NSU alumni work the front lines during public health crisis

Picture from left are NSU Alumni Diana Corley, Ingrid Cook, Stephen Hernandez and Joshua Oliver.

NATCHITOCHES – As healthcare professionals and support personnel around the globe stand on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, the Northwestern State University family offer thanks to NSU alumni and the dedicated doctors, nurses, radiologic technologists, med techs, pharmacists, first responders and hospital workers who are sacrificing so much to help so many.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of NSU graduates in healthcare and support professions have put their lives at risk during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis.

Mike Mareaux, a Northwestern State University graduate who earned an Associate Degree in Nursing in 2018, died last week after contracting the coronavirus while working as an emergency room nurse at Christus Highland in Shreveport. Mareaux was an Air Force veteran, married with four sons.  Family and friends established a donation drive on Facebook to help with a memorial and other family needs.

Several alumni are currently deployed to New York City and other cities in the northeast where they are working on the frontlines to fight COVID-19.  Diana Corley, Ingrid Cook and Stephen Hernandez are working in the New York where population density and other factors have made it the hardest-hit metropolis in the United States.

Hernandez, Air Force Reserve, is assigned to United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, who are working with health care professionals at Lincoln Hospital in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response in the Bronx, N.Y. Hernandez earned bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing at NSU and served on the nursing faculty.

“NYC is probably the worst hit in the country,” he said.  Earlier this month NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio greeted and thanked Hernandez and his military medical colleagues in U.S. Northern Command who are providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need.

Corley, a graduate of NSU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, was among those mobilized by the U.S. Navy to serve in New York public hospitals. She is working in ICU at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.

“We have at least 150 patients on ventilators that are all COVID. It is pretty grueling.  I have not worked in ICU in 18 years but it’s like riding a bike. It’s really sad,” she said.  “I am honored to serve my country and represent our loved profession.

The Navy is augmenting hospitals and the Air Force is serving two. Cook, who earned a master’s degree in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice and psych mental health post-master’s certification

“It’s unbelievable up here in NYC. I’m working on the COVID palliative care team at Northern Central Bronx Community Hospital. There are approximately 200 Navy medical reservist providing support to about 10 community hospital throughout NYC where COVID has hit the hardest. There have been about 100 deaths at my hospital this month already. It’s so sad,” Cook said.

Elsewhere in the U.S. alumni from NSU’s College of Nursing, School of Allied Health and School of Biological and Physical Sciences are working on the frontline in many aspects of healthcare.

Dr. Joshua Oliver, a 2008 graduate, is an anesthesiologist in Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 50 miles south of Washington D.C.

“As a physician I am intubating (putting breathing tubes), arterial lines which measure blood pressure and central venous lines for medications in COVID-19 patients who are in the intensive care unit,” he said. “I am also still providing anesthesia for patients having surgeries that cannot be postponed, such as broken bones, acute appendicitis, biopsies to diagnose cancers, etc.”

Mike Mareaux, right, an ER nurse, died after contracting COVID-19.

This week public health officials have said the most intensive phase of battle against the novel coronavirus is succeeding as cases nationally taper downward.