for eight years. Working from home has been challenging, she said, because educators have had to discover new tools for recreating the classroom environment. When social distancing recommendations are finally relaxed, Kaylee plans on hosting a “family brunch” for students so they can reconnect with one another.

“As teachers, we spend a lot of time monitoring students’ feelings, and how that affects their ability to learn. The hardest part of remote learning has been not seeing my classes every day. I hope that from all of this, students garner a new appreciation for being in school. I personally can’t wait to get back to my classroom. I’m even starting to miss aspects of it that I normally can’t stand, like my messy desk!”

Inna Radkovets ’03, CCC-SLP, Adjunct Faculty and Per Diem Inpatient Therapist at Baystate Medical Center

Inna Radkovets is a board certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) and bilingual speech therapist who teaches communication sciences and disorders classes at Elms and in the online SLPA program.

“It is heartbreaking seeing patients without any family members to support them during their most vulnerable times. As a bilingual speech therapist, I especially look forward to serving patients whose primary language is Russian, so I can provide some comfort of familiarity by speaking to them in the language of their community.”

Lauren Bolduc ’17, Patrol Officer on the Overnight Shift at Northampton Police Department

After graduating with a degree in criminal justice, Lauren Bolduc joined the Northampton PD as a patrol officer. She appreciates how the public in Massachusetts has responded to the pandemic, as it has helped make her job patrolling her community much safer.

“I’m happy to hear that Elms will be offering housing to first responders during this time. I am grateful for all of those who are donating masks, hand sanitizer, and other essential supplies. It is also good to see people taking social distancing seriously. COVID has presented many changes and challenges to the community. The public is doing their job staying home, which helps and makes my job safer to do. Remaining hopeful and positive is key.”

Kelsey Methe ’12 – ED Nurse

Mercy Medical Center ED nurse Kelsey Methe ’12’s lovely rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah made the national news when it was picked up by CNN. Kelsey’s performance was part of a weekly Facebook Live series in which the hospital showcases a “joyous voice” from within the hospital or surrounding community.

Paul Johansen – Biostatician and Adjunct Faculty at BCC

Paul Johansen is a biostatistician at Berkshire Medical Center, where his job is to support healthcare workers using data analytics. Paul also teaches statistics courses for social work majors as part of Elms’ off-campus program at Berkshire Community College.

“My job is to support healthcare workers on the frontlines battling COVID-19. I do this by analyzing clinical data and by helping to design research studies aimed at understanding the virus better.  I also track data posted online daily by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and by BMC. This information is critical in assisting physicians, nurses, hospitals, public health professionals, and elected officials treat people with COVID-19 and allocate resources throughout Berkshire County.”

Cheryl Smith ’14, MSN/MBA ’17, DNP-HSIL ’19, Manager of Patient Safety and Medical Home at Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Boston Children’s Hospital (PPOC)

A career nurse leader, Cheryl Smith helped create a rapid-response Patient Safety Team for PPOC, an independent physician’s association made up of more than 500 medical professionals practicing in over 100 locations across Massachusetts, all in partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital. Cheryl’s team provided critical support to nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals, including creating a COVID-19 resources website; providing communications plans related to patient care; and protocols for telehealth consultations.

“One of the biggest changes we faced was the rapid implementation of telehealth. Prior to COVID-19, we had a three-year staged implementation plan. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and urgent need, we successfully implemented telehealth within a week to all 80 member practices across Massachusetts.”

This article was published in the spring 2020 issue of Elms Magazine.