Snapshots of a Pandemic

June 11, 2020

Members of the University of Detroit Mercy Community are stepping up in different ways to combat the COVID-19 crisis. We are sharing their stories here. If you have something to contribute, please contact

CHP professor volunteers to test senior citizens for COVID-19

Updated: June 11

Photo of Mary Serowoky with mask on.Mary Serowoky enjoys making a difference in the community as the lead nurse practitioner in Henry Ford Health System’s school-based and community health program. When the COVID-19 crisis forced her program to temporarily shut down, she still wanted to help people.

So when the Global Health Initiative at Henry Ford and the Detroit Health Department made a call for volunteers to go into nursing homes, senior housing and adult foster care facilities to test for COVID-19, she signed up.

“My work has always been in the community setting,” said Serowoky, an associate clinical professor in the Family Nurse Practitioner program at University of Detroit Mercy. “My work has always been with vulnerable populations. I’m not an ICU nurse so I can’t go to the frontline in that way. But I do have lots of community and public health skills and I felt I needed to give back in some way, and this was something I could really do.

"I didn’t want to see this important work not have enough people to do it. I probably could have stayed home because I have enough work, but as a nurse, you want to figure out a way to be of service.”

Serowoky has been volunteering with the group through several phases. The first phase was testing residents and staff for COVID-19.

“We were able to meet vulnerable populations in the community, who should not be going out, and who are at high risk for having the infection spread in those environments,” Serowoky said. “We started expanding some of that testing to staff and provided resources to staff regarding good section control practices.

“It’s gratifying to see the good work that all the staff are doing, it makes me proud to be a healthcare provider to know people are in it for the right reasons. And they’re doing the right thing to provide comfort, care and healing in any way that we can.”

The second phase was tracing the infections to see how they were spread.

“We go to residences and determine if they tested positive, did they have symptoms, but we’ve been seeing a fair amount of folks that have tested positive and not been symptomatic or minimally symptomatic,” Serowoky said. “Then also seeing if we can back track and find out who they may have been in contact with before they knew that they were ill to have potentially infected that person or that’s who they received the infection from.”

Another important aspect of the program was providing resources to help some of the seniors. Things like getting groceries or medications delivered, and even seemingly simple things like taking time to talk.

“Helping people feel like they’re not alone and not forgotten, and letting them know we are concerned and worried for them,” Serowoky said. “The residents, when we show up, their eyes kind of light up. It’s another face to talk to and for them, it’s a way to see how things are because they can’t get out, so they can’t see what’s going on. All they know is they are stuck in their room, they can’t go to the common dining room and they don’t have the normal activities. Socialization is one thing a lot of them crave and to know that they matter and haven’t been forgotten about.”

Serowoky says under ideal conditions, many of the things they are doing would have been in place a long time ago. But it’s still having an impact.

“We’re playing a lot of catch-up right now, but I also believe that if we have enough folks doing this that we might be able to get to some sort of normal, because this is going to be with us for a long time,” Serowoky said. “It might not be to this level of chaos and concern, but we have to start looking at our communities and our environments differently so that we don’t have the chaos and despair, and a lot of death and sadness. This will help us get back to our work and our lives.”

Serowoky graduated from Mercy College in 1981 and earned her master’s degree in FNP from Detroit Mercy in 2000, so she’s a firm believer in practicing the University’s mission.

“It’s about taking care of vulnerable persons in our community,” Serowoky said. “It’s attending to their emotional and spiritual needs as well as their physical and other needs. It’s being a person of the city, being in the city and a person for others.”

Serowoky is not only making a difference through her volunteer work, but also feels it will help her as an educator at Detroit Mercy.

“I’ve had the chance to interact with folks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who came to Detroit,” Serowoky said. “They’re working on curriculum with the Detroit Health Department and other partners to be able to make sure we’re infusing these concepts in nursing, PA and all of these areas. It’s a curriculum development opportunity.”

PA student fulfills volunteering passion by making masks

Physician Assistant student Jessica Sherbin poses in front of the masks she's made to donate.

Updated: June 10

Jessica Sherbin is passionate about volunteering.

The Detroit Mercy Physician Assistant (PA) student gives her time to multiple organizations throughout southeast Michigan. Sherbin also serves as the volunteer chair for the William Beaumont Society, the University’s chapter of the Student Association of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

So when Charles Regan, an assistant professor in Detroit Mercy’s College of Health Professions, approached her near the end of the winter semester about producing homemade masks to donate, Sherbin did not hesitate.

“Without a doubt in my mind, I thought how meaningful this project would be, as wearing a mask has become an essential part of our wardrobe when leaving the home,” said Sherbin, who is in her second year of Detroit Mercy’s PA program.

Sherbin facilitated the project, gathering fabric and elastic for assembly kits to deliver to those helping create the masks. Sherbin, 12 PA classmates and their families, and two Detroit Mercy professors teamed up to craft over 250 sewed masks for distribution.

“It is extremely rewarding to see a student that has such awareness of the needs of others and is always willing to give her time to contribute to the greater good,” Regan said.

The masks were given to several people, including PA students and professors at the University, members of Sherbin’s community and mobile food pantry volunteers at Project Healthy Community, a nonprofit organization in Detroit founded by her family.

Sherbin also made donations at a cardiology office in Macomb and a family medicine practice in Livonia, both which employee Detroit Mercy PA graduates.

More donations will soon follow, Sherbin said, but the reception so far has been uplifting.

“It has been a consistent theme that those who have received them are extremely appreciative that their health and safety has been accounted for,” she said.

Wearing a mask has become part of a daily routine during the COVID-19 pandemic and Sherbin wanted to get creative with the patterns she used. Some feature the logos of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, while others have fireworks, stars and animated versions of Marvel’s The Avengers characters.

“We decided to pick colorful and uplifting patterns so those that wear them are not only protected but can bring a little bit of happiness to all they may encounter while wearing the mask,” Sherbin said.

It was important to Sherbin to step up and help make masks.

“I have always been extremely passionate about giving back and donating my time to the community,” Sherbin said. “This project would not have been possible without the help of my fellow PA classmates; it was truly a team effort. This project turned out to be much larger than I anticipated, making around 250 masks, and I am proud to be a part of such a strong and caring program giving back to a wonderful community.”

From making masks to supporting children through Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak’s Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams program and beyond, volunteering has provided Sherbin with valuable life lessons.

“Throughout these diverse experiences, I have found volunteering to be refreshing, fulfilling and enriching,” she said. “More importantly, I have learned valuable life lessons and met amazing people along the way. Although some of these experiences may be small, they can make a big difference in the lives of others and the community, and make the world a better place.”

- By Ricky Lindsay

Despite no live baseball, Law alumnus continues impact on children

Justin Prinstein '12, second from left, celebrates his International Stars Baseball Academy team winning a youth league championship.

Updated: May 26

This spring is a little different for Justin Prinstein ’12.

He would normally be occupied with baseball, working as an international crosschecker for MLB’s Cincinnati Reds and executive director of International Stars Baseball Academy, a nonprofit that introduces the sport to children in Detroit.

But sports across the world halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Stars was set to field several teams this year in spring, summer and fall youth leagues, just as it’s done since 2013. The organization completed its ninth year hosting free winter baseball clinics for children at the Boll Family YMCA.

After two months off, some professional leagues have resumed play in North America, but many questions and unknowns surround youth sports. A second wave of the coronavirus could shutter any hope of a return this year.

Prinstein, an alumnus of University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Law, doesn’t know when International Stars will be able to resume its programming. In the meantime, he has used technology to continue having a positive impact on children.

Prinstein and his team have posted baseball tips and offered support on International Stars’ < class="s2">Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. One of the videos focuses on arm strengthening exercises; another shows children how to do fielding drills with just a tennis ball and wall.

“We've mostly been working on trying to provide much-needed baseball advice and emotional support to our participants and their families, and guiding our staff throughout this unprecedented time,” Prinstein said.

International Stars plans to resume operations when deemed safe and appropriate, “but figuring out how is difficult,” Prinstein said.

He still hopes the organization can one day develop an athletic complex in Detroit for year-round baseball training while continuing to provide mentorship, help with school and a support system for children.

“Our work is just beginning in these challenging times that lay ahead,” Prinstein said.

To learn more about International Stars, visit

- By Ricky Lindsay 

Helping patients communicate with the outside world

Updated 10:05 a.m., May 20

Lydia Jacob poses for a photo in her hospital.Hospitals throughout metro Detroit have restricted patient visitation over the past two months to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Healthcare workers like Lydia Jacob ’17 have gone beyond their normal duties to help fill that void through digital means.

Jacob works as a registered nurse in Troy Beaumont’s medical surgical intensive care unit. She has helped patients communicate with family and friends throughout the coronavirus pandemic, recognizing the additional role nurses are shouldering to provide comfort.

“I have been at the bedside, holding up an iPad up to my patient's face so their loved ones can see them,” Jacob said. “I've spent countless hours talking to the family members of my patients — to the point where I recognize their phone numbers before they even introduce themselves.”

Over the past two months, Jacob has worked additional hours to assist her unit and new nurses who are onboarding. She’s also become a “superuser” for the hospital’s Tablo dialysis machine as COVID-19 patients can experience kidney damage.

Despite being there for patients and her colleagues, Jacob has experienced the lows of COVID-19, and it’s had a heavy impact on her.

“I've seen the happiness stripped off a loved one’s face, who went from being excited about getting into medical school to balling his eyes out when told his father had less than 12 hours to live,” she said. “Hearing their cries and seeing their tears is something you can never get out of your head.”

Jacob studied Nursing at Detroit Mercy and says the University and its Jesuit and Mercy values have “left a crucial imprint” on her nursing career.

“It is instilled in me, to this day, that we have to remind ourselves the importance of human-dignity, respect and compassion,” she said. “We are taught to use our morals and values to help strengthen our community, and ourselves.

“When you are able to relate to someone and have empathy, your entire outlook changes in a very remarkable way. I am honored to have gone to a University, where such values are embedded into their students.”

- By Ricky Lindsay 

Student Life takes programming digital with video game stream

Updated 11:35 a.m., May 4

Timmy Nelson '11 poses during the Student Life video game stream.With Detroit Mercy transitioning to online learning in mid-March during the COVID-19 pandemic, several student-centric events had to be canceled. But going digital wasn’t going to keep the University’s Student Life Office from providing programming for students.

Student Life collaborated with Detroit Mercy Web Communications Specialist Timmy Nelson ’11 to host an online party game night on Twitch, a popular live-streaming service, to celebrate the end of finals week.

“Our idea was to capture the spirit of our campus’ De-Stress Fest, but in a digital format,” Nelson said.

Nelson used his popular Twitch account, trueTIMfoolery, to host the four-hour stream on April 24, and he was pleased with the student participation.

“Student Life was eager to tap my established social media resources and rapport with students on the McNichols Campus. I stream regularly after work, so offering to help the University’s students during this time was a no-brainer,” he said.

Party-style video games were the highlight of the night for students. Nelson used his Nintendo Switch to stream games from the Jackbox Party Pack, such as Trivia Murder Party 2 and Drawful 2, which allow the audience to participate with the streamer in real time through an internet connection and smart device.

“Drawful 2 is similar to Pictionary and always exciting. You receive completely random prompts to draw on your phone — with no erasing allowed — and have other players guess what monstrosity you created,” Nelson said. 

With the stream a success, Student Life is considering future digital programming with Nelson.

"We are already brainstorming more stream ideas for the students into the summer and beyond,” Nelson said. “Possibly Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments, Bob Ross-style art streams, mental health check-ins, movie watch parties and more.”

To watch a recap of the game night stream, visit

- By Ricky Lindsay 

Baking a difference in the community

Updated 8:45 a.m., May 1

Annie Acho-Tartoni holding a tray of cookies.Over the past several weeks, people across Michigan have been trying to navigate stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, the change in daily routine and inability to spend time with friends and loved ones is difficult.

It’s no different for Detroit Mercy sophomore Annie Acho-Tartoni. She misses being on the McNichols Campus, around classmates, friends and faculty. It’s also painful seeing what the United States and countries across the world are experiencing during this pandemic.

“The stay-at-home order has been hard to deal with and has been a challenge time for all of us,” said Annie Acho-Tartoni. “It has created frustration, depression and anxiety.”

Finding ways to manage this new normal is important. Detroit Mercy students that we’ve previously profiled have taken up hobbies or volunteered.

Acho-Tartoni’s method involves acts of kindness.

“While wearing gloves and a mask, I have baked over 300 cookies within the past two weeks and packaged them into cellophane bags to pass out to our local fire and police department, priests, friends and neighbors in the community, some of whom are elderly,” she said.

Giving back to the community is important to Acho-Tartoni, who is in the 5-year MBA program at Detroit Mercy. She said her grandparents, Ron Acho ’69 and Rita (Bonnici) Acho, have been instrumental role models for service learning. Ron and Rita met as students at the University.

“They both have played a huge role in my life, especially when it comes to my faith and doing acts of service,” Acho-Tartoni said.

Acho-Tartoni has been using social media to keep up with important people in her life, and the medium helped inspire her to “make a difference.”

“Watching the many Detroit Mercy Titans who have made a difference during this time motivated me to do my part and help others,” she said. “I am so thankful and proud to be a part of the Detroit Mercy community.”

Acho-Tartoni hopes that by baking cookies, she can lift people up during the pandemic.

“So many people are helping to protect us from the virus and keep us safe,” Acho-Tartoni said. “It was so moving to see how appreciative they were and how this small act of kindness helped lift their spirits during this time.”

- By Ricky Lindsay

Former basketball star helping police officers through COVID-19

Updated 9:33 a.m., April 29

Demeisha Fambro in her police gear.Demeisha Fambro ’13 was a four-year letter winner for the Titans women’s basketball team and a member of the WBI championship team as a senior in 2013, one of only two Detroit Mercy teams to ever capture a national postseason title.

She is about to complete her fourth year in law enforcement and recruiting in the Detroit Police Department. Her position has changed during this pandemic to have direct communication with officers who have been affected by COVID-19 and want to get back out to the community and do their job. 

“Right now, I am helping out our medical section,” Fambro said. “Officers that are in quarantine or have been exposed to COVID-19, I am in touch with them and seeing what their symptoms are and seeing where they are in the process of coming back to work. As a police officer, you want to be out there and working. We work doubles, we sacrifice, so for a lot of these officers, I hear it every day that they just want to be back to work. We know the risks and you don't know if today will be your last day, but this is our job and we don't want to be at home, we want to be out there helping with this situation.”

Fambro moved to her current role recently; she is tasked with helping find more brave individuals to wear the badge. 

“Any recruit that is looking to become a police officer, I process and do their background so they can be credentialed,” Fambro said. “I think a lot of the job is to be humble. I see a lot of recruits that come here, you get the sense that they are looking for power because you have a badge, but it's about being humble and helping people. Detroit is one of the best police agencies in the world and it's about learning and helping our community. Be humble, talk to people and be a part of the city.”

Fambro's route to the police started at a young age and after graduating and playing professional basketball, she ended up right where she thought she would always be. 

“I was playing overseas in Portugal and I got injured and when I came back, nothing really fit me. I wanted to go back and play, but it just didn't work out and getting a job sitting at a desk all day was not for me,” Fambro said. “I thought about it and said, it's about time that I join the police force. I always wanted to be a police officer. I remember when I was a kid, my friends and I would play cops and robbers and a lot of my friends wanted to be the robber and I was the cop. I wanted to be the one with the fake handcuffs and chasing people down, so I was always interested in the law even when I was little.”

Fambro says being a student-athlete has helped her reach the police force, a profession that she truly loves.

“The discipline aspect helped me, just the athleticism of playing and keeping in shape to pass every test and to maintain that level,” Fambro said. “It wasn't easy in college and that discipline that I learned helps me every day. No day is the same, there is great human interaction and I get to help people. You wear a lot of different hats as a police officer and when I am out there, I am like a big sister and to help people at their lowest point is amazing.”

- By PJ Gradowski 

Students thankful to donors for emergency funds

Updated 10:20 a.m., April 27

Shelley Howard, left, and Destiny Proffett, right, headshots.Shelley Howard is busy. She has a child in fifth grade, one in seventh grade and one who is a freshman in college. She has a full-time position at a child care center and returned to college in September to pursue a master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Detroit Mercy.

As the coronavirus worked its way across the United States, her employer closed for safety reasons and she found herself without a job. This was weeks before Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a shelter-in-place order closing all nonessential businesses.

“I didn’t know what to do, with my three kids and no job and, at that point, I didn’t know what to do about unemployment,” Howard said.

She went to the Detroit Mercy website to see if the University had any information or options to help students.

It was there she read about the University’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund, set up to help students who suddenly found themselves in financial difficulties as the coronavirus strengthened its grip on Michigan.

“I was so glad to see that because it was getting kind of rocky,” she said. “To see that it was available and to receive the funds was such a blessing.”

Student Affairs Coordinator Christina Socha and Dean of Students Monica Williams are co-chairs of the committee that distributes the funds. Howard was in the first wave of students who received help.

Socha said the first round of 21 students who applied were granted a total of $10,222. As of April 21, an additional 22 students had applied and the committee was working through their requests.

Destiny Proffett is finishing her freshman year. A ReBUILD student, she is double-majoring in Biology and Philosophy with eyes on medical school. Due to her home circumstances, she was unable to move home when students were encouraged to do so. She is living in the dorms, but dietary and health issues restrict what she can eat, and she needs to buy her own food.

“I am doing what I can with other resources, but it hasn’t been enough,” Proffett said. “These funds will help buy me food.”

By far, most students have asked for the full $500 allowed through the fund. They are asked to choose from a number of reasons why they are requesting funds including food insecurity, health and medical expenses, essential utilities, technology to allow them to participate in online classes and emergency housing, most say they need the funds because of the loss of their job.

“The students are incredibly grateful,” Socha said. “It’s clear there is a major need and the University is happy to be able to come through for its students in a time of need.”

Socha has a full summer class schedule and will remain in the dorms for the foreseeable future.

Howard is also taking advantage of other programs to make ends meet and she’s receiving help from family members. “I’m holding my own,” she said.

She is still busy. “Now I’m teacher and Mommy and principal and social worker and lunch lady,” she said, laughing. And she finds strength in her faith.

“I know a lot of people in way worse situations than I am,” Howard said. “I hope they know about this program, because it’s a huge help.”

At present, we have more need than we do donations. To contribute to this fund, please visit

- By Ron Bernas

Faith and positivity get nursing assistant through long days

Updated 9:09 a.m., April 24

Ashtar Warda poses in nursing garb next to a Superman statue.When Detroit Mercy sophomore Ashtar Warda spoke with us earlier this week, she had just finished working 22 consecutive days in Henry Ford Hospital’s surgical and cardiovascular intensive care units.

Battling COVID-19 on the front lines doesn’t come without stress. Warda, a certified nursing assistant who is in the Health Services Administration program at Detroit Mercy, says the experience has been humbling.

“I realized that when you stretch yourself beyond your limits, you must let your success serve more people than you,” Warda said. “My success is when our team is able to extubate a patient off of a ventilator who has had respiratory distress from COVID-19. I have a positive attitude on a daily basis coming to work and by being consistently positive eventually has turned into a habit.”

Working in an ICU has exposed Warda to the horrors of the coronavirus.

“I have never had so many patients who have passed away in a week than what I do now,” she said. “Many of the COVID-19 patients have respiratory distress, a temperature, and a history of underlying health problems which does not help with the virus that is attacking their system.”

The pandemic has affected the work routine of Warda and fellow healthcare professionals.

When arriving for work, she has her temperature taken and is screened for COVID-19 symptoms through a series of questions. To avoid any potential contamination from home, Warda must change into new sterile scrubs once she receives clearance. Entering a patient’s room has been altered, too.

“We must wear a surgical gown, double glove, wear an N-95 mask, wear another surgical mask over the N-95, and wear goggles,” she said.

Adapting to this “new normal,” can be stressful, Warda says, but she has several methods to manage these trying times.

When at home, Warda enjoys longboarding, meditating daily through yoga and preparing healthy meals for work.

“I spend a great amount of time cooking so I can remain healthy and strong to be able to care for my patients,” she said.

Warda is also leaning on positivity and her faith.

“I absolutely love what I do and I do not feel that it is work. It is my calling,” Warda said. “I have found myself being naturally optimistic and hopeful no matter what is happening within me or around me throughout this pandemic.

“I believe that the overwhelming love of God has kept me strong and any pain that I have endured from COVID-19 is how you can pay for growth. I always say to be patient, acknowledge your growth, count your blessings, practice gratitude daily and give yourself more time. Personally, every day is a new day, and to have faith in our Lord, for He is the medicine and true healer of all. He brings me to work and back home safely each day.”

- By Ricky Lindsay 

A quick phone call makes a world of difference

Updated 1:34 p.m., April 23

a young woman on a phone callLast week, as undergraduate students prepared for this week’s online final exams, staff and faculty reached out to see how they were doing.

“We had some of the best conversations over those calls,” said Dean of Students Monica Williams, who heard the idea during an online meeting with colleagues from other institutions. Williams took the idea to Director of Residence Life Lanae Gill, who told her that would be easily done.

Gill, who is chair of the Student Success and Retention Committee, marshalled the committee members, assigned lists of around 70 students to each volunteer and let them do the work of calling some 2,400 students. Some volunteers took more than one list to ensure every student received a supportive call. Those volunteers came from across the McNichols Campus and included employees in the Student Affairs Office, the Student Success Center, the Wellness Center, Residence Life, Center for Career and Professional Development, the Registrar’s Office, Admissions, the International Services Office. Faculty from the Biology, English and Social Work departments also participated.

“It was a really, really positive experience,” Williams said. “I was pleased with how many students answered their phones.” Voicemail messages were left for those who did not answer their phone.

Students told the callers how they were feeling and appreciated the wishes for a good final in short and in longer conversations. One student told Williams about her worries after she had tested positive for COVID-19 and talked about her grandfather who had died because of it.

“Most of the time I listened, but I had a little troubleshooting to do, too,” she said. A student was worried because he hadn’t had a reply to an email he sent one of his professors about an assignment. Not only was he concerned about the assignment, he was worried something might have happened to the professor. Williams called the professor, who said she had somehow missed the student’s email, and the professor called the student.

It was a lot of work, but Williams said it was worth it.

“It was great opportunity to connect with students we sometimes might not because of everything that is going on campus during a normal end of the year,” she said. “And the students were very appreciative.”

- By Ron Bernas 

Writing Center still working hard, at a distance

Updated 9:32 a.m., April 23

Writing Center students pose with their laptops while doing work for the center remotely.The transition to online classes can be a major adjustment for some Detroit Mercy students, but The Writing Center is still doing what it can to help.

The Writing Center continues to hold online appointments, where students get one-on-one sessions with trained writing consultants. Students can work on any stage of the writing process, reading comprehension, grammar and research or get support if English is not their first language.

The Writing Center has always offered a mixture of in-person and online appointments, so making the transition to all online was pretty seamless.

“The only adjustment was to get my newly hired consultants trained and ready to go in the online environment,” Writing Center Coordinator Cindy Spires said. “Because I anticipated the change to online instruction — as I watched the ripple effect of COVID-19 — in the last week before we went on hiatus, I got all of my newly hired student employees trained using the online system.”

Vania Noguez, who will graduate this May from the 5-year MBA program, has worked at The Writing Center for three years. Noguez said she feels she’s still having a positive impact on students.

“During the school year, the online platform was a great option for commuter students, or for those who couldn't come in due to their busy schedules,” Noguez said. “While some prefer in-person appointments, the online option is super easy to navigate.

“With the current COVID-19 situation, this online option has been expanded and has allowed us to tutor more students remotely. It makes me happy knowing that we are helping students get access from different states, and even different countries using this technology.”

Nick Blakey is in his first year working at The Writing Center and completed the online training in March. Blakey said that there have been some glitches, but he still feels he’s connecting with students.

“Many of the students' participation in the online sessions has been great,” said Blakey, who is a junior in the CIS Cybersecurity program. “We have continued to create an environment where the students feel welcomed. If the student was responsive with the work we were doing and I get that sense of accomplishment, then I say we have been doing all we can to help. I always ask if the session was helpful at the end regardless, and I've always gotten positive responses.”

Spires said she has been getting positive feedback from her workers and the students who use the service and is proud of the work The Writing Center is doing.

“Ten out of my 11-person staff are students themselves — working to overcome the obstacles of transitioning to doing all of their courses at home and they are helping their peers throughout all of this,” Spires said. “The Writing Center’s biggest success is definitely the cohort of student and professional tutors we have. I applaud them all for balancing so much during this topsy-turvy time and for staying committed to helping others. They fulfill the mission every day in all they do to improve the intellectual and social development of students at Detroit Mercy.”

Ariana Matway is a chemistry major and in the 7-year Doctor of Dental Surgery program and has been utilizing The Writing Center from home.

“It’s very convenient as I can receive instant feedback while sitting in my pajamas working on my writing assignments,” Matway said. “I am grateful The Writing Center has provided this option for students.”

Jency Shaji, a Biology major, wasn’t sure what to think when everything moved online, but she enjoys the format now.

“It’s sometimes awkward for me to watch someone read my writing, especially when they read it out loud. However, this eliminated that feeling for me,” Shaji said. “I thought it would be difficult with feedback, but the live chatbox was really helpful

The Writing Center just wrapped up its winter semester schedule and will be available for online tutoring during the summer session. Spires said she will be posting its schedule on May 1.

“We just want everyone to know we are here to help students with their writing assignments,” Spires said. “We can help with anything related to reading and writing in any course at the university. We can help from English to Engineering and beyond. All students have to do is make an account, pick an appointment time, and show up online.”

For more information about The Writing Center visit or contact Spires at

- By Dave Pemberton

Facing the pandemic at Rikers Island

Updated 1:34 p.m., April 22

Tyler Harper headshotTyler Harper ’16 was a four-year member of the men's lacrosse team, playing in the 2013 MAAC Championship and on the NCAA Tournament squad. Harper now works in the New York City Department of Corrections at Rikers Island.

He is facing a growing challenge: Worrying about a pandemic inside a correctional facility.

“We are all facing this same pandemic across the country and you need to be able to remain calm and do what you do every single day like it's not affecting you at all,” Harper said. “Yes, it might be terrifying because you know you're not going home after eight hours on a normal day, you're there for maybe 16 hours and you don't know if you're exposed to it and that's even taking the right precautions. But this is what I wanted to do; I knew there would be times when everything was not all normal and quiet. This is the job we signed up for — law enforcement, healthcare — we all signed up to do this job that we love.”

Most of the country has shut down in hopes of containing the spread, but in a corrections facility, there is only so much that can be done to contain that and still deal with the day-to-day activities. 

“Just like we are scared, I think they are scared too,” Harper said. “In a weird way, it has been a bit calmer then what we normally go through. We are trying to stay safe and we are trying to keep them safe and not exposed to this. The less chance they are exposed, the less chance we are (exposed) so it's scary for all of us, but we need to keep doing our job. There is a healthy mix of people in there from those who made a mistake, understood they made a mistake and just want to do their time and then go home to guys who have been in trouble a lot, gang members and this is their life and they have to live with it.”

For Harper, he knew that he wanted to be involved in law enforcement as a career and earned a criminal justice degree at the University. 

“I have always wanted to be in law enforcement since I was a little kid,” said Harper. “I have a lot of family that is involved in law enforcement whether it be corrections or in a police department and that is what I wanted to do. I took the NYC Department of Corrections test, passed the test and I got the call about three months later. Last February, I went to the academy and I graduated in July and started working at Rikers Island last August.”

Harper knows that his time as a student-athlete prepared him for this position and the mindset that it takes to clock in and out every day. 

“It is a very physical job and also mentally exhausting. I feel that being part of Detroit Mercy athletics helped me get that right mindset, that mental approach to help me handle my job, get me through a 12- or 16-hour day,” said Harper. “Usually nothing goes as planned — just like sports — but being a student-athlete, it teaches you to keep the right attitude and the right mentality, remain calm and adjust to any situation because that's what you need to do to win. You practice a lot to get ready for any situation.”

- By PJ Gradowski

Special precautions for an at-risk population

Updated 8:15 a.m., April 22

Andrea Gamez headshotAndrea Gamez '12 knows there are risks working as a bone marrow transplant physician assistant at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) during the COVID-19 crisis. But she feels her work is doing everything in its power to keep her safe.

“UT Southwestern has been very informative and our oncology department has been on top of things,” Gamez said. “As employees, we have our temperature checked at the hospital door and again on our bone marrow transplant floor.

“We have to wear a mask while in the hospital and we have to turn in our mask at the end of the day for ‘recycling.’ Our hospital is also not allowing visitors. So the patients are not allowed to have family or friends visit them in the hospital.”

Gamez said her department normally has more than 30 patients on their floor, but during the recent crisis they typically have less than 10.

“We are testing all of our patients for COVID-19 to keep the rest of the patients and staff safe,” Gamez said. “If one of our patients is being screened for COVID, they are not admitted to our floor since our patient population is very immunocompromised.”

Gamez believes the hospital and staff is doing all they can, but there are still risks involved in coming to work every day.

“We had a patient that was showing signs of COVID (fever, cough, congestion) and I saw the patient in the morning with a mask on,” Gamez said. “Within an hour, we decided to have the patient tested and moved off of our floor to protect our other patients and staff. Every person that entered that patient's room had to give their name and phone number and report it to occupational health as a ‘mask exposure.’

“I had to change my clothes as well. I was so scared knowing that I was potentially exposed to a COVID patient. I was scared that I could bring this virus home to my wife and two children. I almost had a panic attack. Two days later, I found out that patient was negative. But it was a reality check that this virus is out there and very easily contracted.”

Despite the current conditions, Gamez said she really enjoys her current position. She lives in San Antonio and travels to Dallas to work three 12-hour shifts per week.

“So far, I absolutely love it,” she said.

Gamez has worked as a PA since graduating from Detroit Mercy in 2012. She feels going to Detroit Mercy helped her become a better professional and a better person.

“What I learned most from my education at Detroit Mercy was to treat people with dignity and respect,” Gamez said. “Especially during this pandemic when patients are not able to have their family or visitors in the hospital — to treat them with kindness and respect — listening to them.”

- By Dave Pemberton

Using her extra time to volunteer

Updated 10:01 a.m., April 21

Olivia Rapp volunteering at Forgotten HarvestOlivia Rapp is not sulking over the altered ending to her senior year at Detroit Mercy. Instead, she has made it a priority to live the University’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rapp has been volunteering with Forgotten Harvest, where she hands out boxes of food to families in need at one of the nonprofit’s distribution locations in Macomb County.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in our very own neighborhoods,” Rapp said. “Just playing a small part in helping my communities has been beyond rewarding.”

For Rapp, who is in the 5-year MBA program at Detroit Mercy, the call to help others through the food rescue organization was simple.

“I wanted to volunteer because I feel there is a greater need in the community now more than ever,” Rapp said. “Since I am able, I want to get involved and feel like I am contributing in some way.”

Forgotten Harvest has been short-staffed because of the coronavirus, so volunteers like Rapp are crucial as it provides for those in need.

“Everyone is so appreciative,” Rapp said. “These people are taking the food home to their families and are thankful for the help of the community.”

Rapp has tried to make the most of this difficult situation by enjoying time with her family, cooking new foods, having bonfires and game nights, and she is looking forward to returning to Detroit Mercy to wrap up her program.

“It’s weird to think that I won’t have photos of my college graduation to show my future children,” she said. “But I am excited to return next fall to finish my Master of Business Administration.”

- By Ricky Lindsay

Creative writing students finish chapbook virtually

Updated 2:04 p.m., April 20

The cover of the Creative Writing poetry chapbook.Detroit Mercy Professor of English Nick Rombes wanted to give his Introduction to Creative Writing class a new assignment this winter semester: a poetry chapbook. Each student in the class would submit a poem, biography and photo for the chapbook, which is a small collection of short poems.

“Because this was a special group of motivated students, it felt like a good time to try,” Rombes said. “We began talking about it in the third week of class, and then students began working on revising their best poem from the class for the chapbook.”

The COVID-19 pandemic threw Rombes’ students a curveball. Detroit Mercy transitioned to online learning in mid-March, forcing the class to finish the chapbook virtually.

But the challenge didn’t faze the class, Rombes said. They continued to meet using Blackboard Collaborate, and were able to complete a chapbook titled “A Few Frigid Pigeons,” which featured 14 poems and a foreword penned by Rombes, touching on the project and its transitions.

“Fortunately we had already bonded as a class and so the conversations about the chapbook flowed easily into the digital realm,” Rombes said.

Santana Scott, a senior studying Mathematics at Detroit Mercy, designed and edited the poetry chapbook.

“Without Santana, there would be no chapbook,” Rombes said in the chapbook’s foreword.

The students were inspired by the late Detroit poet Dudley Randall, who worked at the University’s McNichols Library in the 1970s. Before courses were moved online, they studied his work and viewed his “rare, one-of-a-kind broadsides and chapbooks” through the library’s archives, Rombes said.

“Although there is no specific theme, one idea that I see circulating throughout the chapbook is resilience and honesty,” he said. “Poetry is unique in how it boils down language to the essentials and can express emotional truths in ways that other forms of writing can’t.”

Seeing his students complete the poetry chapbook during unprecedented times left Rombes proud.

“My feeling is of pride in our students, and hope and optimism about the future that will be in their hands,” Rombes said. “Because this was a core class, most of the students are not English majors and many had never written a poem before. The chapbook is a testament to their openness, curiosity, and work ethic and their appreciation of the power of language to unsettle and to heal.”

To read "A Few Frigid Pigeons," click here.

- By Ricky Lindsay 

Volunteering at COVID-19 testing sites

Updated 12:34 p.m., April 17

Former men's lacrosse student-athlete Jamie Hebden is volunteering at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.Former men's lacrosse standout Jamie Hebden '13 is a third-year medical student at Michigan State in the College of Osteopathic and has been volunteering his time by helping administer nasal swabs for the city at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

He said he's willing to do whatever it takes to help out with the global pandemic. 

"Everyone's pulling together and pulling resources and everyone's helped each other out," Hebden said. "It's definitely eye-opening to have a mass testing of a country for a disease.”

Hebden, who is on break from his medical rotations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, wants to eventually get into emergency medicine and is set to start applying for residency positions in September, depending on the timeframe of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

"I know there's a shortage of health care workers out here, so who knows what could happen," Hebden said. "Right now, we are scheduled to start my next rotations in the ER on April 20, but it's really up in the air depending on if we have enough PPE for everyone and if there's still a shortage in the United States. If we are needed elsewhere, we could help out with other initiatives throughout the state.

"I know everyone is out there during this time, working hard and trying to do their best," he said. "If you could donate to any hospital or health care organization during this time, healthcare workers in hospitals would greatly appreciate it.”

- By Adam Bouton

‘We have to stay positive in this very tough situation’

Updated 9:45 a.m., April 17

Joyce Wilson-Eder headshotJoyce Wilson-Eder never let her busy life get in the way of staying upbeat. She is even more swamped these days during the COVID-19 crisis, but that hasn’t stopped her from bringing the power of positivity to everything she does as both a nurse and graduate student at Detroit Mercy.

“We have to stay positive in this very tough situation,” Wilson-Eder said. “With all of the bad news we see on television, I want people to know we have nurses, respiratory therapists, first-line responders, all of them doing great things in very troubled times. To witness it is truly amazing.”

Wilson-Eder works as a staff nurse at University of Michigan Hospital and an agency nurse at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Chelsea, and she’s in her second year of graduate school in Detroit Mercy’s Family Nurse Practitioner program.

“It helps with mental health because our work is very demanding,” Wilson-Eder said of staying positive. “But we signed up for this. We all know that, and we appreciate the art and nature of nursing. We want to help and see people heal.”

Wilson-Eder believes making someone smile can go a long way, even in very stressful situations, like caring for COVID-19 patients.

“I try to inject humor into our work,” Wilson-Eder said. “Sometimes just wearing the gowns and the masks, we’re all just sweating under all of this stuff so I’ll say, ‘Hey, we’re going to come out of this 10 pounds lighter.’”

She also takes time to marvel as her co-workers step up in so many ways to help people.

“I see them holding up the phone for the patients who can’t have visitors so they can talk or hear from family members,” Wilson-Eder said. “You should see some of these nurses just going that extra mile. The respiratory therapists that are doing those extra things to make the patients feel like they’re not alone. That’s what’s so positive about what everyone’s doing.”

Wilson-Eder also smiles when she thinks about the camaraderie she has built with her co-workers, who know they can rely on each other.

“I feel rather than focus on some of the negative things we see, let’s just talk about how we’re going to keep each other healthy,” Wilson-Eder said. “It’s like, ‘I’ve got your back. You’ve got mine.’ Just making sure we’re safe when we’re putting on our personal protective equipment, ‘Hey, it doesn’t look like you got a good fit.’ We’re adjusting and making sure we’re all safe.”

The Family Nurse Practitioner program at Detroit Mercy has moved exclusively online. Wilson-Eder is in the part-time program because she works and is finishing up the second of her three years. She acknowledged having classes online is different and there was an adjustment period, but she’s also enjoying it.

“It’s a new way of thinking and I have confidence in the faculty, they are doing the best job that they can in some very unusual circumstances,” Wilson-Eder said. “They’re doing a fantastic job keeping the content interesting and engaging.

“My classmates utilize Collaborate and Zoom meetings to try to touch base with each other, and make sure we have that connection because we’re all going to graduate together next year. We have to stick together and get through this program. It’s a very rigorous program.”

Wilson-Eder’s goal after graduation is to work in primary care.

“I’ve spent so many years in ER and critical care that it’s time for me to dial back and go into my first love, which is primary care,” Wilson-Eder said. “And I would like to return to the city of Detroit and offer my services there.”

- By Dave Pemberton

Horizon League champion strikes out new challenge

Updated 2:09 p.m., April 16

Ashley Mauser '19, who just recently graduated Ashley Mauser wearing nursing gear and pitching last year for the Titans.and was a standout on last year's Horizon League Championship softball squad, has been helping treat COVID-19 patients during her night shift on the Medical Progressive Care Unit (MPCU) at Royal Oak Beaumont. 

"Working on a COVID unit has not been the easiest," Mauser said. "Every shift is mentally, physically and emotionally taxing. On a progressive COVID unit, we see how quickly patients can deteriorate from this respiratory virus.

"With the visitor restrictions in place currently to protect others from contracting the illness, we do our best to comfort these patients who are scared and separated from their loved ones."

Mauser has picked up overtime shifts as the rooms in Beaumont have filled up with COVID-19 patients.

"On a normal day on our unit, we are staffed at 17 nurses and have a 3-to-1 patient to nurse ratio," Mauser said. "To maintain our patient safety with the rate these patients' conditions can decline, we have changed to a 2-to-1 ratio which means we now need 26 nurses to be fully staffed on our 46-bed unit. This requires many of us to pick up overtime shifts and also many nurses get pulled to our unit from other floors. I imagine this will continue to be the norm for the duration of this illness, especially as the number of cases continue to increase and peak.”

Mauser credits her classes and studies at Detroit Mercy – along with being a student-athlete — in helping prepare to be a nurse.

"My education and my experiences as a nurse and an athlete have helped me so much in being a COVID nurse," she said. "Not only from a medical standpoint in learning how this illness affects the human body (as more information comes about from studies and the CDC) and managing the plan of care for these patients, but especially the importance of communication and teamwork."

- By Adam Bouton 

Less time commuting makes things a little easier

Updated 12:45 p.m., April 16

Joe Jessop headshot.Like most college students, Joe Jessop’s world transitioned online this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in the many transitions is the Detroit Mercy junior’s involvement in the University’s Anime Club.

Jessop served as the club’s vice president this year, and as e-board elections for the 2020-21 academic year drew near, the club decided to hold an online election, where Jessop was elected president.

“Unlike our usual elections in recent years, we had to make use of an online source, Detroit Mercy Live,” Jessop said. “Although it isn’t well used or known throughout the student body, it worked well because it offered confidentiality and easy access to the voting platform.”

Jessop, a 5-year Mechanical Engineering student, has experienced the highs and lows of life as a college student during the pandemic.

He’s been able to stay connected with Anime Club members virtually. The student organization boasts nearly 30 active members. But it had to cancel Extra Life, its signature event that raises money for children at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

“Having to cancel the event and to reach out to businesses we had already made agreements with was not a pleasant feeling because it felt like everything we had worked for was a colossal waste,” Jessop said.

From biking and exercising to playing video games and foosball, Jessop misses spending time with friends. There’s also his competitive soccer league, which he had been waiting to resume since its end in October.

But he’s trying to make the most of the life during the pandemic.

For starters, Jessop has been pleased with Detroit Mercy’s transition to online classes.

No longer does he make the daily two-hour round trip commute from his home in Dexter to the McNichols Campus. It’s also allowed him to get more sleep while reconnecting with high school friends over late-night video game sessions.

“Online classes have completely revolutionized the way I function from day-to-day,” Jessop said.

There’s also more time to dedicate to his hobbies, such as building a phone mount for his new telescope he received for Christmas. Working at NASA or SpaceX is his dream job, and he enjoys capturing photos through his telescope to share with friends on Snapchat.

“I've always been fascinated by celestial objects, gravity and just space itself,” Jessop said. “I have been trying to use my phone to take pictures of what I see through the lens. It is hard to line up the camera with the lens so fabricating a phone mount would be extremely helpful.”

- By Ricky Lindsay 

Battling COVID-19 in the Bay Area

Updated 2:43 p.m., April 15

Jacob Prudhomme playing soccerFormer men's soccer student-athlete Jacob Prud'homme '16 is helping fight the virus in California as he works as a nurse at Stanford Hospital. He arrived in California in February, just before the outbreak. His uncle is also a nurse in the Bay Area.

"We were one of the first drive-through testing sites in the nation," Prud'homme said. "We had a lot of surveillance done early. The Bay Area was one of the first places to actually shut down, so we have our fingers crossed that it's not a calm before the storm and it's actually a real-life depiction of what's going on in the community in terms of not inundating us and surrounding hospitals. 

"I work on a general cardiac specialty floor so a lot of our patients are getting 'elective procedures,’ ” Prud'homme added. "None of the elective procedures are happening right now because one of our cardiologists has COVID-19 and as of right now, they've canceled all elective procedures. Right now, we don't have any of those patients, so our floor has been pretty empty just getting ready for a surge of COVID-19 cases.”

Prud'homme, who last year worked a nurse in Oregon and has worked in the field for four years, said that all of the different hospitals he's worked as has had disaster preparedness, but they never really have preparations for a pandemic of this magnitude.

"They always talk about things they are capable of," he said. "I've never had one talk about something they are not capable of, no one has talked about that. There was a real level panic. Stanford, during the base of this, invented their own testing system. There was some scrambling.”

Prud'homme believes he's just doing his job and doesn’t question heading into work each day – like so many other nurses and health professionals around the country.

"I couldn't imagine being anywhere else," he said. "I know a lot of my nurse friends feel the same way, no one is walking in with their chin held high each day. This is just another day at the office. There are a lot of people going outside risking getting it, but we are walking right into the trenches and we aren't thinking twice about it.

"That's just who nurses and health care workers are, if you're in the field, whether you consciously thought, 'I'm going to be prepared for a pandemic or not.' I would just like to commend the natural instinct of these people – they are just regular people who were destined to do this."

- By Adam Bouton

Class designed to help businesses run online

Updated 9:41 a.m., April 15

Photo of the College of Business' entrance.The COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to move exclusively online, a challenge for which many small businesses were not prepared.

Detroit Mercy’s College of Business Administration is working to help business owners and business students learn how to conduct business online with two upcoming courses, e-Commerce Strategies, is a graduate-level course and an undergraduate course titled eBusiness.

Both courses are online and are open to guest students. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree can enroll in the graduate e-Commerce Strategies course. The courses run for seven weeks, from May 4 to June 20.

“We understand the burden that the coronavirus has placed on companies that now have to operate virtually for the first time — it’s no longer business as usual,” said Joseph Eisenhauer, dean of the College of Business Administration. “In response, we're offering summer courses online that provide managers with the skills to function effectively in this digital environment."

The e-Commerce Strategies course focuses on business strategies and technologies for electronic commerce. Topics include e-marketing and e-operations, electronic payment systems, legal and ethical issues, technology, web development, interoperability and standards, and security issues.

“The crisis has created a new paradigm for many,” said Terry Howard, a lecturer in Decision Sciences at Detroit Mercy who will teach both courses. “Some people, who avoided or were slow in embracing the developing world of technology, were pushed into adapting to a new way of doing work and business.

“For many, creativity and innovation surged and individuals were able to see new ways of conducting business. This class brings together the creativity and innovation of the business person and the student with the fundamentals of operating a business in a technology world.”

The eBusiness course provides an understanding of the applications, base line technologies, changing skill sets, and business concepts that organizations need to master in order to manage and lead their e-business initiatives.

“E-commerce and e-business are more than just setting up a web site,” said Howard. “To be successful, a person must integrate the fundamentals of operating a business with the fundamentals of systems and technology. The class is designed to provide the fundamentals of operating a business electronically.”

Howard served in the Air Force and earned a bachelor of science in Computer Information Systems in 2003, an MBA in 2005, a Master in Computer Information Systems in 2006 and a Master of Information Assurance in 2007 — all from Detroit Mercy. He also has a Doctor of Business Administration from Walden University in 2017.

Howard earned Detroit Mercy’s Faculty Achievement Award in 2019.

“As a member of the armed forces, I used technology throughout my career,” Howard said. “As I lost the majority of my vision, technology became an even more critical tool to me and my small business. I have had to be creative and innovative in my life and my business. Detroit Mercy provided me the knowledge and the tools to be successful. After completing my doctorate, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to my alma mater and join the full-time faculty teaching such courses as e-business, business intelligence, operations management, and systems and technology.”

For more information about Detroit Mercy’s business courses, contact Omid Sabbaghi, Director of Graduate Business Programs, at or 313-993-1172.

- By Dave Pemberton 

From the field to the front lines

Sara (Zawacki) Gifford headshot

Updated 2:37 p.m., April 14

Sara (Zawacki) Gifford '16, a former Titan women's soccer student-athlete and class Valedictorian, works on an ICU floor at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System in Detroit and has been busy on the front lines in the battle with COVID-19. 

Gifford has also picked up more shifts than usual to help out, all while trying to keep herself healthy and safe at the same time. 

"Our unit has been pretty full right now, but I've been trying to keep myself well physically and mentally because it's pretty heavy right now," Gifford said. "It's supposed to get even busier. I've been looking into volunteering at the field hospital one day a week, not only to change it up, but just to help out as well. My main focus is being present at work as much as I can handle."

Gifford, whose husband is former men's lacrosse student-athlete and Detroit Police officer Joe Gifford, said one of the biggest challenges for hospitals has been the sudden influx of many critically-ill patients, among other challenges.

"I think the biggest challenge is the whole capacity thing," she said. "We've never seen a rush of critically-ill patients and so many of them. Also, just taking care of these people while they are alone. Often there's a lot of family and friends at their bedside to help support them, so we're just kind of doing the nursing job and going above and beyond as much as you can. It's been pretty tough to watch a lot of these people be alone, so trying to balance that nursing care that nurses are known for, trying to keep that going and being there for the patient, while also being totally stretched thin because of the amount of patients right now.”

Gifford is thankful for her education at Detroit Mercy and instills the mission of the University into her work.

"The nursing coursework there and some of the stuff that I did as an undergraduate – Detroit is a huge hotspot for the virus because of the health inequalities that we talked a lot about in the nursing programs at Detroit Mercy with it being mission-based and in Detroit," Gifford said. "You can definitely see that and appreciate those things. To not be hesitant to run into the battle because being trained as a nurse at Detroit Mercy has always been fighting for more equal health care.

"That's been the biggest thing that I've taken away from the undergraduate work there. And just being a good teammate to the other nurses and the overall team."

- By Adam Bouton 

Helping the community through telehealth

Updated 7:35 a.m., April 14

Abby YooTelehealth has become an important piece of the healthcare experience for people throughout the country as hospitals and facilities become inundated with COVID-19 patients.

Abby Yoo ’16, a registered nurse case manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is doing her part through the company’s Coordinated Care service.

“Telehealth provides people with access to health professionals and doctors in the comfort and safety of their homes and keeps them and their communities safe,” Yoo said.

Under normal circumstances, Yoo contacts Blue Cross members to assist them on a variety of issues to ensure they receive the best medical attention possible. A conduit between members and Blue Cross’ vast team of medical professionals, she helps members navigate the healthcare system while educating them about their health, so they can better manage conditions.

Yoo has continued providing those services during the pandemic while adding new responsibilities.

“Some of the additional things I do now is educating on infection control and preventive measures, and what to do if they need to see a doctor and when it is time to see a doctor,” she said. “I help them to continue to understand their health and navigate the health system as doctor’s offices are closed or limited in how they provide care during this state of social distancing and staying at home when possible. 

“I refer members to resources such as food or financial aid that may be available to them during this difficult time. I provide emotional support as well as community resources to our members who may be struggling in different ways during this time.”

Yoo sees the many ways this pandemic causes concerns. People are in pain — “physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” she said. There’s a financial impact with survivability. Her friends in hospitals are on the frontlines, battling the virus while dealing with the lack of protective gear. Patients are dying alone, without the comfort of loved ones.

But there’s hope, Yoo said, “in those who have survived COVID-19 and how society can come together during this time with what each person has to offer, in big and small ways.”

It’s important to focus on self-care during the epidemic. From faith and exercise to positivity and communicating with friends and family, Yoo is doing just that and more.

“I am taking care of myself by praying, reading my Bible, and filling up on the hope and truth I find in a relationship with Jesus,” she said. “My coworkers and I are juggling working from home now and learning to navigate work-life balance. I have a coworker who was able to rent a Pilates machine from her studio to stay fit and active. Exercising and doing activities that are calming and relaxing help me as well.

“I have been connecting with friends and family through various platforms, as good company is good for the soul. I also make designated time to disconnect from social media and news. We're encouraged to make new rhythms during this time, and still get up, get dressed and find ways to channel the energy from anxiety and fear into things that are positive and productive.”

- By Ricky Lindsay

Keeping busy helping others

Updated 2:45 p.m., April 13

Jessica SnyderFormer Detroit Mercy women's lacrosse student-athlete Jessica Snyder '18 couldn't see herself anywhere else. In a time where most are told to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Snyder, like so many other former Titan student-athletes, is doing all she can to help fight it on the front lines in hospitals.

Snyder, a nurse in the ICU at Henry Ford Hospital in downtown Detroit, has been at the forefront in the battle against COVID-19 ever since patients started arriving in mid-March.

"I don't think anyone could prepare for this pandemic," Snyder said. "My co-workers who have been on the ICU unit for 20-plus years, they are saying this is new for us too. Just two years out of college, this is a lot to deal with. For me, it feels different, but I still feel like I'm doing my job. I just go to work and I'm a nurse. It's my job.”

Snyder has worked in the ICU for close to two years after graduating from the University. She's taken more shifts recently to help combat COVID-19, going from three shifts a week to five.

"To me, personally I like being at work better than being at home. At home, I have to quarantine myself and I don't like being alone," Snyder added. "I like being able to interact with my co-workers and treat patients.

"I feel like I'm making a difference so I might as well be here.”

Snyder said her time at Detroit Mercy helped prepare her to work in the field, even if there was no way to prepare for the current pandemic.

"I owe a lot of my success to Detroit Mercy," Snyder said. "I wouldn't be where I am today without the University. But as far as this pandemic, I don't think anyone could prepare for this. It's just something that you have to deal with, with experience. I will say my skill set and clinicals and theory, medically I was prepared for this. Emotionally and psychologically, I don't think anyone could be prepared for this.”

As someone who has seen the current crisis firsthand, Snyder encourages everyone to take the necessary precautions.

"We need everyone to be taking this seriously," Snyder added. "I don't think everyone realizes how important this issue is. There are family members who are dying alone because they aren't allowed to have family come. That has also been something that has been really hard.

"As employees, we are supposed to be limiting exposure as much as possible too, it's really hard when you have somebody that is dying and you want to go say a prayer with them or comfort them. It's been different from treating the traditional ICU patients that we are used to seeing and we usually get." 

- By Adam Bouton

There are lessons to be learned from fear

Updated 10:18 a.m., April 13

Dennis Ortman headshotDennis Ortman ’95 is a psychologist whose work has also seen the effects of the coronavirus.

Patients are scared and feel alone. But Ortman says growth can come from fear, from isolation, and he examines this in an essay posted on our alumni blog at

Here is an excerpt:

Concerning loneliness, my patients admit missing their usual activities and socializing. Being alone with themselves is probably their greatest struggle. That is not surprising, when you think about it. Mother Teresa founded a religious order to serve “the poorest of the poor.” When she opened homes in India, everyone nodded. But when she opened residences in the United States, people scratched their heads. She explained that the United States is the loneliest country in the world. We experience emotional and spiritual poverty. We are so busy chasing after possessions, money, status and success, competing with each other to be number one, that there is little time or energy to relax with ourselves. Consequently, we become estranged from ourselves, and our relationships remain superficial. I tell my patients, “The antidote to loneliness is solitude. You cannot be any more intimate with another than you are with yourself. You can only make friends with yourself by spending time alone with yourself.” If we enter deeply into the silence and solitude, we learn we are never alone because we are intimately connected with the universe. I continually invite my patients to stop and listen to the still voice within. And to take it seriously.

Voice of Titans continues storytelling for sports fans

Updated 1:56 p.m., April 9

Jeremy Otto, left, interviews a Titan men's basketball student-athlete.March and April are usually booming times of year in the sporting world, and it’s no different for broadcaster Jeremy Otto.

Otto, the television play-by-play voice of the Detroit Mercy men’s basketball team, juggles several broadcasting and announcing roles throughout the year. He had been interested in adding his own podcast to the mix “for a little while.” With sports across the world coming to a halt due to COVID-19, Otto decided to put it into motion.

He launched the “Absence of Sports” podcast in mid-March, which highlights COVID-19’s impact on sports.

“The fact that I would have no games to call for the foreseeable future certainly pushed me to get it off the ground,” Otto said. “So that, combined with the suggestions of a few people that it might be interesting to hear the different perspectives of people in sports during this time, compelled me to start it.”

The podcast has nine published episodes thus far and features interviews with local and national personalities, including Detroit Tigers broadcaster Dan Dickerson, New York City sports anchor Ryan Field, Fox Sports broadcaster Gus Johnson and Olympic softball player Monica Abbott.

As for the reception: So far, so good, Otto says.

“I've had people reach out and thank me for the content, because it's a time where there are no sports to turn to, which has been pretty cool,” Otto said. “I went into it not knowing how many episodes I would record, but it has turned into something that has become fairly regular and I expect to continue it as long as COVID-19 continues to impact sports.”

Through “Absence of Sports,” Otto has tried to provide fresh, intriguing content for sports fans craving something during this unprecedented time.

“The purpose is to provide behind the scenes and up-to-date content surrounding the coronavirus and sports,” Otto said. “There are so many different aspects of the situation from the economic impact, to an athlete's attempt to stay in game shape, to how it’s impacting college recruiting, and more. I want the podcast to serve as a vehicle to uncovering those stories while also highlighting the positive impact that athletic personnel are having on the community in this challenging time.”

The “Absence of Sports” podcast is available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts. Updates and previews can be found on the podcast’s Twitter at

- By Ricky Lindsay 

On the front lines and in front of students

Updated 9:24 a.m., April 9

Louis Davis headshotBy day, Louis Davis ’18 teaches students as an assistant professor in Detroit Mercy’s College of Health Professions & McAuley School of Nursing. At night, though, he aids patients on Beaumont’s nurse practitioner inpatient transition team.

Both of his positions have experienced significant changes during the coronavirus epidemic: Classes at Detroit Mercy and educational institutions throughout the United States have moved online, while the hospital Davis works at has transitioned to caring exclusively for COVID-19 patients.

Balancing the two positions is nothing new for Davis, but there are dynamics unique to the current landscape.

“I find that I need to be available to students more than before because instead of addressing questions to an entire class, I will get multiple emails,” Davis said. “I have found that communicating with them on almost a daily basis through course announcements has helped to alleviate that.”

At his Beaumont hospital, Davis helps combat the COVID-19 epidemic by providing “direct patient care from an advanced practice perspective.”

“I evaluate and treat patients at the point of inpatient admission,” he said. “I also respond to rapid response calls and manage patients in code blue situations.”

When we spoke to Davis last week, he said there was a dramatic increase in patients at his hospital who showed COVID-19 symptoms. Two observations of COVID-19 stand out to Davis so far.

“One of the most surprising things that I have noticed is how many people in younger age groups are experiencing symptoms serious enough to require inpatient hospital admission,” Davis said. “Additionally, I have noticed that a patient's condition can deteriorate very quickly and unexpectedly.”

Davis also sees how COVID-19 is impacting his students, who have shifted to online learning to finish the winter semester.

“I have noticed that students are very anxious,” he said. “It has been difficult for many students to be able to focus on their studies when they are dealing with such an unprecedented change in their lives. They are worried about family members, becoming ill themselves and their ability to complete their course work.”

Davis’ education at Detroit Mercy — he earned his doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University in 2018 — has helped guide him over the past several weeks.

“My education at Detroit Mercy has helped me examine my practice from a systems perspective and offer recommendations that can improve patient care in a way that can impact patients, staff -- healthcare in general,” Davis said. “As we deal with this unprecedented change in healthcare delivery, it is important to operate in the most efficient manner while maintaining the safety of our patients as well as healthcare workers. It is my hope that problems identified during this pandemic will lead to sweeping changes in preparing for unexpected health disasters.”

Self-care and being there for colleagues is important for healthcare workers as they face unprecedented situations and deal with tremendous stresses.

“This is a very difficult time to think about self-care, but we must be able to take care of ourselves in order to care for others,” Davis said. “In order to care for myself, I try to check in with my family every day and that brings me comfort.

“As far as co-workers -- kindness and compassion go a long way. We are all trying to be cognizant of what our coworkers are managing through this crisis and offering a virtual shoulder to lean on or even cry on.”

- By Ricky Lindsay

Detroit Mercy education prepared her for tough times

Updated 3:05 p.m., April 8

Gabrielle Greig headshotLike many nurses, Gabrielle Greig ’17 has been reassigned during the COVID-19 crisis. She typically works in Care Management at Ascension Medical Group, but has been enlisted to help the fight against COVID-19.

“I have been reassigned to work in the Respiratory Care Clinic set up by Ascension at St. Clair Shores to triage calls from patients concerned that they have COVID and wanting testing,” Greig said last week. “I have also been screening patients for COVID at the door of my typical place of employment, which is an outpatient primary care practice.”

The increasing number of COVID cases means many healthcare workers are having to adjust on the fly and move out of their speciality to help.

“Many patients are experiencing ‘typical’ COVID symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, but there are a lot of patients who haven’t experienced those symptoms,” Greig said. “Instead, they’ve had symptoms like back pain, headache, fatigue, and sore throat. These patients with ‘atypical’ symptoms have also been positive.”

Greig is thankful for her Detroit Mercy education, which prepared her not only for a career in nursing, but for pressure-filled days like the ones she has to deal with during this crisis.

“I feel the nursing program at Detroit Mercy was rigorous and prepared me to buckle down and focus on the task at hand during tough times and situations,” Greig said.

Greig hopeful people will follow the rules put in place so the number of cases will plateau in the near future.

“Stay home, wash your hands and be thankful for all of the healthcare workers working to help you,” Greig said. “Base all decisions (i.e going out for groceries, etc.) on if it was something you’d recommend to your family member or loved one.”

- By Dave Pemberton

Staff member’s plays to be live streamed

Updated 8:44 a.m., April 8

Ron Bernas headshot.Marketing & Communications writer Ron Bernas was intrigued by the call he saw from a theater company asking for microplays inspired by, though not necessarily about, the pandemic.

“I liked the idea of having only 150 words to tell a story,” he said. “It makes you focus on only what is absolutely necessary, while still trying to make something that is not just a skit.”

“Touched” is the result and it will be performed at 7:30 tonight (Wednesday, April 8) with approximately 60 other 150-word plays beginning received by the One Minute Theatre Company, which calls itself The American Theatre’s National Social Barometer Project. More than 600 works from playwrights from around the world included in the OMTC’s “Coronavirus Plays” will be performed over the next 10 days by theatre troupes, university theatre programs and others over Zoom.

In addition to the word limit, submissions could only have two or three characters and, if possible, be performed by actors of any age, race or ability.

“I wrote about two people meeting after coming out of quarantine,” Bernas said.

In addition, a play Bernas wrote nearly 30 years ago is slated to be performed in a similar style through the Theatre Kwadrat in Poland Wednesday, April 15, in a Polish translation by Boguslawa Goral.

“A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody” is a tribute to the screwball comedies Hollywood put out in the 1930s. It has been produced around the world, but never, Bernas said, in another language. Goral translated the play many years ago when she came across it and thought it would be a fun project.

Goral said the company is among the best-known theaters in the country when it comes to comedy and they are livestreaming plays that had been lying around on Artistic Director Andrzej Nejman’s desk to keep audiences connected and entertained during stay-at-home orders. Actors connect from their homes and the production is performed as a “table read,” with no stage movement.

“These productions are a surprise and an honor and I hope people can find a distraction to their worries,” Bernas said.

To watch “The Coronavirus Plays,” you must fill out the form here…/1FAIpQLSdenM-Rg8d2uhWn9d…/viewform and you will be sent the Zoom meeting code. No link is currently available for the performance of “A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody” but it will air live on YouTube. 

Nurses cope by sharing successes

Updated 3:25 p.m., April 7

Two masks that are helpful during COVID-19.When Eric Jakovac ’11 spoke with us last week, there were 20 positive COVID-19 patients on his floor at Beaumont Dearborn. While he and the rest of the staff  worked to help those patients get better, Jakovac, a clinical nurse manager, also had other people on his mind: his staff.

The healthcare workers in the hospitals are dealing with a great deal of stress. There are a lot of patients, many of whom are scared and, due to quarantine rules, don’t have the support of friends or family at their bedsides. There is a lot of uncertainty. There are long hours. There is death. And there is the real possibility that they could infect their family.

“One of the things Beaumont does very well is keeping the staff informed, first and foremost,” Jakovac said. “The staff is being inundated with changes in policies and staffing ratios and these changes come every day as we learn more information about what’s happening. We’re keeping them informed to calm their fears. When you’re here, you’re seeing it, and it’s scary.”

Focusing on the positives – the number of patients going home rather than the number of patients coming in – is important, Jakovac said.

“We do a lot of storytelling and sharing of the positives,” he said.

One of the biggest positives? The way the staff has responded.

“My favorite thing is the staff’s willingness to jump in and care when things are looking bad,” he said. “We band together and work together. It’s amazing what people can and will do in the face of crisis.”

One of the biggest challenges? The patients are not allowed visitors, which is an important aspect of the recovery process in any circumstances.

Beaumont offers patients iPads so they can FaceTime with loved ones, and find other ways to distract themselves.

“The other day I sat with one of the patients for half an hour,” he said. “We were just chatting because that’s what this patient needed at the time.”

The stress doesn’t end when the shift does, he said. When Jakovac goes home to his wife and young child he doesn’t even interact with them until after he has thoroughly cleaned himself and changed his clothes.

“There is a fear that I could potentially be the one who brings this home,” he said. “But we believe in our procedures and we know we are protecting our families.”

While there is a lot of stress just getting through the day, Jakovac, who is currently in the Master of Health Science Administration program at Detroit Mercy, said he expects there will be long-term consequences of this pandemic.

“I think this is going to change the way we typically do a lot of things,” he said.

- By Ron Bernas

Helping dental patients from afar

Updated 2:37 p.m., April 6

Bill Huszt and his wife Anna Chong-Huszti, directly in front of him, with the team at Huszti Dental Care in Milford.Of the many things interrupted by the self-isolation orders to help stem the transmission of the coronavirus, dental procedures haven’t gotten much attention.

Dental offices were deemed nonessential services and had to obey the order to close. While that may not pose a problem for many patients, there are people for whom postponing an appointment can be an issue.

“If a patient needs a crown, the process is to create a temporary one they wear for a short amount of time while the permanent one is being made,” said Bill Huszti ’92, who has operated Huszti Dental Care in Milford with his wife Anna Chong-Huszti ’92 for more than 25 years. “But with the closures, many of these patients are wearing them for a longer time than they were designed for and may loosen or come off.”

Huszti, for whom video making is a hobby, decided that instead of letting his patients – and any others who may be worried about this – he would make an instructional video.

In it, he shows how to keep a temporary crown in place with a little bit of toothpaste and a little bit of care. You can see it on the Huszti Dental Care YouTube channel here, where you can see other instructional videos

“I wanted to help calm people’s fears,” Huszti said. “This is a quick fix that will, hopefully, save them some worry.”

Bill Huszti and Anna Chong met at Detroit Mercy Dental and were married shortly after graduation. They have two daughters. Their oldest, Olivia, is a freshman in Detroit Mercy’s 7-year Dental program; her sister Sophia will join her in the same program in the fall.

These closures have been hard for Huszti Dental Care, but he knows it’s the right thing to do.

“During these difficult times, we have all been called upon to stay at home,” he writes on his website. “For me and my staff, this has been very hard. We miss our patients and each other very much.”

— By Ron Bernas

University Recreation offers virtual workouts

Updated 8:38 a.m., April 6

University Recreation logoIncluded in the state’s executive order to close businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus are fitness centers and gyms.

Matt Chesley, manager of Detroit Mercy University Recreation and a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer, has the solution for fitness fanatics looking for at-home exercises. Chesley and the University Recreation team have been posting fitness videos on social media since mid-March but are started live classes through Instagram Live.

University Recreation will host these workouts at 5:30 p.m. four days a week. Barraka Baber ’18, network administrator in Detroit Mercy’s ITS department, hosts classes on Mondays and Wednesdays while Chesley leads classes on Thursdays and Fridays.

“So far we’ve only posted a couple short videos, but the feedback has been pretty good,” Chesley said. “We plan on doing full 20-30 minute classes.”

University Recreation opted to do online workouts for the Detroit Mercy Community after speaking with other professionals in the Michigan Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (MIRSA).

“We all agreed it was important to keep our users engaged and active,” Chesley said. “This quarantine period is making it real easy to just sit back and relax, but it’s really important to stay active to live a healthy life.

“I, like many others, have put in too much work to get in shape to just throw it away for a few months of sitting around. Resting is great, but so is exercise. Both are necessary to live a healthy life.”

Chesley’s Instagram Live classes will be virtual versions of what he teaches at Detroit Mercy’s Student Fitness Center. Thursday is dedicated to his Butts and Guts course, while Friday is for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). University Recreation is still determining what type of courses Baber will teach on Mondays and Wednesdays.

“These classes are special to me because, especially in HIIT, I use scientifically tested and proven models to promote cardiovascular fitness and overall health,” Chesley said.

Those interested in University Recreations’ fitness videos can visit its Facebook page To participate in Instagram Live courses, follow University Recreation at

— By Ricky Lindsay

Simulations keep nursing students learning

Updated 1:30 p.m., April 3

Students walking in front of the College of Health Professions building during an archived photoshoot.When Detroit Mercy announced in early March it was moving classes online for the rest of the semester, the first question on the minds of many in the College of Health Professions & McAuley School of Nursing was, “How will students do their clinical requirements online?”

Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Detroit Mercy’s Nursing students are fulfilling their clinical requirements using virtual simulators that put them in different scenarios with patients. Students aren’t currently going into hospitals to both protect them and the patients during the COVID-19 crisis.

“They’re doing multiple V-sims every week where they can look at the patient and assess what’s going on,” Detroit Mercy Adjunct Professor Barbara Finkenbine said. “When the situation changes, they react to the changes and continue through the scenario. The simulator will then grade them as to how well their reactions were and what they could have done better, what they could have changed.

“The School of Nursing has been really good in putting together all these alternative ways of teaching, and being available to us when we say we need some help navigating because, let’s face it, this is new for all of us.”

Finkenbine has been teaching clinicals for more than 20 years and admits V-sims call for an adjustment from her and the students, but she believes everyone is making the best of it.

“Is it 100% the same as having clinicals?” Finkenbine asked. “No, of course not. I think it’s giving them some good insight on some different situations and we’re doing a lot of discussions so when they get out there they’ll have a lot of information and be able to handle these patients. Even when we have them in our normal clinical situations, nothing is perfect. We can’t prepare them for everything. There’s a lot we learn as nurses as we go.”

Many of Finkenbine’s students are set to graduate in May and have jobs lined up, so they were worried when the online announcement was made. Finkenbine said most of their concerns have been addressed and they are continuing to prepare for life after graduation.

“They are finding the virtual sim is a learning technique that has really come a long way in the last year or two,” Finkenbine said. “These scenarios that have been developed and created have been very interesting. The students get to do the scenarios more than once. And I think the students, from our discussions, feel like they’re learning a lot.”

Finkenbine continues to meet virtually with her students where they discuss each simulation and how they can improve.

“They’re learning like we normally would do in a clinical situation at the end of the day or the end of the week,” she said. “It also encourages them to reflect and to look things up and do some research. And that’s what we do as nurses on a regular basis.”

— By Dave Pemberton

Ensuring help for homeless people

Updated 9:15 a.m., April 3

The Pope Francis Center downtown is continuing its work at a social distance in Detroit Mercy Law’s student parking lot.Detroit Mercy School of Law’s student parking lot on Larned Street has been repurposed during the COVID-19 crisis.

With tents up and heaters on, it has become a space for Detroit’s homeless population to receive services while practicing social distancing.

For years, the Pope Francis Center, which operates next door to Detroit Mercy Law’s downtown building, has provided hot meals and a safe place to rest for Detroit’s homeless community. But on March 16, the center decided to close its doors to protect the health of guests and volunteer in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

But the need didn’t stop, so the center began serving out of a small tent on the sidewalk. The tent, however, did not provide the space necessary for social distancing.

So, Fr. Tim McCabe, S.J., executive director of the Pope Francis Center, called Detroit Mercy Law Dean Phyllis L. Crocker to ask whether the center could use the student parking lot to continue to offer services.

“I immediately said yes. We are not using the lot right now,” Crocker said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. And, frankly, an easy thing to do. It will make a positive difference for our community.”

Large tents in the parking lot mean meals can be served and medical checks can take place, all while practicing safe social distancing. Additionally, at the request of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a truck equipped with showers and restrooms will be provided by a company used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and parked in the student lot, allowing for these services to continue with social distancing for the Center’s guests.

— By Grace Henning 

The MCD open house had to move online during the epidemic, as shown by these computer images of the open house.

Open house moves online

Updated 12:40 p.m., April 2

Virginia Stanard realized she had two choices after the in-person open house for the Master of Community Development (MCD) program she directs was canceled: Attempt to reschedule the event or try to go all online.

“I originally thought about canceling or postponing the open house since we could not do it in-person,” Stanard said. “But our application process is time sensitive and this is our biggest recruitment event of the year, so I thought it would be a real missed opportunity to not adapt and go online.”

With the event scheduled for March 28, Stanard had to act quickly, but she reached out to faculty, alumni and community partners to get them all on board.

“I really enjoy coming together and reconnecting with our students, faculty, alumni and community partners for this event,” Stanard said. “We have such a committed MCD community that regularly gives their time for the program.”

The open house took place over the platform Zoom and lasted roughly 90 minutes. The event included a 20-minute presentation from Stanard and then a question-and-answer portion with the faculty, students, alumni and community partners.

“I moderated the entire event to keep things moving and on track,” Stanard said. “We also kept a live chat feed going which was helpful and fun. We had very positive feedback that the event was helpful.”

One of the positives of moving the open house online was students from out of state and even out of the country could attend.

"It was such an inspiration for me to meet everyone attending the meeting and to hear firsthand about the program,” said prospective student Susanne Lager from Sweden. “It gave me so much good energy going forward.”

Stanard said moving forward they will likely offer a virtual open house in addition to the in-person open house.

“I think it should be a regular supplement to our in-person event,” Stanard said. “I think we should hold on online open house or information session at least twice a year to reach a larger audience.

“We’ve been challenged to find ways to market nationally and internationally given our budget and program size. Online sessions could be a great approach to this.”

— By Dave Pemberton

Thoughts from a nurse

Updated 9:35 a.m., April 2

Samantha Zakalowski ’18 headshot.The following was sent to the Marketing & Communications Department by Samantha Zakalowski ’18.

I got my BSN from Detroit Mercy while running cross-country and track there as well. I’m currently travel-nursing around the United States and am currently in Reno, Nev. Prior to this I worked at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

During all of this pandemic/COVID-19 stuff, it has been quite the experience to say the least. I have, since graduation, worked in the pediatric intensive care unit and fortunately for me and the pediatric population right now, I have not been face to face with the coronavirus. I have, however, had patients being swabbed left and right for the virus and the waiting period for the results to come back is a period of uncertainty: Do they have it? Do they not? Do I have it? Do I not? Are we protected enough? Are they and/or their family protected enough? Are we going to run out of masks? Is my N95 (mask) already contaminated? Do I really have to reuse this again and again? How sad the patient must be with the lack of visitors. I think I’m scared; what about them? Millions of thoughts go through your head during these times.

As I said, I am very fortunate right now not to be battling the true frontlines of this virus. I know others in my hospital are. They are stressed and scared and unsure about all of these protocols and lack of protection and swabbing vs. not swabbing patients. I have witnessed the domino effects this virus has put on hospitals and hospital staff; it isn’t pretty for anyone, from nurse managers to CRNAs to janitors. It’s scary, but as a whole we’ve managed to pull together and help as much as we can with the circumstances and supplies or lack of supplies we have.

Being away from family/friends/old coworkers who I know are struggling in Michigan and, more specifically, the Detroit area, tears at my heart. I feel guilt, as if I should be with them helping out; however, I’m on a travel ban and couldn’t make it home no matter how much I wanted to during these times.

But I know the classmates and staff I worked hand-in-hand with in the past are doing everything they can in the Detroit area. They are some of the strongest, most compassionate, hard-working nurses I know, and with that in my mind I’m staying positive and taking things day by day.

Missing my Detroit family/friends and I am so proud of everything they’re doing on and off the frontline over there. 

Making it work

Updated 1:30 p.m., April 1

Mary Kate McNally headshotDetroit Mercy senior Mary Kate McNally has spent nearly two years researching and writing her honors thesis, which explores the rhetoric of black abolitionist William Wells Brown. She was chosen to present her paper at the Michigan Academy of Science and Letters (MASL) conference in March.

But she received notice the spreading coronavirus led to cancellation of the conference. She was disappointed, but looked forward to defending her work on campus. Then, in-person classes and events were closed.

“I was so disappointed,” she said. “I thought I would never be able to present this research.”

That’s when her thesis advisor, Associate Professor of English Mary-Catherine Harrison, stepped in.

“All the thesis defenses were cancelled,” Harrison said. “And she was so disappointed. But I knew her so well, since I had worked with her every week for three semesters, and I knew the rest of the committee, and I thought, ‘We can make this happen.’ ”

Harrison said, “We can still do it, but it would have to be digitally,” McNally said. “And I said yes.”

The thesis, Br’er Rabbit, Anansi, and the Fugitive Slave: The Influence of African-American Trickster Figures on the Rhetoric of William Wells Brown, looks at the ways Brown, a contemporary of Frederick Douglass, employed tactics of trickster figures from African American folklore, to raise awareness and support for abolition of slavery.

Much of the research was done through the Black Abolitionist Archives, which is overseen by History Professor Roy Finkenbine. He, too, was on McNally’s honors thesis committee and was happy for her that her work had a chance to see the light of day, through a public defense of her work.

From her living room, where her family gathered with her, McNally made her presentation to her committee and a few other professors, over the Blackboard online-class platform most Detroit Mercy students are using to attend online classes.

“I thought it was as good a substitute as you can get at these times,” Finkenbine said.

There were a few technical difficulties, but things smoothed themselves out and McNally demonstrated her mastery of the subject by answering questions from the honors committee, which included English Professor and Director of the Honors Program Nick Rombes.

Honors theses defenses typically take place in the Gardella House, Rombes said, and students have a half hour to present their research, then answer questions.

“It was just amazing for me to see her defend her thesis this way,” he said. “I am so proud to see how these students have adapted so well to all these sudden changes.”

McNally was thrilled to present her work.

“After doing all that research and writing, and to not be able to present it, was really, really disappointing,” she said. “And that’s such a special thing about Detroit Mercy. It’s small enough that the professors know you and are willing to work things like this out for you.”

McNally is still taking classes, but with the defense behind her, she admits to some confusion about how to go about looking for a job after graduation. But she does have good news: The MASL still wants her to present at this year’s conference, which has just been rescheduled for late September.

 By Ron Bernas

Preparation started in February

Updated 9:30 a.m., April 1

Kevin Peshl '12, '18, far left, and his team, featuring several Detroit Mercy alumni, started preparing for COVID-19 in February.Kevin Peshl ’12, ’18  has worked to combat the COVID-19 crisis through his several business ventures over the past few weeks.

As chief executive officer of HC Enterprise Solutions, a healthcare consulting company in Bloomfield Hills, Peshl strategically guides clients in Michigan and across the country to ensure people are receiving proper care. He also understands the clinical side of the crisis as co-owner of Frenchtown Urgent Care in Monroe.

Peshl and his team, consisting of more than a dozen Detroit Mercy graduates, started preparing for COVID-19 in February by ordering extra equipment and medicine to ensure the safety of his staff and the community.

“We knew it was getting big,” Peshl said.

Frenchtown Urgent Care serves Wayne and Monroe counties and parts of northeast Ohio. The clinic has helped Beaumont Hospital in Trenton and ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital with testing for the immediate area.

“In our clinics, we don’t have bed space. We can’t admit anybody,” Peshl said. “It makes more sense that we help alleviate that stress and tension and do some of the basic testing for those who are not severe.”

Monroe County performed poorly in a human mobility study performed by Unacast, a data service which examined travel and social distancing nationally from Feb. 28 to March 9. Michigan received an ‘A’ grade but Monroe County was graded ‘F.’

Peshl and his team have used their resources to educate the community on COVID-19 through blog posts on the Frenchtown Urgent Care website and social media. Monroe County’s grade improved to a ‘C’ in Unacast’s latest report based on data from March 11 to March 23.

“Our blog posts, our social media posts, and our website education directly supported the efforts of social distancing, self-quarantine and limiting travel,” Peshl said.

Peshl holds two degrees from Detroit Mercy — a Master’s of Health Services Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology — with an MBA expected this spring.

“I utilize everything I’ve ever learned in my grad school, both MBA and MHSA, all the time,” Peshl said.

One moment from his time in the MHSA program stands out during the COVID-19 crisis: His first class in the program, Legal Aspects, with Adjunct Professor Saif Kasmikha.

“I remember my first grad school class, and the professor saying, ‘Even if you aren’t a provider, you will utilize every aspect of this class as well as every other class you take in this program going forward, whether you think so or not. So just make sure you are taking it seriously.’ He just left it at that, and that really hit home with me.” Peshl said. “Three and a half years later, I’m remembering that.”

It’s critical that healthcare workers are there for each other during times like these, Peshl said. He’s lent an ear for in-patient colleagues to vent about the situation, and starts each morning by checking in with his team via text.

“I’m always here – everybody on my team knows this – if they need something to vent about,” Peshl said. “I’d rather them know that they can come to me and vent and get that off their chest. You can’t hold that in.

“It’s very, very important to make sure providers know that we have their back to support them in any way possible.”

— By Ricky Lindsay

No activity at The HIVE

Updated 12:30 p.m., March 31

Three students pose in front of The HIVE's food bank. The HIVE is looking for ways to provide much needed services for students when no one is on campus.Food insecurity is very real at Detroit Mercy and it’s something The HIVE is trying to address.

Founded a year ago by Dohna Dudley, a student in the 5-year BS/MBA program who is also majoring in criminal justice, HIVE’s mission is to offer support to the 46.5% of Detroit Mercy students who said they experience food insecurity.

“There is a need,” Dudley said from her home in Ohio. “And I’m trying to figure out how to operate. I just don’t think we have the capacity with everyone working from home.”

On Wednesday, The HIVE distributed food to more than 55 students and in March, served a total of 80. The HIVE’s budget calls for providing resources for only 50 students.

“Food insecurity is no access to affordable, nutritious food,” Dudley said. “Eating noodles every night, or fast food every meal because that’s all you can afford, that is food insecurity.”

The HIVE operates as a store in Room 41 of Reno Hall. Students from any of Detroit Mercy’s three campuses come to shop for food or hygiene items. Dudley calls The HIVE’s inventory “additional resources” because it removes some of the stigma. Students do not have to prove need: “Our assumption is that the student is coming to us because they have need and we are there to help.”

That help has dried up without student workers, but the need remains. Dudley is exploring the option of gift cards, which would allow students in need to purchase their own food.

The HIVE’s nonperishable food is provided by Gleaners and perishable food is purchased with donated funds.

HIVE’s workers also provide a sort of emotional support for the people who shop there and organized a mental health workshop. She believes bringing students from all campuses together creates a stronger Titan community and, she hopes, improves student retention and graduation rates.

Dudley is a member of the Class of 2020, and though her graduation has been postponed, she said that is not her biggest worry. She wishes she was on campus to organize The HIVE’s transition to ensure it lasts long after her graduation.

“I’m solution-oriented and I don’t think this time has to be a negative one,” she said. “I’m using this time to get my mind together for whatever will come next. But I feel bad that I’m not there to help people. The HIVE is my baby and I miss it.”

You can support the work of The HIVE through its crowdfunding site

— By Ron Bernas

PA alumna: ‘It’s about trying to adjust quickly’

Updated 8:30 a.m., March 31

Shannon Wills ’13, pictured wearing scrubs and a mask, has helped Henry Ford Health System's fight against COVID-19.Shannon Wills ’13 has effectively picked up a second job during the COVID-19 crisis.

She is a physician assistant for the Oncology department at Henry Ford Macomb, and now volunteers to help the hospital’s COVID-19 response team.

“They put out a call, so I’ve volunteered my time to help them out on the weekends,” Wills said. “During the week, I have to take care of my cancer patients.”

Wills is assisting the COVID-19 response team by fielding phone calls, helping nurses place orders, talking to physicians who need patients admitted, assisting with discharging patients and updating the family members of admitted patients.

She said the nurses are so overwhelmed with the increase in patients and having to get in and out of all the protective gear that without the assistance of people like her, the job would be nearly impossible.

“There is no way that they would ever be able to leave at the end of the day to get some rest without our help,” Wills said. “Any of us who are working in the hospital right now, no matter what your position is, we’re all going through the same things and it’s difficult. It’s challenging having to answer the patients’ questions and the family members’ questions. And talking to family members who want to come see their loved ones and can’t. It makes it very difficult because they can’t come into the hospitals right now to see their loved ones, to hold their hands.”

Wills has seen the COVID-19 crisis change very quickly and adjusting has been a challenge for everyone involved.

“I think when all of this started, you kind of sit back and you’re in this mode where you’re just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” Wills said. “Then the first case comes through and you’re like, ‘Ok, that’s one case.’ And then the second case comes through, ‘Ok, that’s just two.’ Then in the last two weeks, you see the numbers on the news, before we knew it, Henry Ford West Bloomfield is at capacity, Henry Ford main is at capacity.

“Macomb, we’re trying to make sure patients who can be discharged are discharged as soon as we can get them out safely at the same time, dealing with the influx of patients who are coming in through the emergency room. It changes day-by-day. One minute, we think we have some beds and you think things have slowed down a little bit and then you come in the next morning and it’s a completely different story. It’s about trying to adjust quickly to this environment that is exhausting, to say the least.”

In addition to her work on the COVID-19 response team, Wills also has to adjust her weekday job, which has become more difficult for her patients who are immunocompromised.

“Unfortunately some of our patients have been exposed out in the public and there’s really no way to avoid it at this point, short of everyone just staying home,” Wills said. “Our patients, we’re used to them being compromised with chemotherapy. During flu season we kind of ramp up the, ‘Make sure you wash your hands, make sure you’re careful, don’t go out in public.’ But with this in addition to everything else, it’s just so much more complicated.”

Through it all Wills, who earned a Master of Science in Physician Assistant from University of Detroit Mercy, is thankful for her education at Detroit Mercy because it prepared her to be a medical professional immediately after graduation.

“I don’t think you can be better prepared than going to Detroit Mercy,” Wills said. “I always make the joke that there’s no mercy at Detroit Mercy when you go through those programs. They are rigorous and they need to be. You’re taking care of people’s lives so they need to be. I was better prepared to do what I’m doing now coming through Detroit Mercy than anywhere else.

“You leave the University of Detroit Mercy with better medical knowledge than any other PA program out there and I know that because I come in contact with PAs from other programs. And I’ve been told by other PAs that our medical knowledge coming out of University of Detroit Mercy is better than their own coming out of whatever university they graduated from. I would recommend that program to anyone who is serious about practicing medicine as a PA. You will learn more than you possibly thought you could, but you’ll come out prepared because you went there.”

Wills expects to continue helping out the COVID-19 response team for the foreseeable future and has a simple message to anyone looking for advice during the crisis.

“Stay safe, hang in there and wash your hands,” Wills said. “And if you don’t have to be out, stay home.”

— By David Pemberton

Feeding the community

Updated 11:55 a.m., March 30

Before the pandemic, groups of students got to know University neighbors as they made food deliveries, as seen here. They are now leaving packages on the porches.Grace Gamble started her position at Detroit Mercy three weeks ago. Her title is program manager over food justice and sustainability; in simpler terms, she runs Campus Kitchen, a student-run organization whose mission is to empower students to address food justice issues on campus and in the community.

“It’s been interesting,” Gamble said.

Campus Kitchen usually operates with a slate of student workers and leaders who organize food deliveries to neighborhoods near the McNichols Campus. But with students at their homes and Gamble telecommuting, the organization is adapting to change and finding ways to move forward.

Currently bags of produce and other food are being delivered to 15 homes on Princeton Street, mainly to senior citizens. In normal times, the students are invited into the house and get to know the University’s neighbors.

“And that is one thing that’s been disappointing,” Gamble said, “because we have built connections, but now we have to leave the food and not engage with the people. It’s different.”

Gamble said she hopes to see Campus Kitchen grow in community and leadership and is using this unexpected time away from campus to look into ways of expanding food deliveries, engage with students through remote meetings and look for ways to implement student ideas, such as pantry staple recipe sharing with the community.

You can support the work of Campus Kitchen through its crowdfunding page at

— By Ron Bernas

To stay up to date on the University's response to the coronavirus, please visit