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UMB Workers Described as ''Unsung Heroes'' for Their Work During Blizzards

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) campus was closed Friday afternoon, Feb. 5, through Thursday, Feb. 11, by two blizzards, but key personnel such as campus police, maintenance workers, lab technicians, and Maryland Poison Center (MPC) specialists continued to brave the storms and report to work.

School of Nursing Lab Workers

In the School of Nursing, professionals made "unbelievable" extra efforts to cover critical jobs such as seeing cancer patients, processing blood samples, even risking life and limb to shovel open the School's front door, according to Susan Dorsey, PhD, RN. "They were coming in every day to check the satellite facility that we maintain in the nursing school and also to download crucial data from experiments. None of us [faculty] could get in and they did, despite foul weather," she said.

She cited the efforts of Carmen Leitch, a research supervisor, and Danisha Gallop, a laboratory technician, as examples. Each walked a half mile across the city in thigh-deep snow on unshoveled sidewalks. Peter Rhee, a laboratory technician, drove 15 miles from Ellicott City to the School on snow-covered roads. He processed the blood samples from patients seen by nursing PhD student Darren Couture at the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. Couture drove in 20 miles from Odenton.

Dorsey said there were many others who made their way through the storm every day of the crisis.

"They could have easily said 'I can't get out' but didn't hesitate," Dorsey said. "They were all heroic, unbelievable. They were actually fighting a bit over who would come in, since they were all so willing to help out. They are certainly our unsung heroes, as none of us could get in."

Maryland Poison Center

To remain open around the clock, the MPC of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy encouraged its dedicated employees to extend what are normally 12-hour shifts.

The director of operations for the center, Bruce Anderson, PharmD, said, "We had stocked up prior to the snow with a lot of food, a blow-up bed, a sleeping bag, and some personal care items to help make the expected stay a bit more comfortable."

Nonetheless, he said, "Folks were pretty tired by the end of their shifts. Unfortunately, it was a busy weekend as well," he said, referring to the volume of calls made by the public to the toll-free hotline, 1-800-222-1222. One staffer was hurt getting home when his car became stuck and he fell while shoveling out.

Other staffers have walked to the UMB campus to fill MPC shifts or replace those who can't escape their unplowed streets.

Campus Police

During the height of the blizzard Wednesday night, MPC staffers were unable to get to work. After a series of calls, it was determined that the Maryland Emergency Management Agency and city government officials had no more Humvees to pick up personnel. Chief Antonio Williams and Col. Milland Reed worked on the problem. Cpl. Thomas Darnell, using a four-wheel-drive police vehicle, was able to make the trip to Catonsville to pick up one Poison Center staffer and bring her to work.

Also, Wednesday evening, the Ronald McDonald House invited the campus police working the third shift to stop by and enjoy a hot turkey dinner. Two officers, including Cpl. Jim Brown, accepted the offer and discovered that one of the families had an 8-year-old girl who needed PediaCare. Because all drugstores were closed by the storm, Brown and Pfc. Tasha McCoy-Smith made the trip to the University of Maryland Medical Center Pediatric Emergency Room, which provided medicine for the girl.

Reed said, "This was an example of the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus Police and the University of Maryland Medical Center coming together to help someone in need."

School of Law

Despite the largest snowfall in Baltimore history, the University of Maryland School of Law successfully hosted the North American (Atlantic) Finals of the International Moot Court Competition. Competition organizer Robert Percival, JD, MA,, credited "support from our student volunteers as well as alums who pitched in to replace judges from Washington who were forced to cancel due to transportation problems caused by the storm."

More than 70 people attended the competition's annual Fedder lecture on Friday night. The competitors and key personnel stayed in hotels close to School and had no trouble resuming the competition early Saturday morning despite the record snowfall that shut down most everything else. The competition was won by the team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

To see Percival's full account of the competition and pictures, click here:

University of Maryland Medical Center

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) remained open throughout the storm and UMMC President Jeffrey Rivest send a letter to "personally thank the hundreds of dedicated staff who have done heroic things for our patients during the past five days-- through two record-breaking blizzards!"

Rivest said, "I am proud to tell you that as this second storm was beginning, UMMC and our fantastic teams cared for 119 admissions, along with hundreds of emergent visits and procedures. These patient volumes reflect a typical day for us. We didn't skip a beat thanks to you."

The vice president for nursing and operations at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Karen Doyle, MBA, MS, RN, cited many examples of staff who have given extraordinary effort. They include Liz Regan, RN, who walked three miles in snow shoes to get to work or Emily Clark, RN, who housed five to six nurses at her home and provided home cooked chicken broccoli casserole and tacos.

Other examples were Lisa Powell with the Neurotrauma Intermediate Care unit, who stayed for several days to ensure coverage for her unit, and the materials manager Tim Williams who stayed seven days to make sure everyone had their supplies. She noted that the shock trauma nursing staff includes many graduates from the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Maintenance and Operations

The University of Maryland Maintenance and Operations were activated at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5, and stayed on the job for the next seven days. After the first blizzard dropped a record-breaking 30 inches of snow, it was followed by a second storm that dropped 15 to 20 inches of snow with winds of 35 miles per hour.

Through it all, the crews used plows, shovels, Bobcats, and snow blowers to keep campus roads and sidewalks open, particularly around the University of Maryland Medical Center and the School of Law. Just as important as the crews on the street were the maintenance operators who had to make repairs to the equipment to keep it running.

Through it all, their morale was high and often they were joking and kidding with one another. James McGinnis of the Electrical Shop and Wayne O'Donnell from the Multi Trade Shop drove Bobcats, but also split their time working with snow blowers and shovels.

John Wilson took the lead directing the handworkers, relocating them to various areas of the campus and kept the personnel supplied with the equipment and materials they needed at the various locations. He said, "I'm here to stay until the job gets done. I don't mind the long hours as long as I can eat when I'm hungry, get cleaned up when I need to, and find a place to get some rest. The work is grueling and your muscles ache a little but the job has to get done."

When asked what sacrifices he was making, another crew member, David Fultz, said, "Sure it would be nice to be home with the wife and kids, but we have to keep the campus open and safe and besides, it's kind of fun working with a great group of guys, working together, joking around a little, eating together, and helping each other when a need arises. We have formed a bond and the camaraderie is great."

Dave Delooze, assistant director for operations and maintenance, said the crews "performed in Herculean fashion" through the two storms.

Posting Date: 02/09/2010
Contact Name: Ed Fishel
Contact Phone: 410-706-3801
Contact Email: efishel@umaryland.edu