By Nancy Spitler
Alumni work on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic
This spring, people all over the world have been stepping out on their porches every evening at 7 p.m. to applaud health care workers who have been putting themselves at risk caring for those with COVID-19.
In the same spirit, we’d like to recognize those Clemson alumni who are among the heroes of this crisis — those doctors and nurses, physician assistants and administrators — who are doing their jobs at the risk of their own health.
Clay Lowder ’89
Lowder, a primary care physician in Sumter, South Carolina, was skiing in Colorado when he saw the news about a case of COVID-19 in Seattle in February. He called his office manager and ordered a year’s supply of masks and personal protective equipment. When the virus began to hit South Carolina, his practice, Colonial Healthcare, opened one of the first drive-thru clinics in the state, providing almost a hundred tests a day for the rural three-county area. “I’ve watched my staff and doctors put their hands up and go to the frontline,” he said. “I’ve watched young mothers and nurses come out of retirement and swab people all day for a dangerous disease. It’s just a huge team effort.”
Phifer Suber ’95
As the night charge nurse in the emergency room in Newberry, South Carolina, Suber and her team balance the care of normal emergency room patients with those showing COVID-19 symptoms. “Where I am is nothing like the big hot spots, like New York, and I pray it doesn’t get that way,” she said in April. “If it does, I will show up with my team to take on this challenge because that’s what we do.”
Her wife is also a nurse, so as she says, “We’re kind of in the same boat. We both think about the possibility of bringing something home, but just try to be extra careful, and not dwell on it.”
Corey McCubbin ’17
McCubbin works nights in Greenville as an emergency room nurse, where he has to be prepared for anything from a broken leg to COVID-19. He’s extremely careful with the work-to-home transition, but even so, he’s distanced himself from friends and family over the last several months — for their safety.
He encourages people who are feeling sick to try using a virtual health care provider to evaluate symptoms and recommend a course of action, “without having to visit an ER or MD360 where you might be exposed to more sick people.”
His words of wisdom? “Be safe and keep others safe.”
Teamwork and community were recurring themes in conversations with alumni.
Jessica Tolley-McLendon ’08
Tolley-McLendon, an emergency medicine physician in Savannah, Georgia, spoke of her pride in the team of health care workers and first responders with whom she works: “We have seen decreased Emergency Department visits but higher acuity (sicker) patients. This has been a very scary time, but I am very proud of our “front liners” (health care workers and first responders). We have been very brave through this pandemic and have stepped up to the task at hand.”
Like many health care providers, she takes many precautions to protect her family. “I am sure to always wear appropriate PPE at work. When I come home, I have designated a decontamination area in our garage where I strip out of my scrubs and use disinfectant spray on my belongings before I go into the house. I skip embracing my husband and children until I have showered.”
She encourages the general public to continue following guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks in public to flatten the curve and ensure hospitals are able to handle the load: “You may feel great and could be contagious with COVID-19. If you were to cough or sneeze, you could pass the virus on to someone who could become very ill. The newly infected person may pass along the virus to an immune-compromised or elderly family member at home.”
George Greene IV ’01 was recently named CEO of Water Mission, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization committed to providing clean water solutions worldwide. Greene most recently served as president and COO.
During COVID-19, Water Mission’s global response team has developed a “cohesive, internal safety and security campaign” to keep staff, in-country leaders and communities as safe as possible.
To learn more about how Water Mission is working to minimize the risk of COVID-19 while still operating and providing clean water for global communities, visit their blog post “Behind the Scenes: Serving Safe Water Amid COVID-19.”
Ahmed Mohiuddin ’06
Mohiuddin is a primary care physician in New Orleans, which has been hit heavily by COVID-19. “I’m managing a few dozen patients with COVID-19 through FaceTime text messaging, phone calls and the like to try to keep people watched, treated and safe while in the safety of their homes.”
He is married to a physician, and they have a one-year old. “We have our own desensitization protocols coming into the house. Changing clothes, showering, washing our scrubs and wiping our phones/keys have become part of the ritual. We’re trying our hardest not to contract COVID-19, but also have accepted that it may just happen — dozens of our co-workers and friends have been affected already.
Mohiuddin spoke of what he had learned as an undergraduate: “Clemson taught me about community — about being there for our neighbors and for our loved ones and to support each other through good times and bad. We’ve had to find creative ways to be supportive of our community but are there for each other nonetheless. That sense of community and responsibility I’m carrying with me from day to day came straight from the Blue Ridge to the bayou.”
Herbie Cooper ’99
Cooper an emergency medicine physician in Orlando, sees some hope in how the pandemic may change all of us. He described the culture he experienced in Clemson as one where “we realize we are all on the same team. If there are any positives from this pandemic, I think the world is becoming a little more like that. And if the world becomes a little bit more like Clemson, we are going to be all right.”
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