As the world continues to grapple with the new realities of the coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to know how members of the Fontbonne community were being affected. To find out, we recently connected with a few alumni who were kind enough to share their stories of perseverance, service, and growth. Read what they have to say below, and consider supporting them with thoughts, prayers, and — where you can — donations or purchases to aid their organizations.
Molly Rozier Chen (Biology & Chemistry, 2008)
My name is Molly Rozier Chen, and I am a 2008 Fontbonne University graduate with my degree in Biology and Biotechnology and a minor in Chemistry. Flash forward 12 years, and I am now a general pediatrician at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. This pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime, and it is a struggle to find the best ways to care for sick patients but also our healthy babies! While COVID-19 is less prevalent in children, we are still seeing children with the disease and also their parents. We are also still seeing all of the other things that bring babies into the hospital — prematurity, other infections, poor growth, and trauma. Trying to care for them while limiting their exposure to COVID-19 has been challenging. It is also hard to reassure families and give guidance about a disease that we are still learning new things about everyday. I am thankful to be surrounded by other like-minded individuals who work hard everyday to help protect children and their families!
Kaylan Goldstein (Dietetics, 2011)
My name is Kaylan Goldstein, and I am a Clinical Nutrition Manager at Christian Hospital. I graduated from Fontbonne University in 2011 and went on to complete my dietetic internship the following year at Saint Louis University. Work life looks a little different these days. While many local hospitals have seen a significant decrease in their patient census, ours has not been too much lower than usual. My dietitians have stayed busy and have been working their brains even harder than before. We have been doing virtual outpatient appointments to still provide diet education for those that are in need. In an effort to help preserve personal protective equipment, the dietitians have been calling patients in their rooms instead of going in there to talk to them as they usually would. We all wear masks now and are screened at the entrance every morning when we arrive to work. The dietitian team is split into two separate work spaces to help prevent the possibility of having the whole team exposed. As a manager, I have significantly fewer meetings than usual and have spent a lot of time working on projects. I think the biggest adjustment has been learning to take things day-by-day and not being able to plan things too far ahead of time. The work environment is different for sure, but we are all still glad we are able to work and provide the best care that we can for our patients.
Whenever a patient who was COVID-19 positive is discharged, the song “Celebration” is played through the overhead speakers. (Watch Kaylan’s accompanying dance here.)
Katie May (Fashion Merchandising, 2011)
My name is Katie May. I graduated from Fontbonne in December 2011 with a BS in Fashion Merchandising. I own a curated vintage boutique called May’s Place located in St. Louis’ vibrant Grove neighborhood. Since closing our doors last month, we’ve been operating solely online, selling both from our website and our poplar Instagram stories. I’m very grateful that my team of three is still working, though not at the same capacity. We have an amazingly engaged community who have been super supportive through this, and we’ve actually had lots of new customers finding us too. It’s been a roller coaster, but we’re just doing our best to get to the other side.
Melissa Brown, (Dietetics, 2018)
Hi, my name is Melissa Brown. I am a 2018 Fontbonne Nutrition and Dietetics graduate. Prior to going back to school to become a dietitian, I worked in public health for eight years. I started working as the registered dietitian at Food Outreach in July 2019 after completing my dietetic internship at the St. Louis VA Medical Center. At Food Outreach, individuals living with HIV or going through cancer treatment select food items from a menu of options that includes scratch-prepared frozen meals and fresh produce. Food Outreach clients also have access to the registered dietitian for nutrition education.
Pre COVID-19, the majority of my job involved intake appointments to enroll new clients into the Food Outreach program. The intake appointments include nutrition assessments and the opportunity for brief nutrition education. In response to the COVID pandemic, Food Outreach radically changed our food distribution system effective March 16, 2020. We are limiting the number of staff and volunteers in our building and following social distancing guidelines. Nearly all of our clients fall in the high-risk category for COVID-19; we wanted to continue providing the food that is vital for so many of our clients while also reducing their risk. We suspended intakes and other dietitian appointments to focus on delivering food to our clients via a curbside pick-up model.
Once the curbside delivery model was up and running, I resumed a limited number of new client enrollments, conducted over the phone, to make sure that potential new clients who have been referred have access to our services, given the high need for food during this time. I am also helping with reassurance calls to assess the needs of our older adult clients. During these calls, I ask about basic needs, such a food, water, medication, and utilities. On one call, I discovered a couple who has been without running water in their home since February. I am working with several partner agencies to resolve this ASAP.
I am grateful to be part of the amazing team at Food Outreach, seeing how we have pulled together during this challenging time to continue meeting our clients’ needs.
Jenny Duez (Dietetics & Multidisciplinary Health Communication Studies, 2013)
My name is Jenny Duez, and I am the MO Partner Agency Services Coordinator and Registered Dietitian at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. I graduated from Fontbonne with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics in 2013 and went on to complete my Masters in Multidisciplinary Health Communication Studies and dietetic internship through Fontbonne in 2014. I have been with the St. Louis Area Foodbank for three years. I am responsible for overseeing our Missouri partner agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens, senior programs) within seven of our fourteen counties. I also oversee nutrition education and outreach, and I have been working on developing nutrition resources and initiatives for our partners and agencies.
COVID-19 has greatly impacted my day-to-day work. The St. Louis Area Foodbank is considered an essential business, so we have remained open through all of this and will continue to do so. Only the warehouse, volunteer center, drivers, and administration are working in the office and the rest of us have been working from home for the past month. That in itself has been quite a change since I have two young daughters, and I have been juggling the full-time working/full-time stay-at-home mom life this past month!
I have been busy communicating with agencies, monitoring agency closures, assisting clients in finding food assistance (especially since the need has increased with COVID-19), setting up additional food distributions, and helping agencies transition into drive-thru distributions in order to safely serve their clients. Normally, I would say 80% of my job is done out in the field so that has been a big change as well. My time is spent out doing inspections, nutrition presentations, cooking demonstrations, and attending community meetings. All of that is on hold for now as we are on lockdown.
Our volunteer center is still up and running and we could not continue distributing the amount of product we are without our faithful volunteers. When volunteers arrive, we ask screening questions to ensure they are healthy. They are practicing social distancing in the volunteer center when sorting and packaging food. We have also changed our agency pickup and delivery process to ensure social distancing is taking place. Pretty much everything related to my typical daily job has been affected by COVID-19, and we are all trying to adapt to this new normal while continuing to support our community!
The main goal, as always, is to continue serving our communities and assisting those in need. We have started doing disaster mobile distributions and setting up more access points to fill in those gaps where some of our pantries have temporarily closed. It has been a very busy time, but I am so thankful to work for an organization that stands by its mission and steps up to the plate when something like this happens. No one should go to bed hungry, and no one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. We want our community to be able to count on the St. Louis Area Foodbank, especially during times of distress.
Sarah Volling (Multidisciplinary Health Communication Studies, 2016)
Hello. My name is Sarah Volling. I am a registered dietitian, and I currently split my time between my private practice, Eat Practical, and Anderson Hospital where I work as a clinical dietitian. I completed the ISSP program at Fontbonne and graduated in December of 2016 with a master’s in multidisciplinary health communications. In recent weeks, my work life has changed quite significantly. In the hospital setting, we are no longer going onto the patient floors, only calling in the patient rooms to assess and serve. We are phoning into our ICU rounds to provide nutrition guidance on enteral nutrition for our patients on ventilators. We are only allowed to enter and exit through one point and we have to have our temperature taken upon entry and exit.
On a private practice note, my business, like many small businesses has seen a dramatic decrease in patients. For the patients we are seeing, we are completing our visits 100% virtually. We have seen a rapid shift in the insurance industry, now allowing dietitians to provide telehealth which is great.
How has your life been impacted by the coronavirus? We want to hear from you! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.