They are among the unsung heroes working tirelessly to support the public health response to the COVID-19 crisis in Alberta. They do this important work away from the frontlines of a health care facility but their responsibilities are integral to helping protect the health of Albertans. Their work is as volunteers. Their role has thrust them into the essential public health response to the global pandemic before they ever expected to be serving the medical needs of Albertans as licensed doctors. They are the student volunteers who are now part of the Medical Student Army at the University of Alberta.
“We each entered medicine for individual reasons, but at the root of them all, we want to help and take care of patients. When we found out our clinical duties were on hold, we looked for other ways to support the fight against COVID-19. ” said Zosia Prus-Czarnecka, one of the student volunteers. “Witnessing a pandemic is something that very few medical students will encounter in their training. We’re fortunate to witness first-hand how the public health system responds, how the system adapts and how policy changes to meet the health needs of Albertans during an uncertain time.”
Nearly 150 third-and-fourth year students in the Faculty of Medicine are assisting with contact tracing, working in the Zone Emergency Operations Centre (ZEOC) and contributing to surge capacity planning at hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. They have also provided childcare for health care workers and mobilized to distribute essential supplies to isolated seniors. There are also close to 200 medical students from the University of Calgary doing similar work.
Rohit Gupta, president of the Rohit Group of Companies, and his family have built the company on the core values of the importance of giving back to the community. With the mammoth public health response to COVID-19, Rohit and his wife, Dr. Neelam Gupta, wanted to step forward and take action to support the vital work being done on the frontlines. Dr. Gupta is a frontline physician at Covenant Health’s Misericordia Community Hospital and is a graduate of the Faculty of Medicine at the U of A.
“We’ve been discussing mechanisms for supporting the frontline during COVID-19, and how we could contribute to accelerating and bolstering our defense,” said Rohit Gupta. “This pandemic is a life-changing event for a lot of us, particularly the U of A med students. The trajectory of their education and careers has been interrupted, but the opportunity they have to get real life experience helping through COVID-19 is going to prepare them for the next stage of their careers and help shape the way they practice medicine.”
Covenant Foundation is also very grateful for the assistance of Dr. Jia Hu, AHS medical officer of health for Calgary Zone, in making this initiative happen. Dr. Hu has a deep appreciation of the selfless contributions being made by the medical student volunteers. And when he learned that the Rohit Group of Companies was interested in making a donation to support the students in Edmonton, he was honoured to connect the donor with the Foundation.
The Guptas stepped forward with a generous $10,000 donation to help purchase hundreds of gift cards to local restaurants for the Medical Student Army. The gift means these hardworking students have less to worry about but it’s also a gift with another benefit – supporting the local economy.
“The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of training and setting up Edmonton’s contact tracing initiative. We’ve all been working around the clock. It’s incredible to hear that our work was recognized by someone in the community and I know that all the students appreciate the gesture from the donor,” said Prus-Czarnecka.
“We’re at a point in life where we’re very blessed and have the means and opportunity to give back,” said Rohit Gupta. “We all need to pitch in where we can and solve the situation together for a brighter tomorrow.”
“Covenant Foundation is very grateful to the Rohit Group for recognizing the dedication of these students with this thoughtful gift,” said Tracy Sopkow, CEO, Covenant Foundation. “Mr. and Dr. Gupta and their family have a history of supporting health care delivery right here at home and we’re pleased to partner with them on this grassroots initiative to recognize these hardworking students contributing behind the scenes.”
Several restaurants involved in the project also came forward to donate an additional $1,000 worth of gift cards and the Foundation is very grateful for the partnership of Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria, Earls Restaurants, Oodle Noodle and Freshii in making a difference in their community.
“It’s an honour to work with our partners in the community to help make an impact on the crucial work being done across the province right now in response to COVID-19,” said Sopkow. “While the COVID-19 pandemic is causing extraordinary changes to the way we live, one thing can provide all of us comfort. That is the will of Albertans to do whatever they can to help make a difference to the health teams working the frontlines.”
If you can, please click here to make a gift today to support the greatest needs facing the Covenant family of facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you very much for your support.
Written By: Laura Ehrkamp