Students aim to aid residents, fellows, physicians

by Lisa Spellman, UNMC public relations | March 31, 2020

Image with caption: UNMC CoRE volunteers Ellie Blusys (holding Piper, at left) and Katherine Dudley (petting Stella, at right) are pet-sitting for resident Bhavani Pokala, M.D. (center).

UNMC CoRE volunteers Ellie Blusys (holding Piper, at left) and Katherine Dudley (petting Stella, at right) are pet-sitting for resident Bhavani Pokala, M.D. (center).

They say great minds think alike.

Just weeks ago, as citizens of Nebraska were increasingly facing new reality as schools, churches and major sporting events shut down or were canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, RemyGrace Sass and Taylor Kratochvil began formulating an idea.

Sass, a third-year medical student, and Kratochvil, a second-year medical student, both at UNMC, were transitioning from patient care to online learning and wondering how they could help those health care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think that by nature, many students that go into medicine have an innate desire to help and are driven into action by situations like this," Sass said.

The initial spark came when a chief resident approached Wendy Grant, M.D., associate dean for student affairs with the UNMC College of Medicine, asking for help, Kratochvil said.

"Between the increased demand for providers' time and many institutions like child care centers closing their doors, we students received a message asking to help," he said.

That's when Sass and Kratochvil came up with UNMC CoRe: Covid Relief.

The student-run program is designed to provide child care, pet care and household errands for residents, fellows and physicians at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic through the help of student volunteers.

There are more than 400 students in the College of Medicine that are no longer involved in patient care, Sass said.

"That is a huge reservoir of untapped resources that has the potential to provide so much good in the next few weeks," she said.

The program works by pairing three to five students with one family, who can then coordinate independently the specific requests of day to day needs.

Health care providers make their request through the website, where student volunteers have submitted their contact information. Organizers then match volunteers with providers.

"We currently have more than 100 College of Medicine student volunteers and interest is growing," Kratochvil said.

On March 28, the program reached out to other UNMC colleges to enlist student volunteers, as well.

"With a strong and stable volunteer base, we hope to eventually extend our services to other health care professionals (i.e. nurses, respiratory therapists)," Kratochvil said. "But our services are limited to physicians, fellows and residents at this time.

The UNMC CoRe Relief program is based largely off of the University of Minnesota Covidsitters program.

"Their willingness to share what has worked for their program allowed us to get UNMC CoRe: Covid Relief up and running within 72 hours," Sass said.

"Despite the difficult circumstances in which we are currently experiencing, there continues to be many bright shining lights on our campus," said Kelly Caverzagie, M.D., Associate Dean for Educational Strategy, UNMC College of Medicine. "This work truly advances our mission during this time of crisis."

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Tina Spencer
March 31, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Our students are awesome!!

Linda Johnson
March 31, 2020 at 10:43 AM

what a fantastic idea !

Kim Corum
March 31, 2020 at 9:52 AM

What a wonderful way to help those on the front lines! Thank you!!!

Carrie Meyer
March 31, 2020 at 7:56 AM

Magnificent effort! Well done! :)