Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, the importance of health care workers and medical professionals has become increasingly apparent. As the city struggles with the rapid spread of the virus, University Health Services (UHS) at Fordham continues to serve and support students and staff, albeit remotely.
On March 6, a week before Fordham suspended on-campus operations, Maureen Keown, director of the Health Center at Lincoln Center, issued a coronavirus update via email encouraging students to call rather than visit the center if they were experiencing symptoms associated with the virus.
On March 19, a former Fordham Lincoln Center student who tested positive for the coronavirus reached out to any students they had been in contact with. One of the contacted students, who asked to remain anonymous, called the Health Center to inform them of their situation and sought advice for next steps.
“I called Public Safety, and they told me to call Health Services — they gave me the Rose Hill number. The RH office wouldn’t pick up even after I called around 7 times, so I googled the number for the Lincoln Center office and they picked up on the first ring,” they said.
“The woman who picked up there was super nice, took down all the information I gave her and collected my friend’s information to follow up with her. She also checked in with me about how I was doing to make sure that I was prepared to self-quarantine and understood all the symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for,” they continued.
Following the signing of the New York State on PAUSE order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses, Fordham students and employees began working remotely. Due to this change, the Health Center is no longer able to serve students’ needs in person, but staff members continue to make themselves available to students via telephone, text and email.
On April 6, UHS sent out a newsletter with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) related to coronavirus prevention, seasonal allergies and hay fever, and advice on how to deconstruct stigmas that may arise during the pandemic. Contact information for Rose Hill and Lincoln Center health centers, counseling and psychological services, and disability services are also listed.
On a day-to-day basis, Keown works with her staff to not only provide support for students but also to discuss improvements and future projects for the office. The staff has been incorporating telephone triage since March, as well as strategizing new protocols and standards of care upon return to UHS.
“As a healthcare provider, it is devastating to see the effects of the virus. Continued research and education is going to be vital,” Keown said. “My staff and I will stay abreast of this current health crisis and collaborate with other colleges, and health providers in order to bring forth the best way to take care of our students and keep our staff safe.”
“The most difficult part of this pandemic has been not seeing our students and fellow colleagues on this beautiful campus. We will all be back working together soon and will learn from this pandemic and grow together as a community in bringing our students together once again,” Keown continued.
Melissa Quiroz, a licensed practical nurse and nurse manager at the Health Center, shares this sentiment. She sympathizes with the seniors for their end-of-the-year losses and misses daily interactions with her fellow colleagues and Fordham students.
Although her in-office responsibilities have been limited due to the switch to remote work, Quiroz recalls the lead up the pandemic as a scene of meticulous preparation.
“We facilitated the need for medical supplies in our office, followed and practiced CDC guidelines and protocols helping to prevent and respond to the coronavirus,” Quiroz said. “I created dialogue templates, charts and instructions with the tools needed for our staff to best promptly identify, isolate, and evaluate persons with possible COVID-19 over the phone and/or in person.”
As the Health Center continues to operate remotely, students are encouraged to reach out with any concerns, whether they are related to the coronavirus or not. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and staff members are available and responsive across all the aforementioned mediums.