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FrontLine_600x300PABLO “PJ” VASQUEZ, MBA ’02

Coming off of his regular night shift for Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital, nurse administrator Pablo “PJ” Vasquez, MBA ’02, readied himself for an urgent COVID-19 reassignment. Vasquez had just agreed to lead the rapid development of a dedicated Highly Infectious Disease Unit, or HIDU, at Methodist’s Continuing Care Hospital in Katy. Less than a week later, the trusted operations manager had two of the three HIDUs up and running. The third unit, bringing the total number of beds to 65, remains an option should admissions spike.

Seeing the Clinical and Non-Clinical Picture

Vasquez said his MBA in Health Care Administration allows him to see the big picture in his field and bridge vital aspects of it.

“For every bedside provider like nurses, there are 10 non-clinical colleagues who support us,” Vasquez said. “I help to translate the clinical operation needs to the professionals who are behind the scenes making the operations happen.”

In the case of the HIDU project, Vasquez determined its scope, then calculated equipment needs and staffing numbers. He assembled and built a qualified, collaborative 100-member team.

Selecting Midwives to the Soul

Among highly skilled nurse volunteers, he chose those who also demonstrated comfort in their role as “midwives to the soul.”

“We knew that the caregivers in our unit would be called upon to help some patients with a dignified, peaceful transition as they passed away,” Vasquez said. “They would need to offer solace to the families.”

But nurses need support as well, and providing that support is one of his roles.

“In nursing leadership, I see staff as my patients,” he said. “I take care of them so they can take care of patients. I make sure they feel confident and have what they need.”

Ongoing Challenges & Heartening Observations

Going forward in these tender times, Vasquez acknowledges the hurdles. One is making sure that all equipment and supplies continue to be on hand when needed. Another challenge is dealing with the unknown.

“We’re still learning about COVID-19,” he said. “It would be great to know when we can confidently say that someone is no longer infectious. In South Korea, cases that went dormant have appeared to reactivate and become infectious again.”

And nobody can say how long the novel coronavirus battle is going to last. Still, Vasquez reports some heartening observations.

“The most surprising thing this pandemic has affirmed is the remarkability of human beings for our resilience and ingenuity and willingness to unite for a common cause.”

MBA @ UST // For information about the MBA program at University of St. Thomas, visit: stthom.edu/MBA

LAUREN FERNANDEZ-MILLER, BSN ’19

From the frontlines of COVID-19, nurse Lauren Fernandez-Miller, BSN ’19, jumped at UST’s offer to stay in campus housing. She had already moved in with friends to keep her immune-suppressed mother safe, but the thought of unwittingly taking COVID-19 to her new roommates was worrisome as well.

She cares for patients in a dedicated COVID-19 ICU at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in the Texas Medical Center. The beds are almost full. Most of the patients are on ventilators or sedated.

“I’m not nervous for myself,” Fernandez-Miller said. “I just don’t want to give it to someone else if I don’t feel any symptoms and transmit. With the UST dorm room, I can just stay in the dorm and go to work.”

Before she learned that the University was making 90 residence hall rooms available to staff at three area hospitals, Fernandez-Miller heard about medical colleagues who were shielding their loved ones by staying in short-term lodging like Airbnbs or having their children move in with grandparents.

IDEAL LOCATION NEAR TMC

Already fulfilling a regular shift in the medical battle, this bedside soldier sees the UST housing as a way for her to do even more.

“From UST, it only takes 10 minutes to get to the Texas Medical Center. Being so close to the hospital means I can put myself on the schedule for extra shifts to help out.”

Fernandez-Miller is grateful for the education and clinical training she received through UST’s nursing program.

Still in her first year as a registered nurse, she points out that 2020 was named Year of the Nurse by the World Health Organization.

“And what an extraordinary year it is to be recognized,” she observed.

DOING WHAT SHE LOVES

The young medical professional chose nursing because of her love of science and strong desire to directly help people who are sick. Those she’s caring for now are fighting for their lives.

ROOMS AVAILABLE: To find out more about UST’s dorm rooms for medical personnel, email: RoomsforHeroes@stthom.edu.

About the Author — Jamie Roark

Houston-based communicator Jamie Roark researches and writes articles using a blend of storytelling skills from her journalism background and her corporate PR experience. When asked, she even comes out from behind the computer screen. Jamie has advanced expertise in spoken communications and, through her firm Simply Communicate USA, is sought by companies on four continents to teach their key leaders how to be compelling presenters and crisis spokespeople.

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