Connecting our world at UW Medicine

2020 Silver Linings: What We’re Grateful for Even in a Pandemic

Throughout this challenging year, UW Medicine employees have come together to face incredible hardships, care for the community and even find small joys and reasons for gratitude.

Here are your inspiring responses to what silver linings you have found during the pandemic.

Jennifer Best, MD, Associate Dean, Graduate Medical Education and Associate Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine

I am thankful that I have had more time at home than I would have expected with my boys, including my oldest who’s in his senior year of high school.

Howard Chansky, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

I am most grateful that only a single person in the entire Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine has contracted symptomatic COVID-19, and they were only mildly ill and made a complete recovery.

The efforts of our staff, residents, APPS and faculty to follow COVID-19 protocols to remain safe have allowed us to continue to provide care to any person, regardless of background, who needs our services. I am also grateful that the staff and faculty in the department have supported each other and persevered through a very challenging period — socially, politically and medically — that none of us could ever have foreseen.

Ruth Cook, ARNP, Orthopedic Nurse

My mother’s younger sister died in the 1918 flu epidemic. My mother was 8 years old at the time, and her sister would have been 5-6 years old. I was named after this child who died so many years ago. I regret that I never asked my mother or my grandmother about what things were like at that time, and they never volunteered that information. I have found that persons of that generation were not eager to discuss details of personal hardships. In this context, I am thankful that my family remains healthy. When it comes right down to it, everything else pales next to that.

Randy Mann, Associate Vice President, Campaign, UW Medicine Advancement

As the primary caregiver for our kindergartner during COVID-19, it can be challenging to balance work and family responsibilities. But the silver lining is I get the opportunity to watch her embrace her virtual kindergarten and have a window into her learning that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I am grateful for the chance to see her learn and interact with her friends and for the flexibility provided by UW Medicine to work from home.

Randy Mann and daughter
Randy and his daughter Mallory are getting to spend more time together during the pandemic.

Beth DeLair, JD, RN, CHC, Chief Compliance Officer, Associate VP for Medical Affairs

I am grateful that my family, friends and colleagues have remained healthy; for the great camaraderie and collaboration I have witnessed and been part of as we all work through and live in these times; and for the healthcare workers and all other essential workers who risk their own health to help others and be available for our needs.

Mena (Fili) Flemon, Assistant Director, Radiology

I’m very grateful for our infection control team. From day one of the pandemic, I could sense how hard they worked and how many hours and how much effort they put in to make sure each and every one of the staff members are safe. I also could sense the anxiety and concerns shared with the IC team as we have gone through changes in practices, personal protection equipment conservation plans, etc. I could not be more thankful for such an amazing and strong team. They are heroes.

Madeline Grant, Director, Government Relations

I’m grateful for my family, my health, fresh air/the outdoors and my Peloton exercise bike. In that order!

Paul James, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine

There are so many things to be grateful for in 2020. I am grateful for family, friends and colleagues that support the mission of UW Medicine to improve health for all. At no time in history has the opportunity been so great to serve others in meaningful ways. I am thus grateful for this opportunity to work with others committed to our mission. The adversity of 2020 has opened up opportunities to discuss and plan for changes in our operations that may better serve others.

Barbara Jung, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine

I am grateful for nature. I guess I always have been, but the pandemic has heightened that sense. Being new to the Pacific Northwest, I marvel at the green of the foliage, the blue of the water and the crispness of the air. Even after a short stroll, the world seems better and more manageable. This summer, we were able to visit a few places around Puget Sound. All I need is a place to look at water and things instantly fall into place.

A view of the Puget Sound.
A view from Jung’s travel around Puget Sound.

Theresa Braungardt, MN, RN, FACHE, Senior Vice President, Patient Care Services/CNO

At Valley Medical Center we have a lot to be grateful for. I’m grateful for our staff who came to work, even though they were afraid and unsure, and mustered their courage and cared for our patients with resilience and compassion.

For our front-line leaders who supported staff by providing information and hands-on help every single day of this pandemic. Our environmental services staff who bravely cleaned and disinfected everything to keep us safe. Our engineers who reimagined our workspaces, hung Plexiglas, moved multiple units to cohort COVID-19 patients and created safe ventilation controls. Our pharmacists who made hand sanitizer and ensured we had the drugs to treat our patients with the most efficacious regimens. Our clinical lab for sending out countless specimens, implementing a new COVID-19 analyzer for inpatient testing and staying by the computers and fax machine every hour to deliver timely test results to preserve PPE.

Also, for our clinic network leadership who set up drive-thru COVID-19 testing on our campus, and employee health nurses who are still working day and night to address the needs of our staff. Our safety team for fit testing 1,500 employees and counting and writing numerous workflows to help keep us safe. Our emergency management team for helping us stand up our command center and ensure timely objectives were identified, acted on and communicated to our leaders and employees. Our security team for addressing our entrance controls and maintaining safe passage throughout our campus.

And to every single employee who took on a role outside of their normal job to ensure we fulfill our mission of caring for our community like family. We are so eternally grateful for all of this and so much more. Our hearts are full, and our team has never been stronger.

Trish Kritek, MD, EdM, Associate Dean, Faculty Affairs and Professor, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine

I am grateful for a lot of things: my health, my family’s health, my friends, my outstanding team, the way folks at UW Medicine have come together during a steady stream of really challenging times. The amount of collaboration over the last several months has been inspiring. For me that has meant working with many different people from across UW Medicine. I have been lucky to partner with Anne Browning on efforts to improve well-being in our community. I also very much value my partnership with Paula Houston as we work to make our climate more inclusive and supportive to all members. I feel really lucky to have teamed up with Tim Dellit and our Town Hall team as we work to create community during a time of uncertainty and evolving challenges.

Anne G. Long, Senior Program Administrator, Department of Surgery

The thing I am most grateful for during COVID-19 is the time I’ve been able to spend with my twins. I have boy/girl twins who will turn 13 in a week, and the past few months we have enjoyed lots of walks with our dog, played countless games on our old Wii, tried our hand at all kinds of baking, done at least 100 word search puzzles together and have had more time to just hang out than pretty much any time I remember in our lives.

It’s been a juxtaposed experience of joy in the midst of so much stress and worry to have uninterrupted time with them. We have laughed and connected in so many ways. While I wouldn’t ever choose this and am keenly aware of how fortunate we are to simply be healthy, I will always be supremely grateful for the time we’ve gotten to spend together during COVID-19.

Ruth Mahan, Chief Business Officer and Chief of Staff

I am so grateful for all of my wonderful, dedicated, bright colleagues and for the fact that they have maintained their balance and perspective throughout the pandemic.

Susan McBride, MS, RD, Patient Food Service Manager

I am thankful to be spending more quality time with my kids due to online schooling and canceled extracurricular activities. Usually, the most I heard about school was, “It was fine.” Though stressful and time-consuming, I am enjoying the extra connecting that is happening in my family.

Lea Ann Miyagawa, MN, RN, Assistant Nurse Manager

I am the assistant nurse manager of a program called Community House Calls at Harborview. We have a team of nine caseworker cultural mediators (CCM) whose mission is to contribute to the health of immigrant and refugee patients, families and communities through advocacy, education, care coordination, interpretation, and helping them navigate the health system.

During this pandemic in which ethnic communities and limited English proficient (LEP) patients, families and communities have been overrepresented with COVID-19, this team has worked tirelessly to provide care to their patients and support to their families. Whether it be answering questions about COVID-19; advocating for ever-changing translated messaging; clarifying and educating about this disease; working in their communities to secure resources; or being at the bedside to advocate for families to be able to Zoom to Mexico, Central America or Africa, I am so very grateful for their endless compassion, diligence, humility and effort in continuing to advocate and give voice for LEP patients, families and communities. They inspire me, and it is a privilege to work with them every day.

Team photo of Harborview's caseworker cultural mediators
Miyagawa (back row, second from left) and the Harborview team of caseworker cultural mediators.

Michele Owen, RN, MPA, Nurse Manager Resource Team

I am very grateful that my family and friends have remained healthy through this ordeal.

Lisa Wilcox, Campus Security Sergeant

Right before COVID-19 ramped up (the end of January), my then-girlfriend and her son moved in with me, and a week later we went on a week-long Caribbean cruise with 10 of our closest friends. Amid social distancing and social unrest, I was able to propose to the love of my life on our two-year anniversary, on May 25. Five days prior to our ceremony, Inslee banned weddings with a guest count over 30 people and also banned receptions all together.

Despite changing COVID-19 guidelines, having some of our vendors cancel on us and having to shorten our entire day by a few hours (along with canceling our bartenders, dance floor and after party), our family and friends helped us pull off the most amazing outdoor farm wedding on our best friend’s 5-acre farm in Puyallup. I also became an official “bonus mom” to my wife’s 4-year-old son, Jacob.

Lisa Wilcox and wife Ashley
Lisa Wilcox (right) and her wife, Ashley, on their wedding day.

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