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Alumni on the Frontlines: The Stovicek Sisters, Class of 2009

Nadia, Alexandra (Zandy) and Olivia Stovicek, all class of 2009, have been contributing to relief efforts in a number of ways. Nadia is involved with the State of Maine’s government, Zandy is working with COVID-19 patients as a registered nurse and Olivia is part of a research team analyzing blood samples of those who have been diagnosed with the virus.

NADIA works for the State of Maine’s government, specifically as a Legislative Aide to the State Senate Democrats. Maine’s legislature was tasked with producing and passing bills related to this pandemic before they adjourned early due to the crisis. Now out of session, the senators’ roles are multifold: advocating for different policies to the governor’s administration, which issues executive orders; supporting their constituents in this time of crisis, by helping them understand state and federal policies; and making sure factual information is disseminated to the general public. Nadia is the eyes and ears for these senators. Right now, she speaks directly with constituents about their questions related to unemployment benefits for their small businesses and writes press releases, columns and other material on the senators’ behalf to educate their constituents about executive orders or guidance from the Maine CDC. Nadia recently drafted a state senator’s letter to

Maine’s governor about obtaining hazard pay for first responders. She maintains strong communication with her senators and the federal delegation to ensure that lawmakers are employing the right strategy to help the most Mainers.

“Most days, sitting at my makeshift desk in my apartment in Portland, life seems surreal. I’m used to driving to the State Capitol every day and walking on the marbled floors and past the hallowed halls of the Maine State House. Everyone has had to make adjustments to their previous circumstances, but I’m glad I can continue to support Mainers, help my senators advocate for policies to help those in need and ultimately shepherd Maine to becoming a safer, and stronger, state.”

ZANDY is studying to become a certified nurse- midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner at Yale School of Nursing (YSN). She became a licensed registered nurse in August 2019 after completing the first year of her three-year program. Zandy is now working with COVID-19 patients at Yale New Haven hospital. At the outset of this pandemic, YSN classes moved online, and Zandy was staying busy in the clinical world, working part-time at Planned Parenthood, a job that is still going strong at this time as an essential service. She spent time in a call center role discussing patients’ test results with them and the also spent time taking care of patients. After graduating a year from now, she will commence a three-year commitment working as a midwife in an underserved community in the US as part of the Nursing Corps of America.

“One of the odd perks of being an RN at this time is that I find myself more employable. While my clinical rotations are postponed and classes move online, my classmates and I have been getting hired for temporary jobs we could never imagine ourselves doing a few months ago. It has been humbling to see the effects of COVID-19 close up and I’m so proud to be a small cog in the healthcare team.”

OLIVIA works in an immunology laboratory at the University of Chicago. Usually the lab studies antibodies to the flu with the goal of creating a universal influenza vaccine, but in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lab has pivoted to focus on the novel coronavirus. Olivia is conducting experiments to determine whether blood samples contain antibodies to proteins from the virus and to learn more about the antibodies, which will help us understand how many people have been exposed to the virus without being diagnosed and which proteins might be good targets for a vaccine. She is also researching whether it is feasible and safe for recovered COVID-19 patients to donate blood plasma to be used as an experimental treatment for people who are still sick. When not working in the lab, Olivia is one of the editorial directors of COVID-19 coverage at a local nonprofit newspaper, the South Side Weekly, where she is a senior editor. The newspaper’s staff is working to address the information needs of people who live on the South Side of Chicago during the crisis.

“Right now, work in the lab is a sprint. Each member of the team is tackling a different piece of the research puzzle, often working late or unusual hours to get as much done as possible while keeping the number of people present small enough for social distancing. It’s taken some time for me to adjust to diving into a new project with old routines thrown out the door, but I’m so glad that my work—both in research and in journalism—is able to respond directly to the crisis and start the wheels turning to help get people through.”

This article was originally published in the 2020 Spring issue of SCOOP Magazine.