They are toiling. They are parents. They are juggling. They are tired. They are fulfilling career goals that were set in motion during their time as students in Spring Branch ISD.
We are proud to highlight the work of a few (representing many!) SBISD alumni who are working in “essential” jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amy (Dinh) Dao (Spring Woods High School, Class of 2005) is a Spring Branch native, through and through. Currently, she is a pharmacist at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital. She is also the wife of SWHS teacher Brian Dao. They live in the Spring Branch area and are expecting a ‘future SBISD student’ in September.
Dao’s duties at the hospital include verifying medications for patients to make sure they are safe and accurate, including treatments for COVID-19. During this cautionary season, all employees are screened for fever each work day, and are required to wear a mask at all times.
During her time at SWHS, Dao was in the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) program, led by RN/teacher Judy Holtan.
Speaking of Holtan, Dao said, “She was an amazing mentor who encouraged us to chase our dreams.”
Holtan is also credited with inspiring another HOSA student, Yesenia Rojas (SWHS, Class of 2001), to think about and then attend medical school.
Shadowing rotations in several areas and specialties in the program’s partner hospital, and hearing a lecture from a surgeon about the enduring benefits of helping others sparked Rojas’ interest in a career in healthcare. Holtan asked Rojas if she would ever consider becoming a doctor.
“Quite frankly, nobody had ever asked me what I wanted to do with my life after high school,” said Rojas. “I was the first in my family to go to college, so even considering going to medical school to be a doctor was unthinkable. But she [Holtan] planted the seed and this is where I am now.”
Dr. Rojas is now an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. Her specialties are colorectal surgery and surgical critical care.
“Because of the need for critical care physicians at this time, I am almost exclusively dedicated to taking care of critically ill COVID-19 patients,” said Rojas. She is grateful to Holtan for setting her on this path, “as is every patient I am able to help.”
Jacqueline Bucio (Northbrook High School, Class of 2007) is serving as a registered nurse at the Harris Health System Ben Taub Hospital Emergency Department.
“We are some of the first people who see, assess, help obtain lab samples, and help implement the treatment for all patients who come in for emergency situations,” said Bucio. These tasks include triaging patients “under investigation” for COVID-19.
“I am someone who will advocate for them, who will provide support and comfort, as well as to ensure they are informed,” she said.
When she and her team members arrive at the hospital for duty, they have their temperatures taken and answer screening questions. They wear PPE and maintain social distancing recommendations, which she admits is a big change for her.
“I am [usually] a big hugger,” said Bucio.
She is balancing her work at Ben Taub while pursuing a graduate degree at Texas Women’s University to advance to the role of acute care nurse practitioner. She also makes time for workouts at home, and daily talks with friends and family.
“Keep in mind, nothing lasts forever,” she advises. “This is only a moment that, too, will pass.”
Dedication and contributions of “essential” services by SBISD alumni reach across the state and country. Rachel (Saunders) Cochran (SWHS, Class of 2002) is an ICU nurse at John Peter Hospital in Ft. Worth, TX.
“We, as a team, have spent countless hours trying to prepare learning about what is known of COVID-19,” said Cochran. “We are constantly changing the way we are protecting ourselves and our patients from this disease, as well as how we treat it.”
She and her husband, who is also a nurse, take turns being home with their three children.
“It does help to have a partner who understands the ways in which we must keep things clean so we don’t cross-contaminate things in our house,” she said.
Their children provide much-needed distractions from the difficulties of their parents’ nursing work. “Honestly, having my kids home on my off days has been a lifesaver,” said Cochran. “There’s no time to sit and think, and be scared or emotional.”
She also looks for the good things like volunteers, people coming together in the community, sunny days, and “patients who have recovered and gone home!”
Elyse Stieber (Stratford High School, Class of 2014) works 12-hour night shifts as a nurse at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, TX.
Recently, she’s been spending many of her shifts as the “COVID nurse.” Any child who comes in to the emergency room with novel coronavirus symptoms — fever and cough, congestion, or shortness of breath — is labeled a “patient under investigation” and becomes the responsibility of the COVID nurse.
The hospital is limiting the number of people who go in and out of these patients’ rooms to prevent cross-contamination.
“My job is to become their primary nurse because we put on a face shield, a mask, a gown, double glove, shoe covers, the whole outerwear airborne precaution per our policies,” Stieber said.
A system at the hospital helps Stieber track which patients she has treated, and at the start of each shift, she must check her temperature and fill out a questionnaire affirming that she is free from COVID-19 symptoms.
For the general public, Stieber offers these tips to support healthcare personnel who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight:
- Stick to a normal shopping list rather than hoarding groceries. The off-hours that many healthcare employees work make it hard for them to get to the store to get basic groceries they need.
- Social distancing is important, even if you may not be in the high-risk population. “You could potentially expose someone who is. Think of your neighbor.”
- And of course, wash your hands well, and often to curb the spread of the virus.
Thank you to ALL the SBISD alumni, near and far, who are working in vital roles to help communities manage and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are proud you are part of “our SBISD family.”
Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications
McKenna Tanner, Stratford High School Oracle staff, contributed to this article