Bruin Helpers: We See YouWhen Mr. Rogers was a boy and he would see scary things in the news, his mother would say to him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” While the impact of COVID-19 continues to bring challenges and somber news, UCLA Bruins are providing comfort and healing, helping out communities in need, and sharing their work exemplifying the best in our humanity.
WORKING IN HEALTHCARE
Nurse Caring for COVID-19 Patients in Critical Condition
Ana Ramos ’10 works as a registered nurse in the step down unit at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. She is caring for COVID-19 patients who are in critical condition. Like many, Ramos chose to move out of her home to avoid potentially exposing her 15-month old son to the virus. “As hard as it is to be away from my son, I know that there is a need and I am here to help in any way I can,” says Ramos. Despite the fear and challenges ahead, Ramos is thankful to work in a supportive environment with peers who support and uplift each other every day.
Infectious Disease Nurse Practitioner on Working in the Front Lines
Harold Sarmiento, M.S.N. ’16, D.N.P. exp. ’22, is an infectious disease nurse practitioner in charge of HIV prevention and STD treatment at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles. “Working in healthcare these days gives us frontliners a lot of fear and anxiety,” says Sarmiento. “We have transitioned to telemedicine in the past few weeks and are now doing telephone and video appointments where patients are being evaluated using technology.” Sarmiento is actively educating people on social media about COVID-19, its prevention, testing information and home management strategies. “A couple weeks ago, I asked for PPE donations with the hashtag #GetUsPPE. Several friends and even strangers as far away as Chicago have reached out and donated home-made masks.”
Pediatrician Shares Her Fears Working in Healthcare
Dr. Kimberly Willard ’03 has been a pediatrician for almost 10 years and explains how COVID-19 has been the scariest time to be a provider. “Normally, we practice evidence-based medicine. In this case, there aren’t any published studies to refer to,” says Dr. Willard. “The U.S. doesn’t have the ability to test everyone yet, so there may be asymptomatic carriers that we deal with directly.” Despite her worries, Dr. Willard is fortunate to work with an amazingly supportive team at Kaiser East Los Angeles.
Frontline ER Doctor Showing Courage to Do Her Job
With 20 years of medical practice under her belt, Angelique S. Campen, M.D. ’96, is not afraid to get sick. She works at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and is a clinical instructor of emergency medicine at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, teaching ER residents. “I will continue working the frontlines of the pandemic to help support, calm and treat those who are the sickest,” says Dr. Campen. “Many people ask if working in the frontlines during the pandemic is frightening, but I’ve trained my whole career for times like this.” Through her Instagram channel, she offers an inside look at medical professionals battling the pandemic, calming fears and worries, giving accurate observations and providing fact-based advice.
Medical Students Volunteer to Help Healthcare Workers
A team of UCLA medical students in the Greater Los Angeles area have come together to establish an organization called LA COVID-19 Volunteers. They offer free services to healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19 and look for student and non-student volunteers to help with the following tasks: PPE pick-up and delivery in partnership with hospitals, childcare, grocery and pharmacy runs, pet sitting and virtual tutoring. Volunteers recently constructed 2,900 face shield masks in just two hours.
Epidemiology Professor on the Media Front Lines Providing Reliable Information
One of the world’s leading experts in infectious diseases, Dr. Anne Rimoin, M.P.H. ’96, has been educating the public about how to continue practicing social distancing, offering tips to stay safe and providing status updates about COVID-19 on her Twitter channel and various news channels. In a recent interview with KTLA, she breaks down theories of COVID-19 and explains the only way to know when this virus started to circulate here is through really good testing. The epidemiology professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health is working with top researchers at UCLA on screening healthcare workers and frontline responders to understand who might be asymptomatically infected and how to then take appropriate precautions. Learn more about the UCLA COVID-19 Response Initiative.
ER Doctor on the Importance of Health Professionals During and After the Crisis
Demetrios “Jim” N. Kyriacou ’79, Ph.D. ’98, is a professor of emergency medicine and preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. As an emergency physician and epidemiologist, he has seen both clinical and public health perspectives of COVID-19. “All clinical healthcare personnel I have worked with have shown great courage and empathy towards COVID-19 patients,” says Dr. Kyriacou. “After the current epidemic wave, our society will rely on public health professionals and public health schools around the country to guide us out of this crisis and safely into the post pandemic phase.” One of the most concerning things for Dr. Kyriacou is the inability to get tested as a healthcare worker. “I live at home with my wife and 14-year-old daughter, and don’t know if I am bringing the virus home to them. We are really going to need widespread testing once we start opening up our society again.” Dr. Kyriacou also advises a pharmaceutical company on how to approach a clinical trial for antiviral medication.
PROVIDING ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES
Basketball Legend Donates 900 Safety Goggles
NBA legend and former UCLA Men’s Basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ’69 donated 900 pairs of safety goggles to UCLA Health to help with the continued need to replenish supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment) and protect frontline heroes fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. The UCLA Health ambassador is famously known for wearing eyewear goggles on the court, after suffering a scratched left cornea during a collegiate game. In a video posted on the UCLA Health website, Abdul-Jabbar thanked “doctors and nurses at UCLA for all that they are doing” and wants them to “have all the best equipment while [they] are on the front lines.”
Comedian Sews and Donates Masks to Essential Workers
Performance artist and comedian Kristina Wong ’00 was supposed to give a keynote speech on mental health in St. Louis, Mo. last month. Instead, she began sewing masks for first responders and mailing them across the country. So far, Wong has sent masks to people working for a homeless shelter in Minnesota, a criminal defense attorney, Mia Yamamoto, J.D. ’71, who continues going into work every day, a fire station in New York and countless other frontline and essential workers. “The best compliment a seamstress can get is seeing her work on the frontline, not the runway,” says Wong.
CEO Transforms Event Space Into Production Facility for Face Shields
Sam Payrovi ’01 transformed CSTM Haus, a private event space and kitchen in Chelsea, N.Y., into a production facility to build face shields for doctors, nurses and all first responders. This will be going on throughout the month of April. In order to produce the enormous amount of face shields that is needed, he is hiring a paid staff. The team is currently looking to hire manual hand-assembly laborers, cleaners, cooks, drivers and beyond. For those looking for work and a way to support the NYC community during this time, the application can be found here.
Grad Student Builds Low-Cost Ventilator
Graduate electrical and computer engineering student Glen Meyerowitz, M.S. exp. ’21, built a low-cost ventilator in a little under one week with parts he purchased at The Home Depot. The device is a much simpler version of ventilators used at hospitals, and designed to address specific COVID-19 symptoms, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Hospitals and medical professionals are preparing for a shortage of ventilators in the coming weeks.
Retired Volunteer Sews and Donates Masks to Medical Clinics
After learning about her retirement volunteer work consulting with nonprofits was pretty much on hold, Lynn Dines ’78 knew she needed other outlets with the extra time on her hands. Dines has a number of friends who work with clinics serving the underserved. Given the shortage of protection materials for clinic staff and their clients, she hauled out her ancient Singer sewing machine and began sewing masks a few weeks ago. “I’ve donated masks to four clinics so far and will keep making and giving them away until they’re no longer needed,” says Dines. “I have almost completed 250 masks and have materials to get me going for the next 150. We’re all in this together and we each need to play our role.”
Business Owner Donates High Quality Masks to Frontline Workers
CEO and founder of Gorilla Marketing Chris Arranaga ’82, MBA ’85, and his team shifted their entire business operation to providing affordable, high quality face masks to employees of essential businesses. Even with slim profit margins, for every 100 masks purchased, 10 are being donated to essential workers, totaling more than 10,000 masks already donated. “Ultimately this is not about a product, it’s about the importance of unity during a time of crisis,” says Arranaga. In addition, they’ve organized a GoFundMe campaign so they can make masks for “smaller clinics, first-responders and countless others in essential operations that are in desperate need.”
Community Outreach Manager Helps Secure Food Supply Lines for Local Stores and Pantries
Miguel Rodriguez ’16, community outreach manager at the Port of Hueneme in Ventura County, recognized that the corporate supply chain doesn’t apply to local street and swap meet vendors. Therefore, he has been organizing local swap meet vendors and arranging local distribution routes for products such as beans, grains and perishables so that low income neighborhoods in Ventura County don’t have to go without as stores face shortages. Rodriguez collaborates with some of the larger supply chain fruit and vegetable importers to ensure that they arrive at their destinations. He also oversees donations of Port of Hueneme goods for local pantries, amounting to one full truckload per week to the local food share organizations.
Singapore Bruin Passes out Face Masks to Elderly in Public
When Kevin Leong ’06 saw people in Singapore pointing to an elderly man not wearing a face mask, he immediately went up to him and offered one of his extra masks. “I approached this man and asked him if he knew about the new measure that imposes a S$300 fine for not wearing a mask,” says Leong. “He genuinely forgot about it and even apologized.” Leong understood where the elderly man was coming from. Now, he carries face masks with him and offers them to those who don’t have one. He says there are many elderly folks who may suffer from dementia, live alone and may forget things from time to time. “As Bruins, we should stay strong to be able to extend our hand to others around us.”
South China Bruins Raised Funds to Buy 4,000 Face Masks for UCLA Health
After purchasing tens and thousands of face masks for distribution in China, the UCLA South China Alumni Network recently started a fundraiser to send face masks to UCLA Health. “We have already used all the funds we raised from our network to purchase 4,000 facemasks (non-medical) from BYD,” says the South China Network. “Los Angeles is a place where we studied and lived for many years. At a time when medical resources are scarce, we hope to work side by side with alumni throughout this fundraising campaign.”
Basketball All-Star the First to Donate $100,000 to Support Arena Workers
After the NBA announced it would suspend its season for at least 30 days, former UCLA Men’s Basketball player and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love donated $100,000, through the Kevin Love Fund, to support the staff of the Cleveland Cavaliers arena. “You have people living paycheck to paycheck so I felt this is really the time, especially for us NBA players to walk the walk and be more than just athletes,” Love said. “We see people in the community, we see people working in our arena at least 41 nights a year. So it was just a way for me to try and help navigate this stressful and incredibly anxiety-ridden time.” Since Love’s donation, other NBA players have stepped up with large donations to help their home arena employees.
NBA MVP and His Wife Donate to and Promote Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles
Former UCLA Men’s Basketball player and Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook and his wife, former UCLA Women’s Basketball player Nina Westbrook ’11, donated to the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing direct and immediate financial assistance to families experiencing extreme financial hardship caused by job loss, severe reduction of work hours or furloughs. Many of those in need are immigrants or independent workers who are ineligible for other benefits.
Actors Forgo Rent Collection This Month for Tenants
Dax Shepard ’00 and his wife, Kristen Bell, offered an act of kindness to their tenants this month by deciding to forgo rent collection due to California’s “stay at home” order. The couple owns at least two residential properties. Tenants received a message from their manager, Shepard’s sister, promising to work with residents through this difficult time. Bell recently donated $150,007.96 to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit organization putting an end to food insecurity in the U.S. and around the world. After hearing Bell talk about making a donation, daughters Delta, 5, and Lincoln, 7, decided to also make a sweet contribution of $7.96 from their piggy banks.
Samuelis Will Pay 2,100 Part-Time Staff for Canceled Events Through June 30
Anaheim Ducks and Honda Center owners Henry ’75, M.S. ’76, Ph.D. ’80, and Susan Samueli announced all 2,100 part-time staff members of their sports and event management companies will be paid for current or future rescheduled, postponed or canceled events through June 30. Employees who work at the nine ice and inline sports facilities, the San Diego Gulls, and JT Schmid’s Restaurant and Brewery, will also be covered.
Cedars-Sinai Philanthropy Office Invests $2 Million on COVID-19 Rapid Response Efforts
Erin Jackson-Ward ’12 leads the community benefit giving office as an associate director at Cedars-Sinai, overseeing all outbound philanthropy on behalf of the health system. In response to COVID-19, she and her team are facilitating Cedars-Sinai’s commitment to pivot their funding to support COVID-19 rapid response efforts for the rest of the fiscal year, including an initial investment of $2 million to support telehealth provision, housing security and food security. “In times of crisis where innovation and collaboration across systems are the only option, I am reminded why I chose a public health career,” says Jackson-Ward. As a public health doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, Jackson-Ward also works with global experts, researchers and fellow students to map the global spread of SARS-CoV-2, and the implications of mitigation policies in every country on flattening the curve.
SERVING THE VULNERABLE
Westwood Neighborhood Council Uses Fund to Shop for Homeless
North Westwood Neighborhood Council members Ernesto Arciniega, M.A. ’18, Ph.D. exp. ’20, Andrew Lewis, Joey Russell exp. ’22 and Noreen Ahmed, M.P.P. exp. ’20, are helping the unhoused in Westwood by using $1,000 from the council’s emergency fund to grocery shop for the homeless living in their community. Items include water, snacks, toiletries, hygiene kits and bread. Arciniega shared in a tweet that many individuals who are experiencing homelessness right now during COVID-19 are “elderly adults, 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and many [are] undocumented immigrants.”
Senior Center Employees Risking Health to Provide Essential Services
Alan Barasorda ’93 is the director of finance and human resources at the Pasadena Senior Center in Pasadena, Calif. There are currently seven employees out of 22 who agreed to put themselves at risk and stay open only for essential services. “Seniors are an important part of our community and need help,” says Barasorda. “They are very scared and a lot of them don’t have the technological advantages that younger generations enjoy.” Prior to COVID-19, the center provided classes on how to use mobile phones, set up social media accounts and use Google. Now, seniors are coming in requesting food and toilet paper, and voicing their concerns about being evicted. Despite Barasorda’s worries about bringing the virus home to his family, he says, “UCLA taught me to serve my community and as a Bruin, this is my way of giving back.”
Immigration Advocate Provides Support Services Inside and Outside Detention Centers
Community accompaniment coordinator for Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) Christina Hernandez ’13, M.S.W. ’17, is providing support services to those inside and outside of immigration detention, including families who are on the verge of homelessness. She has circulated advocacy tools, such as pro se COVID-19 request packets, to advocates, lawyers and family members. “Those inside prison and immigration detention are often overlooked and forgotten,” says Hernandez. “Advocacy and direct support are necessary for this resilient population, especially during this global pandemic.” Hernandez is working with her team to create a mutual aid fund, which would provide economic relief to families in these situations.
Social Justice Teacher Helps Students in South L.A. With Remote Learning Challenges
Lifelong learner and double Bruin Keara Williams ’14, M.Ed. ’18, is a social justice teacher working in South L.A. She teaches 11-12th grade English and sponsors the Black Student Union at Augustus Hawkins High School, focusing on providing safe spaces for Black students. A challenge Williams is facing right now is teaching students who do not have access to technology and internet service, preventing them from learning remotely. “UCLA has taught me to be flexible, empathetic and encouraging during these times,” says Williams. “Providing a space for students to share their feelings, frustrations and concerns helps deepen my connection with students.” Her message for Bruins: give back! “Maybe you don’t have extra funds to share, but might have time to support remotely. We all need help and we all can provide it in some way.”
Children’s Institute Provides Supplies and Services to Undeserved Families of Preschoolers
Soleil Delgadillo ’09 is a volunteer and community engagement manager for the development department at The Children’s Institute (CII) in Los Angeles. They recently launched the #GIVE19 campaign to help raise additional funds for families who have been critically impacted by COVID-19. “Our early childhood staff continues to work the frontlines by distributing lunches to 2,500+ preschoolers every day,” says Delgadillo. “The Institute is also offering mental health services to children and parents via Zoom.” Many families they serve live below the poverty line, and sudden loss of jobs and school closures are taking its toll. Donations will go towards diapers, baby wipes, formula, groceries and essential supplies for children while they are out of school.
Bilingual Coordinator Supports ESL Students and Donates Home-Made Face Masks
Patricia Gastelum ’96 is a bilingual coordinator at a public school supporting students who recently arrived in the U.S. and have little to no English language skills. She conducts English Language Development classes and works to transition them into their core classes. Now that she’s working from home, Gastelum says it’s important to connect with her students and their parents via Zoom, email and text messaging. “I want those personal lines of communication to remain open,” says Gastelum. “[They] need to know learning is not lost because we can’t be in the same room.” During her down time, Gastelum sews face masks for those in need, which she has donated to friends, a postal worker and food service workers at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.
Board Member Raising Money to Help 1,000+ At-Risk Families and Students in L.A.
Cynthia Mosqueda, Ed.D. ’10, recently joined the board for Communities in School in Los Angeles (CISLA), the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering at-risk students to stay in school and strive for a brighter future. Dr. Mosqueda is working with them to raise money for over 1,000 families and students in Los Angeles currently being affected. “Now more than ever, UCLA alumni have an opportunity to get involved in statewide and local initiatives that can help families get through COVID-19,” says Dr. Mosqueda. “I joined the board because I know that working in partnership can reduce educational inequities for communities of color.”
Education Nonprofit Distributing Food and Fundraising to Help Poor Communities
Ryan J. Smith ’03 is a chief external officer for the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, an organization that seeks to achieve resource and education equity for 18 L.A. Unified Schools in South L.A., Boyle Heights and Watts. In response to COVID-19, Smith and his team have launched a response fund designed to meet the rapidly evolving needs of students and families in the Partnership’s network of 13,500 students. “The fund supports food, housing and other economic insecurities; distance learning opportunities and policy and advocacy efforts,” says Smith. “We are committed to ensuring that our institutions remain focused on meeting the needs of L.A.’s most vulnerable communities.” The Partnership also supports “Grab and Go” food centers at Hollenbeck Middle School and Santee High School, which distribute 8,000-9,000 meals per day. “It’s important that our response to COVID-19 prioritize equity and serve the communities with the greatest health and economic disparities first.”
Autism Behavior Specialist Works With Children and Families Remotely
Daniela Torres ’13 is a behavior analyst in the South Bay working with autistic individuals. She provides behavior treatment to increase social communication and daily living skills in home and school settings. As a result of COVID-19, the schools she’s partnered with closed and the parents and children she’s serviced lost vital resources and time towards their individualized education plans. “I worked quickly to transition the support I provided before to a virtual model, utilizing telehealth services within a week,” says Torres. “This is completely new for many families, and I am working hard to find the best individualized model, stability and support during this crisis.” With April being autism awareness month, she says, “It’s important to remind families who feel vulnerable in this crisis that they are not alone.”
The list of heroic deeds and acts of kindness goes on. If you know of a Bruin who is helping with the COVID-19 response, submit their story to firstname.lastname@example.org.