There are many heroes

Knox reached out to some of our graduates who are working in the healthcare industry for their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Patrick Dooley ’11, laboratory supervisor, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Boston.

I help with the final signout of clinical neurodegenerative cases both histologically and neuropathologically, while also facilitating researchers with their neurodegenerative disease research by dissecting frozen, formalin-fixed, and fresh tissues. I also supervise the maintenance, implementation, and transfer of our current databases, assist with data analysis and lab publications, and keep track of over 2400 frozen and fixed brains donated to our institution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed my role at work, from working 90 percent in a wetlab to working 100 percent from home on database management, data reconciliation, and analysis.

The pandemic has hit research facilities incredibly hard, especially those with time-sensitive experiments such as animal models, ex vivo cell models, and animal behavioral studies. This will have a large impact on research facilities moving forward, especially those like Alzheimer’s Disease Centers, that rely on postmortem tissue donations. Because of the shortage of both personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 tests, we have not accepted any new specimens due to a lack of testing postmortem individuals.

While medical workers are indeed essential and heroes, we should take this unprecedented event to look at retail workers, grounds workers, sanitation workers, etc., and realize that they are just as essential and just as heroic.

I’m looking forward to enjoying more outdoors time, and the efforts that will help us deal with the world post-pandemic.

Long-term commitment to fighting the virus

Knox reached out to some of our graduates who are working in the healthcare industry for their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sam Jarvis ’09 works in public health/emergency preparednessas a community health manager.

I live in Iowa City and work at Johnson County Public Health (the county Health Department).

Tell us about your work, your duties and responsibilities, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m the community health manager and oversee several programs which include tobacco cessation and prevention, integrated testing (for Hepatitis C and HIV), communicable disease prevention (which includes tuberculosis), emergency preparedness, employee wellness, and the department’s community health needs assessment. My role is primarily administrative. Prior to my current role, I was the department’s emergency preparedness planner.

Has the pandemic changed your role at work, and if so, how?
Yes, and dramatically. The community health division has our communicable disease and emergency preparedness program, so we’re directly engaged in the response. As a health department, our director is the incident commander for the county response which involves coordinating with several dozen agencies. Our emergency management agency has opened their emergency operations center seven days a week and is coordinating a lot of other operations and logistics as well. It’s a key player in this.

My ad hoc emergency response role is liaison officer, and was operations section chief until we expanded. Much of our work in the division is health education and outreach. With social (physical) distancing mitigation measures in place and county offices closed to the public, that has altered. Many of my coworkers have shifted their duties to assist with the response either to perform disease investigations, collaborate on public information projects, or a variety of other tasks to support the response. Government agencies work a 40-hour week Monday through Friday typically, but since our first case, there’s a good amount of us directly engaged, putting in a bit more hours and working various shifts, or adjusted schedules, and through weekends. It’s been necessary to stay on top of the workload and the changes either in disaster declarations or state or federal guidance.  

We have scheduled meetings internally and externally that are solely dedicated to the response and much of what goes on in those meetings throughout the day drives our schedules. It’s always difficult to describe in detail what “coordination” is, but keeping everyone up-to-date and on the same page when making decisions takes time.

More broadly, how is the pandemic affecting what you see at work on a regular basis, e.g., employee workloads, the number of patients seeking help?
We make contact with every positive case and conduct the investigation and contact tracing. Since there’s evidence of community transmission in Iowa (and everywhere in the United States) we know there are lot of ill persons who don’t get tested, but those that do and, especially as we see more testing options become available, we see more cases, and that directly impacts our workload. When mass testing at a facility due to an outbreak occurs and those persons are residents of our jurisdiction, that impacts our workload, but that’s also why we’ve onboarded other internal staff to assist.

My day usually consisted of meeting with other programmatic staff and community partners in the various programs I mentioned before and project planning, but now it is entirely devoted to the COVID-19 response. While we’re managing the issues that arise during the week we also plan for next steps, but it’s a bit difficult to predict when something like this hasn’t happened before.

Public health primarily plays the role of strategist or “connector and convener,” so while we don’t directly treat patients we coordinate with many agencies that do direct services.

What is a fact and/or piece of advice you can offer to people to help them understand what is happening and how they should respond to maintain their health as well as they can?
Be patient. Most understand the importance of distancing, hand hygiene, and cough etiquette, but we’ve got to keep that up. Our efforts to fight this need to be thought of as long-term commitments and that becomes more difficult every day many of us are at home. Physical distancing and stay-at-home orders have had a dramatic impact on everyone, but especially teachers, caregivers, and families without daycare, so keep them in mind too.  Humans are social and to tell everyone to stay physically apart is hard so reach out to friends and family and often. COVID-19 is a part of our lives now and its going to be difficult to adjust to, but we’re all in this together.

Is there any way in which your Knox education has helped you adapt to the current moment?
I was biochemistry major so having that background helps tremendously. Public health is a broad interdisciplinary field, but having a strong science foundation is important, at least when dealing with communicable disease.

Another major part of Knox that carries with me as a professional was the experience taking Intro to Gender and Women Studies with Dr. Kelly Shaw. Developing and continuing to develop that perspective has been crucial to being a thoughtful public health and emergency preparedness professional.

What are you looking forward to once life returns to something more closely resembling “normal”?
Going out to dinner with my spouse, Dr. Kate Jarvis ’12–it’s one of our favorite things to do here in Iowa City.

Visiting friends from Knox–I keep in touch with a lot of classmates and guys from the fraternity.

Visiting home in Galesburg and cruising the strip as I did in high school.

People watching too … to sit and relax at an outdoor event and feel the energy would be nice.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Take time to unplug from the news and social media and take time for yourself. This disruption and shift in daily life is stressful if not traumatic, so go easy on yourself and others. The weather is getting nicer in the Midwest, so I’ve been running here in Iowa City. It’s certainly not the same as going for a run in Galesburg though.

Adjust your mindset and get used to the “new normal”

Knox reached out to some of our graduates who are working in the healthcare industry for their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Stephanie (O’Brien) Schmidt ’08, director of operations Women’s & Children’s, Academic Medical Center Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Portland, Ore.

Tell us about your work, your duties and responsibilities, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
OHSU has 576 beds including 151 devoted to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Reporting to the vice president of Women’s and Children’s, I support the operations of our children’s hospital and women’s services. This includes both strategic projects like expanding service lines and community partnerships as well as managing over 30 staff members from child life specialists, echo sonographers and a group dedicated to pediatric population health.

Leadership only works if people feel supported and the baseline communication skills are critical as the environment changes every day.

Has the pandemic changed your role at work, and if so, how?
The work from home mandate was established for all non-essential employees including management almost a month ago. This was challenging because a majority of my staff are “critical employees” who are required to stay onsite. Those who were deemed non-critical got placed into a labor pool to help support other areas of the hospital like logistics and food services. All strategic work has stopped including any expansion projects or those that required additional resources like capital or new employees.

Every night OHSU communications sends updated information on how we are responding to the pandemic including paying people for their time, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), new visitor policies, etc. All work has shifted to ensure frontline staff are equipped with the latest procedures and PPE.

More broadly, how is the pandemic affecting what you see at work on a regular basis, e.g., employee workloads, the number of patients seeking help?
All elective surgeries have been postponed at OHSU to respond to the surge in projected patients. Oregon’s quarantine response has resulted in a dramatic dip in actual cases. We continue to work to be prepared but the volume of cases in Oregon is manageable therefore our hospital census is low. On the ambulatory/outpatient clinic side we are finally seeing the push towards telemedicine where over 80 percent of our visits are now done virtually. This is a huge win for the industry and our patients who travel for hours to receive specialized care.

Due to the decrease in volume OHSU is projecting over a $400M loss this year. Our president has guaranteed that everyone will receive pay until June 30, the end of our fiscal year. Thereafter we could see layoffs or cut salaries to offset the financial impact. It is a Catch-22 because once restrictions are lifted we will be flooded by all the non-emergent care that has been postponed and we will need to maintain staffing levels to respond.

What is a fact and/or piece of advice you can offer to people to help them understand what is happening and how they should respond to maintain their health as well as they can?
Oregon is a fantastic example of slowing the spread, the West Coast took the mandates seriously closing hiking trails, bars, salons, etc. After about a month in, people are starting to feel the social pressure of needing to get out but we need to learn from other countries that have “opened” up too soon. Advice would be to adjust your mindset and get comfortable with this new normal for the foreseeable future.

Is there any way in which your Knox education has helped you adapt to the current moment?
Knox provided a strong foundation in critical thinking and communications through the liberal arts education. Leadership only works if people feel supported and the baseline communication skills are critical as the environment changes every day.

What are you looking forward to once life returns to something more closely resembling “normal”?
Our communities will rally around small businesses to keep them open. I am eager to see how this “distancing” will impact the healthcare industry, if telemedicine really becomes the new normal rather than a sexy new strategy. It is akin to the education industry which is going through a similar shift moving from in person to online. Healthcare has always had a long road to become a “millennial centered” industry and COVID-19 is the exact push to get us out of the past. Healthcare still uses pagers and fax machines!!

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Healthcare workers are brave and work really hard to serve our community. Each frontline worker should continue to be honored for their commitment to humanity.

Healing professions have been wounded

Knox reached out to some of our graduates who are working in the healthcare industry for their perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic.

From James C. Salwitz ’76, physician, multiple offices and hospitals in Central New Jersey.

My work is roughly divided into several separate, but complementary and overlapping areas. My primary practice is as a medical oncologist and hematologist for adult patients, with Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), a large (136 doctors) physician-owned and -managed practice, with offices throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland. In that role I see adult patients with a wide range of primary cancer and blood diagnosis. It has been the great honor of my life to serve the community in which I live.

In addition, I serve as the elected president of the medical staff of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the largest academic medical center in New Jersey. In that role, which I have held for more than five years, I help to coordinate the medical care given by some 2,000 clinicians in a wide range of medical specialties. I serve on the hospital board and on the board of the RWJ-Barnabas Health system. The latter is a network of 12 hospitals, several hundred outpatient facilities, and is the second largest employer in New Jersey.

Finally, I have the honor of teaching as a clinical professor (volunteer faculty), at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. There, I have taught topics around death and dying, and medical management for some 25 plus years.

In addition, in a connected sort of way, my wife (a Rutgers grad) serves as a New Jersey Assemblywoman, where she chairs the Environmental Committee and is co-chair of the Health Committee. I have the opportunity to support her work at the state level, much as her work complements mine.

Nonetheless, we must be conscious that for many, who have watched members of their community, friends and colleagues suffer and die, this event will leave a deep wound in all the healing professions.

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a radical change in our state, community, and in the work that we do. At the medical practice level, RCCA has required a radical reconstruction. We needed to protect our active cancer patients, especially those on chemotherapy, radiation, or needing/recovering from complex surgery. If the virus “took hold” in any of our offices it could devastate patients and potentially our staff (sub-specialists such as chemotherapy trained nurses are critical). At the same time we must continue to give care to thousands of patients who need to monitor their disease, outpatient treatments, and labs. Therefore, we stripped our offices of staff who did not need to be physically present, moving several hundred computer workstations to homes, so that staff could work. We rebuilt our office schedules, so that only active treatment patients are allowed. We changed the density of both patients and staff in the offices. We developed a rotational schedule for nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians, to decrease the probability of losing several simultaneously. We shifted heavily to a telemedicine platform.

The hospital experience has been, to some extent, the opposite. There, we have done everything possible to defer providing conventional medical care (which in our case includes level-one trauma, complex neuro and cancer surgeries, as well as heart, kidney, and bone marrow transplants) and moving the hospital to about 80 percent COVID. This requires complex cooperative planning to balance acute medical need with risk in a rapidly changing environment. We have restructured people, space, equipment, and flow. Fortunately, in our immediate area, and because of superb leadership, as well as our size, we have been able to keep up and stay ahead of demand.

However, it is a challenging time, as this disease threatens not only our community, but our caregivers as well. They work in frightening environment full of unnatural death. We are blessed with a fabulous team and are saving, on the inpatient and outpatient setting, thousands of lives.

How do you protect yourself, other than taking this highly contagious virus extremely seriously by social distancing, masks, and a lot of handwashing? Get rest, exercise when possible, eat well. Understand that this will pass and that the changes we make going forward will protect us. Pace yourself. Expect change, and adjust. This is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.

Knox taught me that I will fail, and that in that moment, to focus, learn, and rebuild. The school taught me the value of methodical work. Knox taught me the value of being a continuous learner. It taught me about curiosity. It added to my faith in my fellow man.

We are moving into a new normal. Some things will never go back. It is hard to believe that people will not get the message that high-quality virtual communication, whether it is running teams in crisis or telemedicine, is not a vast and efficient improvement. Much of the trust and collaboration created during this event will be the foundation on which we build new innovation, investigation, and discovery. Perhaps, the pain we have shared, through the terrifying journey, will make us better people and leaders.

Nonetheless, we must be conscious that for many, who have watched members of their community, friends and colleagues suffer and die, this event will leave a deep wound in all the healing professions. Our youngest learners, medical, and nursing students, now look at their chosen profession with fear, instead of wonder. We will have to consciously rebuild and heal each other in order to find hope and build future dreams.

Advice on educating from home

Hannah (Bloyd-Peshkin) Tatro ’14 is using her love of technology and problem-solving to try and make the most of remote learning for her kindergarten class in Oak Park, Ill. Meanwhile, Paige McDaniel ’18, is using her elementary education major and mathematics minor to navigate virtual education at a small public charter school in Tiffin, Ohio. Hannah and Paige talked with Laura Swanson, associate director of alumni engagement and annual giving, to provide insights and advice for parents.

Laura: Welcome Hannah and Paige! Thank you so much for your time. Hannah, you said, “In the pandemic era, everything has been turned upside down, and the assumption of kids heading off to school each day can no longer be taken for granted.” You mentioned that parents now have the daunting task of fostering and supporting the learning process while working from home, on top of the stress of living through a pandemic. This is definitely unchartered waters! First question is the big one–how long should we be spending on “school” each day?

Paige McDaniel ’18

Paige: Thank you for reaching out to me. While working on school tasks at home, you shouldn’t expect your child to work for the same hours they do at school. As children get older, they are able to focus for longer stretches of time, but that’s not the case with smaller children. It’s important to break the time into smaller chunks with play time, lunch, snacks, and other breaks dispersed between work times. This is especially important for younger children.

Hannah: I absolutely agree with Paige. The Illinois State Board of Education recently made recommendations for how much time students of all ages should be spending on remote learning assignments, ranging from a maximum of one hour per day in preschool to a total of four and a half hours in high school. I’ve sent along a chart that I think parents will find very helpful. I would encourage them to pay special attention to the “recommended length of sustained attention” column, as younger kids tend to have less endurance and will need a lot more breaks, as Paige mentioned.

Hannah (Bloyd-Peshkin) Tatro ’14

Laura: Ok, that’s great advice and I am honestly able to breathe a little better now! What should the kids be doing for the rest of the day? How many of those virtual field trips and Pinterest-worthy crafts should I incorporate?

Hannah: This is where you have the most flexibility to do what works for you. Teachers and avid parent bloggers are providing lots of additional activities you can use to fill the days, like these from LiveScience. If your schedule is flexible and you and your child love art, create a window gallery for your neighbors to see as they walk past. Conversely, if your child wishes you’d just leave them alone so they can build a Minecraft Narnia, now’s the time. Obviously, this all depends on your schedule and your children’s ages, but this extracurricular time is where you do whatever works to help maintain your family’s collective mental health. This is not a productivity contest, so don’t go adding any extra pressure in what’s definitely an “A for effort” scenario.

Paige: Hannah, I couldn’t agree more. While it’s great that the online tools exist, it’s not necessary to use them. If you follow what your child’s teacher has assigned, your child will receive all the instruction he or she needs. If you chose to use the online resources, they would be great enrichment tools, but they aren’t necessary.

Laura: So that Pinterest board I stayed up all night making is great for the weekend or a rainy day. That’s great to hear because in the middle of all this, I am still trying to work. What advice do you have for parents working from home right now?

Hannah: The answer to that question will depend a lot on your children’s ages and personalities, but this is where schedules and independent activities come into play. And, no, a schedule does not have to be one of those beautiful charts you’ve seen folks sharing on Facebook to humble-brag about how they’ve optimized and life-hacked every moment of every day. At its most basic, a schedule just means thinking through when and how much time you need on your own and then aligning your children’s most independent activities to happen at that time. For older kids, their schoolwork may already be the perfect thing to do while you’re tied up. However, for younger kids, especially those who can’t yet read, that’s extremely unlikely to be the case.

Unfortunately, just saying “go play” doesn’t generally cut it because younger kids haven’t had that much practice being independent with anything. That said, this could be a great time to specifically practice playing independently in order to build those very skills. Check out this amazing article from The New York Times for guidance on how to get started when the idea of your children doing anything on their own seems impossible.

Laura: That’s great advice! So what do I do when that still doesn’t cut it? What if I still feel like I am not giving them the education that they need?

Paige:  If you are struggling to find time to work with your child while you are working at home yourself, I would recommend first contacting your child’s teacher. We understand that your child’s learning may not currently be your top priority, so if you express that you need some additional guidance, I am sure the teacher would be happy to make accommodations. In general, you could try to help your children in small chunks during your breaks. You could also shift their learning to the evening, if possible. We understand that every home situation is different, so if we know what we need to work with, we will usually find a way to make it work. For some students, this may look like having one-on-one video sessions with their teacher so they can receive instruction if their parents do not have the time or ability to teach them.

Laura: And when we are on that Zoom call with the vice president of advancement (our boss)?

Hannah: Take it from a teacher, students always need help just when they can’t get it. We try to buy time by outlining signals and strategies before the inevitable problem arises. Some options for signals include writing you a note and putting it in a predetermined location; using a stoplight picture to indicate if they’re okay (green), need help soon (yellow), or need help ASAP (red); or putting a small toy on the corner of your desk to let you know they need your attention. It’s important to let them know ahead of time that they won’t get help immediately but that you will get to them within a certain amount of time.

Laura: Oh, I like that idea! Ok, so what’s next fall going to look like? I am going to do my best here, but are they going to fall behind?

Paige:  I would not be very worried about your child falling behind next year, as all of their classmates will be in a similar place. Additionally, teachers will typically do pre-assessments at the beginning of the year to see what gaps need to be filled in their education before moving on to grade-level content.

Hannah: I agree, Paige.This is impacting kids and families everywhere and schools know it. You are not alone. You are doing your best and that is enough. Just remember to prioritize your sanity and your children’s emotional health. The road to recovery will be easier if they haven’t been miserable trying to pretend that home is school.

Laura: Thank you both so much for your time and your knowledge. Knox is very proud of all our educators who are rising to this new challenge. Do you have any parting advice for us?

Hannah: With these challenges and competing interests in mind, it’s important to remember that there’s no substitute for full-day schooling in a building filled with faculty devoted to the task of educating children; that’s a full time job (and then some), and setting that standard for yourself isn’t just a matter of putting on another pot of coffee and buckling down to recreate school at home. Remote learning can’t replace school, and it’s not designed to. This isn’t homeschooling, this is learning at home within the context of a pandemic. We’ll get through this and we’ll get back to school.

Paige: Overall, I know that my colleagues and I are concerned about our students’ well-being more than we are concerned about their education. As long as parents are keeping their children safe and cared for during this crazy time, their education can be made up later. We realize that most parents aren’t teachers, so we greatly appreciate the efforts parents are making to help educate their children.

Stories to get us through

From Laura Miller Dryda ’10

I am an editor-in-chief with a healthcare media company that connects hospital executives and physicians to share information during this challenging time.

Personally, I am continuing my creative writing and organizing virtual readings for authors to share their work during this time when we aren’t able to gather in coffee shops, book stores or conventions. Hopefully, the stories shared will also bring joy to people in a tough place economically and help us come together, as a good story always has.

If anyone would like to participate as an author or attendee to the virtual readings, contact me and I’ll add you to the events!

If you give a librarian a ukulele …

From Amy Schardein ’98

I’m a children’s librarian in Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati. While the library is closed, we are programming on social media. I’m doing storytime on Facebook Live three times a week.

I was surprised at how emotional I felt during the first session. There were the names of families I know and see weekly plus many more, and then so many more from the wider community. I found I was nervous and relieved that my hands knew how to play the ukulele through nerves I have not felt doing storytime for years.

After the first session, parents sent photos of their children watching–some are gleeful but most seem to be comforted—calmed by some familiarity. Parents are watching even when their kids are not. Distant family members are tuning in.

Storytime has always been my strongest skill at work. I get to use all of my teaching skills while implementing the improv skills I learned with my friends in college. Now, I’m realizing what a touchstone it is for me. Three times a week, in between homeschooling the children and caring for our home, I make myself decent and make my community feel a little better. I’m also making myself feel better.

You can find my storytimes at the Kenton County Public Library Facebook page.

At the Emergency Management Agency

From Kevin Moore ’02

I am the personnel and labor administrator for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). IEMA is the state agency responsible for coordinating the state of Illinois’ response the COVID-19 pandemic. I am so proud to work with the emergency management professionals at IEMA. My colleagues have risen to the occasion to provide crucial coordination and management of Illinois’ response efforts to COVID-19.

My role has been to support our dedicated employees with emergency hires and additional personnel while also making sure our routine HR functions continue so that my colleagues can focus on the work that needs to be done and not have to worry about payroll, insurance, etc. I’ve also been involved in establishing the safety protocols that we are using at the State Emergency Operations Center to ensure that personnel working there remain safe and healthy.

Photo of the pool area of the Pacific Princess cruise ship, taken in March 2020. A single man stands in the pool. It is surrounded on all sides by rows of mostly-empty lounge chairs. In the distance, you can just see a single couple at the far end.

Q&A with James Nordin ’67, one of the last remaining cruise ship passengers still at sea.

When James Nordin ’67 and wife Linda departed Los Angeles for a three-month around-the-world cruise on January 20, they had no idea that COVID-19 would cut their dream vacation short. Though most of the other passengers disembarked in Australia in late March to fly home, the couple opted to remain on board and return with the ship to California. 

He emailed Knox about this unexpected journey from his current location, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Tell us about your trip so far.

Linda and I left L.A. on January 20 bound for Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore,  Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Madagascar, and South Africa, then across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal, and back to L.A. We made it to Australia before the coronavirus changed everything. We visited eight ports in Australia rather than four, then headed for Sri Lanka. We were not allowed to disembark; we could only refuel and restock food. On March 12, the cruise line announced the cruise was terminated, and we headed back to Australia. On the way, we were told that all passengers would disembark in Perth and be flown to their home airport.

How did you make the decision to stay on board?

By this time, we knew there had been deaths from COVID-19 elsewhere and that the infection rate was accelerating. But there was no illness on our ship and plenty of food and water. We had lots to read, and we are pretty good company for each other. We both get sick on long flights, and kind of insisted we stay on board. We had to sign a waiver, but we stayed. 

We were supposed to sail to Sydney for refueling, but Sydney wouldn’t let us dock. Instead, we stopped in Melbourne. Docked there was the 3,000-passenger Golden Princess with no passengers on board. The logistics of moving that many people in a short time span with airlines closing down is mind-boggling.

What’s it like on board these days?

About 500 passengers and 35-40 crew members disembarked. There are now 350 crew members and 115 passengers on board. None of the entertainers left. So we continue to have shows a couple of times a week.

Are you worried about getting sick?

No one on this ship has been ill since we left L.A. 70 days ago, and no one has boarded the ship for more than two weeks. We are a floating quarantine!

What happens next?

We are on our way to Honolulu, where we are supposed to stop to refuel. The captain has alerted us that none of this is certain (as we have learned from the zigs and zags of this adventure). We hope to return to L.A. around April 20. We plan to rent a car and drive back home—assuming we aren’t quarantined in L.A.—and, of course, assuming we are allowed to dock! Meanwhile, we are well, safe, and have a comfortable place to stay. We know the direction we are headed; we just don’t know if that will get us anywhere.  

Creating art to help get through

From Megan Williamson ’82

It is a new world we are in, and we are in it together. What can we do to help one another get through these heavy days? I was moved and inspired by the Italian balcony serenades. I don’t know any arias, but I have been working on a series of five-foot circus banner paintings and decided to hang them in front of our house. I change them out every few days.

I have also recently finished a commission for Rush University Hospital’s pediatric oncology infusion waiting room. This hospital has taken such good care of my family that I was thrilled to be able, as an artist, to give something back. I want the work to help the waiting children and their parents imagine themselves somewhere else–in a beautiful, inviting, and happy place.

To go along with the painting I did five ink drawings of the dogs in the painting. Once the painting is installed, we hope to have copies of them on hand in the waiting room for children to color and take home.

For regular updates on these projects and images from the studio, find me on Instagram @mwmson773. That, friends, is my update. I continue to work in the studio, and I look forward to announcing more news, exhibitions, and events. Be well.