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Recognizing Women in Medicine and Leadership at Project HOME

Mary Chawaga
Recognizing Women in Medicine and Leadership

With the one-year-anniversary of the COVID pandemic intersecting with Women's History Month, we wanted to highlight the incredible work of our women-led medical team who have been a continued source of care, guidance, information, and innovation. Your recent work of creating and implementing an entire vaccination clinic, along with providing such thorough overviews and updates for our community on COVID-19 and vaccinations has been phenomenal.  Read below to learn more about some of the Women of Medicine and Leadership representing the Stephen Klein Wellness Center at Project HOME.

Thank you to our Vaccine Clinic Medical Directors: Tina Castellan, Nyasha George, Ivel Morales, Lara Weinstein 

Nyasha George | SKWC Associate Site Medical Director, Stephen Klein Wellness Center:  

What inspired you to get into medicine?    

There are some people who always knew they wanted to be doctors, whether they were exposed to medicine because of their own health challenges or maybe they grew up in a family of nurses or physician. And then there are people like me who never imagined themselves as physicians, have a fleeting encounter with the field of medicine (by chance or by fate depending on your view of life), that allows them to discover a whole new world of caring for other human beings. I fall into the latter category. I was immediately inspired by the awesome and simultaneous responsibilities of getting to be a healer, listener, consoler, empowerer and partner in someone’s health and I remain in awe. 

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19? 

I have found this last year to be so incredibly trying- as a physician, as an employee in an organization striving against the social determinants that keep people buried in poverty, as a person with a family that lives so very far away. I have found strength in my colleagues at Project HOME who have been tireless in their work to respect the dignity of our patients and clients. Whenever I’ve felt overburdened I’ve been humbled by anecdotes of the Herculean efforts made by coworkers to provide excellent care and to think outside of the box in terms of shifting our models of care delivery to meet the challenges of this pandemic. I know that None of us is ever working alone but that we are a part of a larger mission here. I have also been so incredibly touched by the number of patients who have reached out to wish me health and safety and to remind me that they’ll see me in clinic again “soon, when the pandemic is over”. A faithful yoga practice and meditation, quiet walks, and a simple but good meal have also really supported my health. 

Thank you to our Nurse Vaccinators: Kimberly Ishmael, Kathy Conallen, Anne Kappler, Lisa Greenspan, Holly Wright, Joann McGettigan, Anna Garrett, Darina Petrovsky 

Kim Ishmael | Nurse,Stephen Klein Wellness Center:  

What inspired you to get into medicine?    

When I was in middle school, I had the privilege of seeing a mobile medical van in Boston. People were lined up around the corner. I was amazed at the number of people they could help and reach through the gift of medicine. Ever since then I knew I wanted to be a nurse. From working in public health to oncology and hospice, the flow of compassion through nursing continues to amaze and inspire me. 

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19?  

I found strength in the silver lining of time. In the darkness, isolation, and fear, time was frozen. I felt a choice to listen with my heart in the quiet and to hear myself and those around me differently. To listen to the things, I often don't want to hear or can't hear because the world is too loud. Then change, grow, and love with a deeper awareness. By listening and being still moments were revealed that otherwise might have passed by. For me the blessings of those moments with those I love, and my family will be a strength and a gift that rises out of the darkness of COVID-19. A strength that will carry on from the last year and guide through darkness and light in years to come. 

Holly Wright | Volunteer Medical Provider, Stephen Klein Wellness Center:  

What inspired you to get into medicine?    

I became interested in being a nurse when I was a teenager. A friend sustained a bad injury, and I rode in the ambulance with her to the ER. The ER doctor was very nice and he liked to teach. He let me watch the procedures to correct her injuries, explaining the anatomy and the suturing, etc. That’s when I decided to be a nurse.  

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19? 

During the epidemic, I have been sustained by my husband, who is a paragon of optimism. I participated in a faith community that has been a support. I exercised like crazy and took very long walks with my dog. I took up new hobbies (horseback riding and birdwatching). Most of all, I believed in science and had faith that we would conquer Covid. I was also greatly uplifted when Biden was elected. (You can delete this if inappropriate!) 

Thank You to our Essential Support Staff: Indonesia Young (Vaccine Clinic Administrative Coordinator), DeNisa Sondai (Vaccine Clinic Administrative Coordinator), Amanda Olmeda-Irizary (Vaccine Inventory Coordinator), Maria Hall (Quality and Capacity Building Associate), Ursula Hobbs (Mobile Team Clinical Supervisor) 

DeNisa Sondai | Vaccine Clinic Administrative Coordinator, Stephen Klein Wellness Center:  

What inspired you to get into medicine?   

I am currently a Psychology Major at Saint Joseph's University. I decided to focus on this field because I have always had a passion to help others. I enjoy being able to give back to my community and I feel that with all my jobs I have helped to make an impact on someone's life, which means the world to me. I got into Psychology because I love listening to people and just holding meaningful conversations. 
 

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19?   

I have gotten most of my strength during these trying times from my family, more specifically my mother. 

 

Amanda Olmeda-Irizary: 

What inspired you to get into medicine?   

As a teenager, I wanted to be an RN but I disliked school so much. I wanted to be in medicine for many reasons; to help those in need, to understand and learn the ways of having better health, and how the body functions. 

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19?   

I found strength in my patience, it was really put to the test when COVID hit and things were forced to be changed overnight.  

 

Ursula Hobbs | Mobile Team Clinical Supervisor, Stephen Klein Wellness Center:  

What inspired you to get into medicine?   

From a very early age I was always a "helper" and got great satisfaction volunteering and working with people and animals. When I was 10, I had surgery to remove my appendix and loved watching the nurses and doctors. In fact, I think I liked being in the hospital because it was so exciting! My mom was a private duty nurse with a cool uniform and medical bag. She encouraged me to pursue a career in healthcare to satisfy my desire to "save everything". I was more interested in pursuing a career in environmental sciences & didn't think much about healthcare until my dad was hospitalized with a serious illness. My dad was in the Air Force and hospitalized at the former Philadelphia Naval Hospital. I remember being so impressed by the doctors, nurses, and orderlies. They let me assist with dad's wound care, answered the thousand of questions I asked, and didn't treat me like a child. I think that started me on my healthcare and volunteering journey and I've never looked back. My career has included work in critical care, transplantation, home care, and public health. My life has been richer because of the folks I've had the privilege of caring for over the years.   

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19?   

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was really stressful watching the news reports. Having worked in critical care I felt so much empathy for first responders, hospital workers, and families. It was overwhelming and heartbreaking watching folks separated from their loved ones; people dying alone. I cried a lot (mostly in private) in the beginning. I even felt guilty that I was not working in the ICU; that somehow, I wasn't doing "the most important work". I suspect a lot of my colleagues struggled with these thoughts. My husband, family, and friends worried about me, but I knew it was important, as a healthcare provider, to stay strong and do my part. I had to keep it together to be present for the folks that we were trying to keep safe, especially in the residences that I serve. My Project HOME community really inspires me, supports me, and motivates me every day. Everybody has been working so hard and there's been a real effort to keep the communication flowing. All of us have had to pivot, keep our spirits up, support our families, patients, and each other, and generally soldier on! I know there's light at the end of the tunnel and think of the celebrations we'll be sharing when it's all over 🙂 

 

Indonesia Young | Vaccine Clinic Administrative Coordinator:  

What inspired you to get into medicine?   

I am part-time at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs as the Recruitment and Enrollment Administrator for the Teen and College Access Program. When the opportunity was presented to be a part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, I was thrilled. As a woman of color, I understand the importance of helping vulnerable communities get access to the vaccine. The vaccine clinic has also been a learning experience for me in the healthcare sector as I pursue my Master of Business Administration at Villanova University’s School of Business. 

Where did you find strength over the past year navigating so many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19?   

My family is my support team and I have found strength in knowing that I can depend on them during turbulent times. After losing my grandmother last year, I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic. I practice self-care and goal setting to keep myself grounded and motivated.   

None of us are home until all of us are home®