Stories from the Pandemic
Furman alumni across disciplines are experiencing the pandemic in unique, personal ways. They have shown their resilience, whether by staying flexible within their professions or by stepping into the crisis.
THREE OPERA STARS PRESS ONWARD
Elizabeth Bishop ’89 calls it “the stillness.” More than seven months of performances were canceled because of COVID-19, so the mezzo-soprano, who is on the roster at the Metropolitan Opera, is teaching remotely at Juilliard and exploring how to contribute to the opera world in ways other than singing when normal life returns.
Bishop and other music alumnae, Alicia Russell ’16 and Jacquelyn Stucker ’11, have all searched their artist souls for ways to make the most of this involuntary downtime.
SUPPLY CHAIN SOLDIERS
For some, the pandemic drew family members together to answer our communities’ sudden immense needs. Brothers Samuel ’15, James ’17 and William Douglas ’21, based in Rome, Georgia, delivered tens of thousands of pieces of personal protection equipment to those in need. In Travelers Rest, South Carolina, father and son Randy ’71 and Ivan Mathena ’08 produced and distributed masks. Heath Hawkins ’20 was an intern before becoming an employee for a company that manufactures materials that mimic human tissue for medical training, when the company decided to make face shields to help halt the virus’s spread.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
Furman alumni are racing to unravel the mystery of COVID-19. Chris Jentz ’94, principal consultant at Kaiser Permanente, and his team produced forecast models to help Kaiser Permanente hospitals prepare for anticipated surges in inpatient admissions. In May, his research about COVID-19 patients in the United States’ West Coast was published in the British Medical Journal. The article evaluated the spread of COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths and gave early indications that the virus was having a more profoundly negative impact in the United States compared to China.
When Anna Downs ’16 tested positive for the virus in March, she was two months away from graduating medical school at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Her open letter to the nurses who cared for her brought us (and Today Show viewers and readers) into what she called “probably the most difficult experience of my life.” That same ordeal is one that Ben Daxon ’05 helped countless patients through as a staff physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he specializes in critical care and anesthesia. Both he and Jonathan Davis ’05, an emergency department physician in Augusta, Georgia, volunteered at hospitals in New York City.