Gerard Clancy

TU faculty offer ways to support first responders during COVID-19 crisis

Research from The University of Tulsa looks to help first responders and health care workers as they continue battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

*Pictured is TU alumnae who working on the front lines and facing the virus daily.*

Left to right is Abigail Schmitt, Avery Culpepper, Madeline Oleksiak, Maddy Studebaker and Kaylie Schneider.

The pandemic has changed how millions of Americans work or learn, shifting offices or classrooms to their homes. Despite the mass changes, first responders and health care workers do not have the choice to work from home, and many of them are walking into the front lines of a battle against the virus every day. With those brave people in mind, TU faculty have been doing everything they can to help, including sharing their knowledge and expertise. Elana Newman, McFarlin Professor of Psychology, is an expert in disaster mental health with a specialty in journalism. She worked with journalists in New York for nearly a year after 9/11 and has helped journalists prepare for and respond to many disasters, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Journalists and health care workers are two distinct professions, but many common threads run between the two, according to Newman. A lot of the advice she might give a journalist also can apply to health care workers.

“With a pandemic like COVID-19, when these workers are out in the field and interacting with the sick every day, they’re bringing that stress home with them daily,” Newman said. “They question will they get their loved ones sick? Will they harm family members, friends or neighbors? What might they face tomorrow?”

The stress is gripping not only at home but on the job as well. Because of limited equipment and resources, first responders and health care workers are witnessing events that transgress their moral beliefs and expectations. “That leads to something called ‘moral injury,’” Newman said. “It’s unlike PTSD because it is an ethical or spiritual maladaptation, but it manifests in real-world effects like stress, feeling ill, guilt and a lot more.”

Left to right is Sierra Adair, Keli Solomon Miller, Marci Brubaker, Kristen Rodriguez and Michelle Proctor. 

Fortunately, despite the grimness of the circumstances, Newman has advice for anyone working grueling shifts with the sick and dying. “Some of the stuff is obvious: exercise best judgment and be safe. Remember to take care of yourself first and foremost, because if you aren’t well, then you can’t take care of others. It’s also important to take time off, even when things get crazy, for self-care. It’s a way of retaining energy for the long haul, as a boundary and finding pleasure to stay healthy and provide for others.”

She also has tips for anybody else going through this pandemic, explaining that the anxiety many people are feeling is normal, but it can be overcome.

“With so many unknowns, we’re all feeling anxiety, but there are ways to cope with that. Make a list of what you can control and what you can’t control — having a sense of control is important. It’s also important to stay social, even while we are physically distant because as humans we need social interaction,” Newman explained.

She offered one more piece of advice for anybody who is feeling that, because of quarantine, they are not able to live a productive life: “Having a sense of purpose is crucial in times like these, and meaningful things that can be done right now are making masks, sending thank you notes and any other act to express appreciation. Not only will this give a feeling of purpose to the creator, but the product will go toward fighting against COVID-19.”

Dr. Gerard Clancy, TU professor of community medicine, added five other ways that people who are not serving on the front lines of COVID-19 can help. According to Clancy, staying home is the best way to support medical care workers. “The one thing I’m hearing over and over again from leadership in the health care system and physicians is, ‘This is real. If you want to help us, stay home and slow the spread of this virus,’” Clancy said.

For people with extra medical supplies, donating those to the health care system can meet the serious demand. People with the ability to make supplies also is very beneficial. “Every mask, every face shield, every pair of gloves helps a great deal,” he said.

When it comes to interacting with health care workers, Clancy says it is important to understand what they’re going through: “They’re working shifts after shifts. They’re working tons of hours, they’re exhausted, they don’t have the supplies they need and they’re vulnerable to becoming traumatized. Any kind of support you can offer them would be appreciated, but some of the best ways involve listening to them talk about what they’re going to if they want to share but not forcing them to talk about anything if they don’t. Getting a good meal in front of them can go a long way, as well. Good food tastes even better to them, at this point.”

While first responders and health care workers are fighting what is probably the most grueling war of their careers, applying these ideas from TU faculty will send a message to the heroes that they are not alone.

High school senior offered $2.5M in scholarships at 35 universities, chooses TU

Recent high school graduate Nicholas Tsahiridis of Branson, Missouri, has chosen to attend The University of Tulsa after earning more than $2.5 million in scholarship opportunities at 35 universities.

Nicholas TsahiridisTsahiridis is planning a career as a neurologist/neurosurgeon. His inspiration to pursue medicine comes from his younger brother who suffers from conditions including epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy and ADHD. “Because of him, I became interested in medicine. I want to help cure brain disabilities,” Tsahiridis said.

He committed to attending The University of Tulsa after meeting TU President Gerard Clancy during a campus visit this spring. Tsahiridis, who has decided to major in biology on a pre-med track, said he connected immediately with Clancy, one of only four physicians in the country who also serves as a university president.

“Dr. Clancy said he would help me in my medical career with recommendation letters and advice,” Tsahiridis said. “At a lot of universities, the president is not on everyone’s level, but I could tell he will be very helpful during my time at TU.”

Tsahiridis is wrapping up a successful experience at Branson High School after competing in three varsity sports, completing several advanced placement and honors courses and achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.

Before attending TU this fall, Tsahiridis will participate in Ionian Village, a three-week international summer camping ministry facilitated by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He looks forward to focusing on his academics while joining TU’s diverse community of students from all backgrounds and walks of life.

When asked why he applied to so many different universities, Tsahiridis said he wanted to set an example for high school students. “I wanted to show them that hard work pays off because if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”