The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Adapting to the Crisis to Save Lives

SJU alumna working on the front lines at NYPresbyterian

Overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, hospitals are hiring medical students, retirees and other healthcare professionals to alleviate the stress on current front-line workers. Some healthcare workers are assigned to an entirely different section of the hospital rather than their normal area, such as Diana Esposito,  ‘18 St. John’s alumna and a physician assistant specializing in orthopedic surgery. Just two years after graduation she, along with eight other St. John’s alumni, was deployed to work in the Emergency Department of NewYork- Presbyterian Hospital at the start of this pandemic. 

Esposito always knew she wanted to be a physician assistant and thus enrolled in St. John’s accelerated four year program to be able to get out into the field quicker. On campus she was involved in countless activities and was always lending a helping hand as she was involved in service opportunities through her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha (ASA), and organizations such as Project Sunshine, which allows students to deliver fun and creative activities to pediatric patients in hospitals. She also served as secretary of the Physician Assistant Association, was a campus orientation leader and a DNY peer leader during her time at the University.

Senior Aruba Ali, a hospital volunteer with Project Sunshine for the past four years, commented on the work Esposito has been doing at NewYork-Presbyterian. 

Although Esposito is a PA in orthopedic surgery, she has had to step up and take the role of a nurse or doctor in the emergency department due to this pandemic … She is selflessly doing her part and trying her best to adjust in an environment she was quite frankly thrown into in these desperate times,” she said in a comment to the Torch. “Planning to go into the medical field myself, Esposito’s story hits close to home because I could very well be in her position one day.”

Titania Tessier, a fellow ASA member, says she admires her sorority sister’s work on the frontlines.  “She’s been working extremely hard during this crazy pandemic after literally graduating just 2 years ago. She and everyone in the healthcare field deserve to be applauded for all their long hours and sacrifices they’ve had to make,” Tessier told the Torch.  “I admire her for being so brave and doing an excellent job and being such an amazing person to help all those affected by COVID-19.”

Now, Esposito is applying all that she has learned as a physician assistant to actively fight for her patient’s lives. A typical day starts at 7 a.m. when she relieves those on the night shift of their duties and receives patient updates and other instructions from nurses. Esposito has the utmost respect for the nurses, who she described as the “greatest patient activists,” according to a press release by St. John’s University. She works on the medicine floor, which specializes in helping patients who do not need surgical intervention. As someone who specializes  in orthopedic surgery, Esposito had very little time to adjust to her new workplace. 

“It is out of our comfort zone, but we try to help as best we can,” she said in the University press release. “It has been very challenging working with critical patients in an area that we do not specialize in.”

She reviews notes and other lab work for all of her patients and consults with the respective physician for other concerns. “The most important thing is to check the oxygen saturation for the patients,” she stressed. “These patients are very critical, and their oxygen levels can decrease very quickly.” A lower-than-normal blood oxygen level is a telltale sign of a breathing problem. According to the CDC, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing are symptoms of COVID-19. Patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus with severe symptoms are put on ventilators to help them breathe, but the recent shortage of supplies increases the risk for patients that need ventilators. Esposito commented that every five to 10 minutes there is a call for the rapid response team to help a patient in distress. 

Despite the longer and more stressful days, Esposito and other healthcare workers have repeated the same process every day since the pandemic started. She said that her hospital “tries to protect the physician assistants by only having nurses and attending physicians deal directly with the patients,” but Esposito sees patients all day. Esposito says that this attempt to reduce patient-PA contact in hospitals “is not really feasible.”

Esposito’s little, senior Alexis Wagner, also remarked on Esposito’s commitment and perseverance through this unprecedented time. 

“Diana has always put herself before others so it is no surprise to me, or anyone else, how dedicated she is to helping others before herself, especially in the situation we are dealing with right now,” Wagner said in a comment to the Torch. “She is such a selfless person and I’m so proud of her.”

NewYork-Presbyterian has also seen the help of another member of the St. John’s community. To help ease the stress on our frontline heroes and protect them from the virus, St. John’s professor Max Hergenrother, director of Technology Operations of The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS), donated 3D printed masks to New York-Presbyterian Queens Hospital. “I am grateful that our University’s technological resources are helping the health-care professionals who are at the front lines of this pandemic,”  Hergenrother said in a press release by St. John’s University. Alongside his generous donation, Fox News reported on St. John’s University’s donation of 200,000 units of medical supplies (lab coats, masks, shields and gloves) to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in early April.

When asked about how she and her team are handling the crisis, Esposito said, “I think my team really does a great job, making themselves available and trying to fill in the areas where the hospital really needs the help.”

Esposito and thousands of other healthcare workers are risking their lives everyday to help save our friends and family from this invisible enemy. Their hard work and sacrifices will not go unnoticed. 


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About the Contributor
Priyanka Gera
Priyanka Gera, Managing Editor
Priyanka is a senior Spanish and Environmental Science double major on the pre-medical track. She has been a part of the Torch since her freshman year and has held several positions starting as a Staff Writer, then Assistant Culture Editor, Culture Editor and Digital Editor last year. As a part of the 99th E-Board, her goal is to strengthen the Torch’s online presence and grow the newspaper’s staff and contributors. She hopes to continue writing interesting and important stories for the St. John’s community. A Harry Potter fan, Priyanka is a Slytherin and loves the fourth novel in the series, “Goblet of Fire.” You can reach Priyanka at [email protected].
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