Acts of Cura Personalis During Coronavirus, COVID-19

In the words of Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University, “We will get through the havoc COVID-19 has wrought because our purpose and reason for being is guided by Ignatian values and principles. Cura personalis, ‘care for the whole person,’ has been our North Star throughout this healthcare crisis.”

Acts of cura personalis have been demonstrated by countless members of the Saint Peter’s community since the pandemic began. In mid-March, faculty in the sciences responded to an urgent call from Hudson County for much needed personal protective equipment and sent 8,500 pairs of gloves for emergency use. Examples of similar acts have continued in the following months, which have been carried out by Saint Peter’s alumni, students, faculty and more. A few examples are detailed below.

Local STEM Learning Continues

Brandy Garrett-Kluthe, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and SURGE strategy coordinator for high school outreach, preparing STEM kits.

In 2016, Saint Peter’s University was awarded a historic grant of more than $3.8 million by the U.S. Department of Education through the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) STEM Program. The five-year grant was awarded for a project titled SURGE (STEM Undergraduate Retention Graduation and Empowerment) and one of the goals of the program is to reach out to low-income Hispanic high school students and encourage them to consider pursuing STEM careers.

Brandy Garrett-Kluthe, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and SURGE strategy coordinator for high school outreach, did not allow the pandemic and high school closures to slow down her initiatives. She created her own two part science lab titled Wavelengths, Particles and Plants and provided not only detailed instructions but also all the required materials in 125 individual boxes and gave them to local high school teachers. Forty-two science lab boxes were provided to Jose Marti Freshman Academy in Union City and 75 science lab boxes were distributed at North Bergen High School. These boxes were dispersed when the students came to pick up their subsidized lunches.

The high school students worked through the experiments, collected data and reported their findings as part of the project. The added bonus is all of the students and their families will have fresh tomatoes all summer long from the plants they were provided as part of the science lab!

Making an Impact through a Course Assignment

Mathematics Professor Mary Anne Gallagher Landi ’85 originally assigned a project to her studentsthat was intended to be a paper researching how mathematics would be used by the students in their future career or for a special hobby. However, after the COVID-19 transition to online teaching, Landi converted the project into writing letters for nursing home and hospice care residents.

The letters had to include a brief intro about the student, his/her career interests and how math is used in that field, a Jesuit value that the student finds meaningful and how he/she has seen it in action at Saint Peter’s. The students also included inspirational quotes, poems and well-wishes to the readers. The letters were subsequently distributed to patients and families at Holy Name Hospice and Peace Care.

“The students went above and beyond in the care, honesty and spirit contained in their letters,” explained Landi. “They were so happy to contribute something positive and reach out to others during this pandemic.”

According to one of the students involved in the project, “There are a lot of key values in a Jesuit education, one of the most important to me is having unity of mind and heart. Just being in this world alone brings many problems. We all go through things daily, and it can put a lot of stress on us physically and mentally. If both the mind and the heart act as one in a positive way in response to a bad situation, then you’ll always be happy and pushing for positivity.”

COVID-19 Doesn’t Stop Nursing and Biology Alumni

There are countless Saint Peter’s alumni who have been working on the front lines during this healthcare crisis. Just some of the individuals working on the front lines in the healthcare field include Patrick Annello’99, Michelle Baginski ’15, Christina Clarke ’10, ’12, Karina Craig ’19, Isabelle Cuna ’16, Joseph Ferraro, M.D. ’09, Sabrini Hamdulla ’19, Michele Howe-O’Malley ’77, Priscilla Hurtado ’18, Bob Lahita ’67, Justin Lo Re, DO ’11,Lucy Maeve Ona ’19,Joanie McCarthy ’91,Kevin Nguyen ’17, Kevin O’Neill ’16, John Payumo ’01, Gabriella Pernice ’19, Dana Reynolds ’19, Joseph Roarty ’00, Mariel Rodriguez ’19, Alexandra Romano ’19, Katrina Sabater ’00, Mackenzie Sylvester’16, Alexandra Velazquez ’14, Randy Veloz-Viscosio ’19, Thaddeus Wilmanski ’97 and Jesus Zapata ’19.

Christian Resurreccion ’18 was actually two weeks away from completing her clinical rotation at St. Joseph’s Regional in Orthopedic Surgery when the COVID-19 quarantine forced all students to be pulled out of clinical. The good news is she was just accepted into Montefiore’s Postgraduate PA Surgical Residency in New York City. “Physician assistants usually go straight to work as opposed to completing a residency, but I am hoping to pursue a career in surgery and I am very excited for what the future holds,” she explained.

Valentina Osorio ’16

Alumni, Faculty and Students from other Disciplines Get to Work on the Front Lines

When one imagines the front lines of the fight against COVID, most people think of a healthcare setting, but many alumni have also been working in other capacities during the pandemic. Valentina Osorio ’16 is currently employed as a Caduceus contractor with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at Newark International Airport. She is working as a public health analyst and is in charge of checking temperatures and health screenings at the airport.

Students and professors in the Master of Public Administration program have also been serving the local community in various fashions. Keisher Harris ’10, ‘20 has been working tirelessly at testing sites for the Jersey City Health Department. Stacey Flanagan, director of The City of Jersey City’s Department of Health and Human Services, also serves as an adjunct professor for the MPA program and has been one of the leading public faces addressing the coronavirus in Jersey City.

There are many more examples of cura personalis during COVID-19, many of which can be found in the latest issue of Saint Peter’s University magazine. If you are a member of the Saint Peter’s community and have a story or act of cura personalis that you would like to share, please send it to Angeline Boyer, assistant director of media relations.