Alumni News

A Day in the Life in Yale's ER with Thomas McNeely '11

A Day in the Life in Yale's ER with Thomas McNeely '11

Thomas McNeely '11 is an ER Technician at the York Street campus of Yale New Haven Hospital, fighting against COVID-19. At ND, Tom was a National Honor Society inductee, a Team ND ambassador, and a member of the track and cross country teams. We wish him the best of luck as he prepares to apply to PA school!

6:36 PM

"At work, my typical “day” starts at night.  I put on my clean blue scrubs, gather my things, and walk out the door. During “normal times”, my 15-minute drive to work allows for only a minute or two thinking of what I may see during the shift ahead…(night time in the Emergency Department of a Level 1 trauma center can go from calm to “Code Blue” with the pull of a trigger or the crash of a car)... the rest of the drive I’ll listen to the radio.  But in “COVID times”, the only tune playing during this drive is sweet silence, paired with thoughts of how many “new COVIDs” we’ll treat, or if tonight might be the night that I become one of them.  At this time of the year, my drive is accompanied by the last precious minutes of sunshine.  I’m grateful now more than ever to see and feel it, knowing that tonight, some may no longer be so fortunate. 

I park and walk towards the hospital to start my shift, passing the “day-shifters” who have just ended theirs: techs, food service workers, nurses, maintenance and sanitation workers, doctors, and many more.  These people serve as the first indicator of what to expect walking in- even the quickest glance at a pair of tired eyes north of a surgical mask can tell a surprising amount about the quality of the day gone by. This also reminds me to put on my own mask as I walk into the building."

6:53 PM

"I clock in at 6:53, then time for “the huddle” at 7:00.  The huddle is the pre-shift briefing for the oncoming staff, lead by the charge nurse from the previous shift, and the goings-on from that day: how many patients in the department, who are sickest patients/“ICU players” are, and lately, the state of our PPE supply. Normally this is done in a staff break room full of nurses and techs sitting together around a large table or shoulder to shoulder on the window ledge in the back of the room.  But during the pandemic, we conduct the huddle in the much larger ER waiting room (which is empty of patients due to visitor and infection-control restrictions) to allow for a socially distanced update.

After the huddle, I look at the schedule to see my assignment and walk out to the floor to relieve the day-time technician and take their report about the patients in my assignment and the supply stock of their rooms.  After this hand-off, I walk over to a metal-grid storage cage and look for my “COVID bag” amongst a sea of other similar brown-paper bags meant to hold the singular N95 respirator, face shield, and other PPE equipment issued at the start of the shift.  I feel lucky to now be able to grab a new (or cleaned/recycled) mask for each shift— other hospitals around the country struggling with supplies are still using the same pieces of equipment indefinitely.

From then on, I tend to my duties as an ER technician, assisting the nursing and physician staff in treating and tending to sick patients— everything from stocking rooms and making beds to splinting broken arms to performing CPR or other life-support procedures on people who are engaged in the fight of (for) their lives.  When I get the chance, I eat lunch (dinner for most) in the break room sometime during the night; this is one of the few times I can take off the surgical mask that I must wear throughout the whole shift.

Although we still treat all different illnesses and traumatic injuries, the overwhelming number of patients we see nowadays are COVID-19 positive or rule-out patients.  They occupy nearly all of our rooms and require any person who enters the room to be fully “gowned up”: N95 respirator, the surgical mask covering it, face shield over both, yellow gown covering the rest of the body, surgical hat. Shoe covers optional but always a good idea.  A lot of these patients also require intubation due to respiratory distress, which calls for a small team of doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist, and ER tech members who spring into action to sedate, intubate, stabilize, and mechanically breathe for someone who cannot effectively do so on their own. This task is choreographed, controlled chaos in which every participant knows their role and executes in the best way that a small negative-pressure exam room will allow.  Sometimes I am in the room, sometimes my job is just outside the door acting as the “clean tech”, un-gowned and ready to grab any and all items needed by the team inside the room.

The dramatic decline in non-COVID patients has led to extended periods of eerily quiet downtime in our Emergency Department which sometimes lasts most of the shift, although we still get the occasional surge of patients (par for the course in any ER). In periods of downtime when we are not running around doing intubation or tending to sick patients, we wait.  I keep busy by stocking. I check and then re-check life-saving equipment to make sure it’s functioning properly. I also use this time to talk and reflect with my fellow techs, nurses, doctors, cleaning, and transport staff.  These periods of time provide an escape from our current reality, and a crucial outlet to decompress.

When the shift is over and the day-shifters come to relieve us in the morning, I give my handoff report to the oncoming tech.  My used N-95 mask and face shield goes back into my bag, which I return to the cage, to be found for the next shift. Still on the floor, I use sanitizing alcohol wipes to “disinfect” most of my belongings and the equipment that I carry on me (cellphone, stethoscope, trauma shears, badge) before making my way to the locker room to change.  I put my used blue tech scrubs carefully into a sealed plastic bag, and put on a clean pair of green scrubs to go home in--COVID stays at the hospital!"

7:23 AM

"After clocking out at 7:23 am, I walk outside, take off my mask, and breathe a breath of fresh air as I walk to the car.  Once I get home, I strip down to underwear at the front door, throw everything in the laundry machine, and take a hot shower before I go to sleep."


Thank you, healthcare heroes!

Vincent Vitale '09 fights New York's toughest COVID-19 cases

Vincent Vitale '09 fights New York's toughest COVID-19 cases

When Vincent Vitale PA-C ‘09 was at Notre Dame, he tended the goal and served as a captain for the Varsity hockey team. Today, Vitale is tending to COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care units within New York’s Northwell Hospital system. 

Prior to the pandemic, Vitale’s schedule typically consisted of 12-hour shifts 14-16 times per month. However, over the course of the last two months, he has been working over 20 12-hour shifts each month. 

The large majority of the day in the ICU is triaging care. “COVID-19 patients admitted to the ICU are very unstable and rapid deterioration occurs. Most of the day is spent just keeping people alive,” Vitale explained, candidly.

Vitale has seen a wide age range of patients come through the ICU, some as young as 30. In his experience, a large majority, roughly 80%, do not survive if intubated. With 30+ patients in his unit’s service, and even over one hundred vented patients in some hospitals, the workflow has caused ICUs to become strictly vented patients.

With strict isolation rules in place, visitors are not allowed in the hospital.

“Days consist of calls to families to give them updates, and when possible, FaceTime calls. This is perhaps the most important part of the day, as nobody is allowed to see their loved ones, and this sadly includes those that are dying.”

Continuing to practice social distancing is the key to emerging on the other side of this pandemic. People feel well, but do not realize they could be carrying the virus and spreading it further. While many people don’t become critically ill, those that do become extremely sick.

 “Please continue to practice isolation and take every precaution to avoid unnecessary contact. Anything you can do to keep yourself and others safe and out of the hospital is crucial for us to get through this. I know it’s hard, but our best shot at saving lives is to continue isolation,” said Vitale.

Despite the uncertainty and long shifts, Vitale finds comfort in being able to do the little things for his patients and their families. 

“My main motivation for becoming a PA was always saving lives and helping families through some of their darkest times," Vitale reflected. "Even the smallest gesture can make a lasting impact on someone whose loved one is critically ill. This is why we do what we do. Helping our patients and their families is at the core of medicine.”

We wish Vincent the best of luck as he continues his first year as a critical care PA!

Thank you, healthcare heroes!

Moore '14 leaves lasting impact at Uconn

Moore '14 leaves lasting impact at UConn

In April of 2018, just weeks before William Corey Moore ‘14 delivered the commencement address to his fellow classmates at UConn, he held a powerful TED Talk entitled, Black Boys: Passing the Blueprint.

In this informative and inspiring talk, Moore raised awareness of alarming statistics within the African American male community. In January, Moore returned to Notre Dame to address ND’s Black Student Union and challenge them to seek answers to their questions and to give back what they have received from their mentors.

This TED Talk is just one of the many ways Moore is leaving his mark at UConn, giving back to those who have given to him, and inspiring others. As he enters the penultimate weeks of his graduate coursework in education at UConn, Moore can be proud of not only his academic achievements but also the lasting impacts he has made throughout the 4,400-acre campus.

Moore organized and planned one of the first black male leadership conferences at UConn, Dear Young Brother, and worked to facilitate important conversations. As the President of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and a member of the leadership team for ScHOLA2RS House Learning Community, Moore serves as a dedicated mentor and advocate for the success of black males at UConn. 

Moore explained that his TED Talk was his way of saying “thank you” to those who have helped him along his journey -- a thank you to his ‘village’. It was a cumulative act of gratitude for those who have impacted his life, opened doors, and paved ways.

“I want to encourage others, particularly African American males, black boys, to seek to have their questions answered and go beyond their circumstances. Get information. Recognize that someone who opened doors for them continues to open doors for others.”

At ND, Moore served as a Peer Counselor, was a member of the basketball team, and a National Honors Society and Spanish Honors Society inductee. He wants to challenge today’s ND students to keep opening doors for others.

“Continue the ND tradition of giving back to your community and to your school. ND does a great job of giving students these opportunities. ‘To whom much is given, much will be required’ [(Luke 12:48)], which was a message emphasized throughout my time at ND and in my life.”

Moore will earn his M.A. in Education from UConn in May 2020. In the spring of 2018, he graduated within UConn’s honors program with his B.S. in Finance. Following his 2020 commencement, Moore will begin his professional career within United Technology’s Financial Leadership Program. 

Cuevas '02 finds success in higher ed

Cuevas '02 finds success in higher ed

When Alexander Cuevas ‘02 was a junior at Notre Dame, he elected to take his first business course. Little did he know at the time, taking this class would spark his interest in the field and eventually lead to a successful and rewarding career.

After Notre Dame, Cuevas spent four years at Bryant University in Rhode Island where he earned his B.A. in Business Management and minored in Political Science. Having a passion for education, he found his way into higher-ed when he accepted his first position as an Admissions Representative working first with Stone Academy and eventually with Albertus Magnus College.

The day-to-day responsibilities of working with incoming students were extremely rewarding to Cuevas.  “I was inspired by the students I met with. The population I worked with faced many challenges and they were able to prevail. Their stories and success compelled me to go back to school and earn my MBA at Albertus Magnus College,” he said.

Upon the completion of this MBA, Cuevas returned to Stone Academy as Community Outreach Coordinator at Stone Academy and eventually was promoted to Campus Director. Upon the acquisition of Paier College of Art in 2018, Cuevas was asked to oversee recruitment and enrollment for the Art School. Today, Cuevas is the Director of Admissions and Director of Enrollment at Paier College of Art and Stone Academy, respectively. 

Cuevas found that earning his Master’s degree opened the doors for his professional growth. From 2016 to 2019, he served as the President of the West Haven Chamber of Commerce. Working closely with the Department of Motor Vehicles and Mayor Rossi, he assisted in coordinating the opening of the DMV Express located in City Hall.

“One of the best parts of my job is just seeing the growth and development of the students while they’re in school. Often times they’re a completely different person when they walk across the stage at graduation,” explained Cuevas.

When Cuevas walked the halls of One Notre Dame Way, he ran Cross Country, was a Spanish Honors Society member, and had a devastating serve with the Ping Pong club. When reminiscing about his high school days, he offered heartfelt advice to today’s Notre Dame students:

“Have faith in yourself and have faith in the process of what it’s like to be a student at Notre Dame. For me, those were very formative years. I was born in New Haven but became the man I am today on the ‘Hill’. There may be times where you doubt yourself or where you’re going, but put faith in the institution, your teachers, family, and friends, and you’ll do great things.”

Five alumni return to 'The Hill'

Five alumni return to 'The Hill'

Over the past few months, we welcomed five alumni (in person and via video conference) to address our students about their careers!

(Left to Right) Lt. Col. (US Army Retired) Friedrich Wherli ’78 addressed students from our Technology/Engineering/Design Program and our Robotics Club about his work with the U.S. Army on the development of autonomous vehicles and drones. 

George Costanzo ’74 met with students in the Sports Medicine Program and some of our athletes about his 30-year career as a chiropractor and his new career as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Costanzo spent considerable time addressing the opioid crisis.  

Denis Garvey ’65 and Bill Bruno ’82 were guest speakers in Joe DeCaprio’s Entrepreneurship class. Garvey, who has started several enterprises, spoke about the qualities needed to be a successful entrepreneur. Bruno, Senior VP Portfolio Manager at Peoples United Bank, spoke about the financing of a new business. 

A few weeks after video calling with faculty and students during the week of the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49er Vice President Rob Alberino ’88 visited the Entrepreneurship class and toured ND.