While students were packing up for home and faculty redesigning courses to be delivered online in early March, Marianne Sullivan, DNP, immediately began collaborating with UMass Dartmouth leadership on the university’s next steps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As UMassD’s director of health services, Sullivan has been central in the planning and response as COVID-19 grew from a virus concentrated in China to a worldwide health crisis with implications that would change our everyday lives. Her background in ambulatory care and emergency planning and management contributed to her essential role in the university’s quick and organized plan for pivoting operations to ensure the health of the students, faculty, and staff.
In a situation that changed almost daily in the early weeks, Sullivan credits UMassD following the science of the evolving novel coronavirus as it updated the community on how the virus would affect life on campus. Sullivan and her colleagues have kept students, faculty, staff, and families educated on COVID-19 through emails, presentations, and webinars.
“As knowledge unfolded and we learned more about what it was we were dealing with, it was important to deliver clear, concise, and continuous communication,” she said. “The collaboration across campus has been inspirational. Everyone has been pulling the oars in the same direction.”
Pride in UMassD students
Sullivan and her Health Services staff interact with students on a daily basis in a variety of ways, even now in a remote capacity. Sharing a campus with the only Bachelor of Science in nursing program in the SouthCoast, many nursing students have been employed at Health Services in work study positions. Additionally, Health Services also serves as preceptor for Doctorate of Nursing Practice students. “Over the years we’ve seen those nursing students grow and move on to practice in our community or in Boston and beyond. They stay in contact with us, which we love.”
“They are my future. Someday one of those nurse practitioners I worked with will be taking care of me. It’s important to support them now.”
The students she has come in contact with at UMassD are a point of pride for Sullivan. “I look at the students whose paths I’ve crossed with over the last ten years at UMassD and I see how much they have been able to contribute,” Sullivan said. “It brings such pride to all of us to know that they are on the front lines serving patients.”
As both a staff member who spends time one-on-one with students and a donor to UMassD, Sullivan is honored for the opportunity to contribute to the financial support that students rely on. “I have seen the challenges that some of our students face and if in some way the financial burden can be eased, that will help a lot in terms of their success throughout their college careers.”
“When I look back at my undergraduate degree and the fact that I was able to benefit from scholarship money, that was so important to me and to my family,” she said. “That responsibility to give back is important. It’s always been important for me to be able to make certain that other people have the same advantages and opportunities that I have had.”
At Health Services, staff develop close relationships with students, as they help them manage both urgent and chronic issues during the academic year. The trust they establish is evident in the connections they maintain after the students have graduated.
“What’s most rewarding is to see how the students manage their difficult times and go on to become successful,” she said.