NYU Alumni Faces from the Frontlines
One of NYU’s biggest strengths is its 500,000+ alumni community. As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, NYU alumni are dedicating their time, talents, and resources to assist individuals, families, and organizations in need. Meet these extraordinary professionals and learn how they’re supporting frontline efforts to combat COVID-19.
Yamiche Alcindor (GSAS ’15)
Yamiche Alcindor is the White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour and is a political contributor to NBC News and MSNBC. She keeps the public informed about COVID-19 and some of her recent stories can be found here:
Gabriel Avgerinos (TANDON ’73, STERN ’77)
Gabriel Avgerinos, a professor of Energy Policy and Environmental Regulatory Constraints has been working with his students to improve COVID-19 data and public health awareness. In conjunction with his students, he is working on a community-based initiative that involves electronic voter registration and mail-in voting for NYU students, a boon if in-person voting remains hazardous.
Weam Banjar (DENTISTRY ’12)
Weam Banjar is currently working on designing an awareness campaign and educational sessions, and, above all, conducting COVID-19 research.
Mindy Baucicot, MD (CAS ’12)
Mindy Baucicot, MD graduated from medical school early and went directly to the front lines of the fight for COVID-19. Following Mindy's virtual graduation from Stony Brook University in April, Mindy bravely soldiers on as a junior physician at NYU Winthrop Hospital. She says there is purpose in what they are doing; they are trying to get folks home.
Gabriella Cammarata (TANDON ’18)
Cammarata, a 2018 master’s graduate of the Integrated Digital Media program, has been working with NYU Langone medical staff and faculty to produce replacement hood clips for powered air purifying respirators. These clips break easily and unable to acquire replacement clips from the manufacturer, Cammarata has been working to create accurate 3D models which can then be used to print the needed replacements.
Helaine Cantor, LCSW (SSSW ’90)
Cantor, a licensed therapist with a practice on the Upper West Side, has been volunteering with the NYC COVID Care Network, offering free therapy for essential workers struggling with big work loads, family separation and an unprecedented amount of death.
“I love New York City. I’m devastated about what’s happening and how I see this playing out over the next couple of years and I feel like if I could use my training to help people who are giving so much to us to New York, I want to do that.”
Kathleen Capaccione (CAS ’09)
I am a radiology resident at New York Presbyterian- Columbia University Irving Medical Center. I have been redeployed to the frontline as a Compassionate Care Connector. I visit the critically ill patients in the ICU and facilitate a Facetime or phone call with their family. For some people, this is the last time they will see their loved one.
Charlie Carway (STERN ’94)
I semi-retired last year and joined the Pleasantville Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Westchester County. I completed EMT school in December, became licensed in January, and 8 weeks later had my baptism by fire with treating and caring for COVID-19 patients. Very rewarding "retirement" work! NYU Proud!!
Sue Tenorio Cespedes (WAG ’21)
As a medical laboratory scientist at Norwalk Hospital in CT, I perform molecular testing to detect SARS-CoV-2 in the microbiology lab as well as hematopathology and clinical chemistry testing on our COVID-19 patients. In our immunohematology lab, we’re processing convalescent plasma to treat our most critical patients. It’s truly rewarding to contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of those infected by this terrible virus.
Christine Chan (STEINHARDT ’11, ’13)
I am a medical speech-language pathologist in a skilled nursing facility. Everyday I am helping patients get stronger, communicate, and improve their swallowing function so they can go home.
Aretha Clark (SSSW ’18)
I am an intern as a Chaplain at The Bowery Mission working with men in a men's residential treatment program.
Christina Britton Conroy (STEINHARDT ’94)
As a freelance music therapist, I provide virtual sessions with clients. My best and simplest contribution is volunteering at food banks and delivering meals.
Tanisha Coppin, LMSW (SSSW ’16)
I am currently a social worker at Kings County Hospital. At the present time, I'm working with inpatient adults.
Jonathan Ehrlich (STERN ’17)
I am a volunteer EMT with the Central Park Medical Unit, a 100% volunteer ambulance that is now responding to 9-1-1 calls throughout all of New York City with the FDNY. Nearly all of our calls are for COVID-19 patients.
Maria Lisa (Mule’) Esteves, PA-C (CAS ’99)
I work as an emergency medicine PA at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in Manhattan.
Mollye Fahey (MEYERS ’94)
I am an RN case manager at North Shore University Hospital. We all have a role to play in this pandemic. Some days I hold up my colleagues and other days they hold me up. #WeAreAllInThisTogether.
Svetlana Fortel (GPH ’19)
I am Emergency Medicine Pharmacist at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. I managed all medication services for the Emergency department during COVID-19 patient surge. Then I tested positive for COVID-19 and currently on home isolation.
Bethenny Frankel (WSC ’92)
Bethenny Frankel is doing a lot with her B Strong initiative, including partnering with the Billy Joel Foundation in donating $500,000 of PPE to hospitals in dire need.
Jaime Garcia (TANDON ’81)
Jaime Garcia is working to feed the hungry in Ecuador affected by COVID-19.
Gideon Glick (LS ’09, CAS ’15)
Gideon Glick, along with To Kill a Mockingbird co-star Tony Award winner Celia Keenan-Bolger, and writer Victoria Myers, teamed up to launch #BroadwayFeedsBellevue, a campaign to supply meal sponsorships for medical professionals working at Bellevue Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit which launched April 3rd.
The initiative solicits donations for a virtual meal train. The team uses the donations to order meals from localrestaurants, which have been suffering due to the pandemic, and sends the meals to Bellevue for night shift workers who need to provide their own meals.
Jessica Goodrich (CAS ’99)
Working in a Pediatric ED, I never thought I’d see the day where our census dropped dramatically. We’ve had the opportunity to be redeployed to our ICU’s—helping in any way we can. This virus is incredibly intelligent and taking so many lives—for those that can: Stay Home and Stay Safe!!
Joshua Hartman (CAS ’96)
I work per diem as a paramedic in NYC and NJ.
Stephanie Hemsel (STEINHARDT ’19)
I am an acute care physical therapist working in a hospital in New Jersey. I was only 3 months into my career when COVID-19 hit NJ hard, but I love what I do and I feel blessed to be on the frontlines with amazing colleagues helping patients everyday.
Vanessa Hurless (MEYERS ’10)
Vanessa Hurless is a Nurse Practitioner serving patients at planned parenthood. She is providing urgent reproductive healthcare in-clinic so that patients can stay out of the ER. Fahey is treating UTIs, STIs, pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding and continued access to abortion and contraception.
Jee Young Kim (CAS ’12)
Jee and her brother Jae Sung Kim (STERN '08) launched Mamask, a fabric mask brand company to provide masks for friends in New York and also to help their father's manufacturing company, The Beautiful People, Co., LTD., a suit manufacturer in Seoul, Korea. For over 20 years, they have been making suits, jackets, and coats for a number of brands in Korea. Their factory is unique in that out of 190 employees, 80 of them have disabilities.
In Korean, “Ma” is part of the words: mother and heart. More than 70% of our workforce are mothers, who inspire us every day, and we wanted to design a product that could protect their families. This is why we named our product Mamask. I've been donating fabric masks to hospitals in New York as well as to restaurants during this difficult time. I will continue these efforts in New York and my brother in Boston, where he is located currently.
Ryan Lee (DENTISTRY ’10)
Dentists are playing an important role in the pandemic and any health crisis. As an Army Major, Ryan Lee is currently leading the Massachusetts National Guard mobile COVID-19 testing team. Every day, they supervise and train soldiers providing nasopharyngeal COVID-19 swab tests for nursing home residents, homeless veterans, PTSD survivors, patients with dementia, and many others experiencing symptoms. As many as 18 strike teams are traveling across the state each day, where each team consists of medics, CBRN/decon soldiers, infantrymen, and a medical advisor (like Major Lee).
His daily routine has changed significantly. Like many nurses and doctors on the frontlines, he is unable to go home, which is to minimize health risks to his family and neighbors. He is under federal orders for at least the next month, which means he'll need to exercise PPE at all times (N95 masks, face shields, Tyvek suits).
I am passionate about the idea that dentists are highly-trained doctors who shouldn't just sit back in times of health crises. I can't wait until I can return to opening all 4 practices I have, and it is my wish that the dental profession will take leadership to go "beyond the mouth," including in-office COVID-19 testing, salivary diagnostics, oral-systemic models of care, etc.
Edward Lee (CAS ’95)
The LEE Initiative by James Beard award-winning author and chef Edward Lee and Lindsey Ofcacek has expanded the Restaurant Workers Relief Program to 15 locations nationwide and will be giving $10,000 grants to four like-minded organizations around the country.
Wilfredo R. Matias, MD (CAS ’10)
Wilfredo Matias is a Senior Medicine Resident taking care of COVID-19 patients at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. When not in the hospital, he works with colleagues in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to prepare for the impending pandemic in areas of the world where medical and public health resources are severely limited.
Peter Mooney (TANDON ’90)
Mooney works with Thomas, a family-owned business that serves as a source of B2B information for buyers and sellers who has 500,000+ enterprises in its online database. Since the hit of the current pandemic, Mooney has been working to create a hub of COVID-19 resources, which allows hospitals and other organizations in need to efficiently source such vital items as N95 respirators, surgical masks, ventilators, disinfectants, air filtration units, and more.“We've also been contacted by the White House to help with industrial sourcing of critical Covid-19 related products,” Mooney explains, “and I’m happy to be playing a small part in a very important mission.”
Sophia Moore-Smith (LS ’23)
I am working as a cashier at Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Rutland, VT. I’ve been back at work since my two-week self-isolation ended after returning from NYU Florence.
Karen Myrie, MD (WSC ’88)
I am continuously working as the Medical Director for ACS Juvenile Detention. I'm also an Attending Pediatrician at the ACS Children's Center, keeping our child welfare/juvenile justice-involved youths safe.
Hector Naranjo (TANDON ’14)
On a regular day, Hector helps support construction and supply chain improvements for the US Navy’s aircraft carriers in Virginia. However, since 2018 he also works as a reservist corpsman. During Operation Gotham, his role at Javits was in support of the JNYMS Pharmacy team. He was tasked with helping log over 6000 prescriptions, run meds wherever needed on all shifts, perform IV reconstitution, and provide Spanish translation on behalf of patients.
NYC will always be home, not only because I went to school here but since most family and friends still remain. Coming back to witness the scale of support provided by civilians and the military was surreal—and even more so by being able to lend a hand. I’m heartened to be among all the stories of fellow alumni stepping up and by knowing NYC is cared for and in good company.
Melissa Olinger (SSSW ’15)
I am a clinical social worker at Yale New Haven Hospital. I am currently working on the Neonatal ICU and maternity floors.
Sara Pandolfi (SPS ’14)
Sara helped launch Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen’s Operation HopeFULL, a $1MM campaign that rallies support from the broader New York community to ensure those struggling with poverty and homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic have access to food, clothing, toiletries, masks, and other support during this unprecedented time. Sara is providing pro bono crisis relief management and galvanizing her extensive network in the arts, education, and hospitality industries to support the soup kitchen’s guests.
Every year in May, Sara leads the charge on her most notable fundraising success, Farm to Tray (initially inspired by an NYU graduate class project!) an annual benefit that brings together New York City’s premier culinary figures and socially responsible corporations to support the soup kitchen - raising $2.3M in cash and in-kind support since its inception in 2013. Given the on-going crisis surrounding COVID-19, Sara has provided assistance in shifting this program into Operation HopeFULL, a fully digital campaign.
Emily Peitzman (CAS ’07)
I am a Pediatrician in San Francisco, CA working to provide urgent sick visits and testing for patients with or suspected of having COVID-19.
Cole Riley (CAS ’13)
I launched Founders Give in late-March to rally the food and beverage community to donate snacks and drinks to NYC hospitals. Since then, I've collected 2.1 million snacks and drinks from 300 brands (including Chobani, KIND and Sabra), I partnered with 2 warehouses and 4 trucking companies, and deliver product to 45 city hospitals. We're the largest food initiative in the city right now.
Raveena Singh, DDS (DENTISTRY ’18)
Raveena Singh, DDS (DENTISTRY ’18)
Raveena Singh, DDS (DENTISTRY ’18)
Dental professionals experience one of the highest risks of exposure to coronavirus. Following state-mandated guidelines, dental clinics are seeing patients in need of emergency treatment. Additionally, Dr. Singh's team of Dental Residents continue to work the front line by helping Medical Residents take care of Covid+ patients in the hospital.
We need to work together to prevent the spread of Covid-19, making it important for those that can stay at home to continue staying at home. NYC has shown itself to be resilient in the most difficult of times, and like every other time, our city will overcome this pandemic very soon.
Jeremy Szeto (STERN ’00)
Dr. Szeto and his staff are taking care of patients in Sugar Land, Texas. Dr. Szeto is a primary care physician in private practice.
Muhammad Rizwan Toor MD (CAS ’02)
As a Nephrologist and Hospitalist, I have seen first hand the devastating effects COVID-19 has inflicted upon my patients, their loved ones, my staff, my colleagues, and my community. However, witnessing their unrelenting resilience and resolve has strengthen my ability and fortitude to handle the emotional thoughts and pain I endured over the past few months. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Eva Turel (MEYERS ’87)
As a Palliative Case Manager Nurse, I am having many more goals- of-care conversations. The Emergency Department and ICU need to make rapid decisions about resuscitation, and so I am contacting families by phone to explain the options and get advanced directives.
Katie Vargas (DENTISTRY ’16)
With most dental offices shut down, many patients experiencing dental pain are left without options. Dr. Katie Vargas and her staff are serving the needs of their community by remaining available to treat dental emergencies. Their work serves an important role in alleviating the dental burden on hospitals where focus must be placed on COVID-19.
Leonid Vayner (TANDON ’95)
Vayner, a cyber security expert, has been working with Brooklyn nonprofits in their compliance with New York State regulations on risk assessment and action plans. In addition, he is working with iMishpacha, an organization working on the ground to get food to the elderly and vulnerable in South Brooklyn, a massive initiative involving Borough President Eric Adams, the NYPD’s 60th Precinct, and other stakeholders.
Emily Williams (MEYERS ’13)
I'm a pediatric intensive care nurse in NYC. My unit has been converted into a COVID-19 ICU that now treats people into their 40s. So far, our unit has successfully treated 13 COVID-19 patients—with zero deaths! It is a thrilling time to work in the PICU and to be able to save both children and adults sickened by this virus.