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Occupational Therapy Students Organize Lunch Deliveries to Future Colleagues on the Front Lines of COVID-19

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Occupational therapists (OTs) are providing critical services in the face of COVID-19, helping recovering hospital patients regain physical and pulmonary function and cope with feelings of isolation and routine loss.

Eager to show OTs on the front lines of the pandemic that their hard work is appreciated and admired, students in the NYU Steinhardt Department of Occupational Therapy formed an NYU COVID “OuTreach” Team committed to spreading positivity throughout the profession.

“We felt a need for action,” said Gabby Francis (MS/OTD '21), who is joined on the OuTreach Team by Courtney Jacoby (MS '21), Dina Margulies (MS '22), Charlotte McGeever (MS '22), Joanna Pepino (MS '22), and Claire Winch (MS '21). “While we can't yet treat patients alongside our future colleagues or be there to support them in person, in true OT fashion, we got creative and explored remote options.”

Working in coordination with Department Chair and Associate Professor Kristie Patten, the OuTreach Team began conversing with OTs throughout New York City’s hospitals to find out how to best offer support. The first response came in from Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, suggesting that a donation of lunch would lift the spirits of their OTs.

Bellevue OTs gathered around a table with takeout food laid out on top.They are wearing scrubs and masks.

Occupational therapists at Bellevue Hospital posing with their lunch delivery from Eons Greek Food courtesy of the OuTreach Team.

To turn this request into a reality, the OuTreach Team launched a social media fundraising initiative, raising over $4,000 in the first week.

“Everyone's generosity in these trying times is truly astonishing,” Francis said. The group has since raised over $5,000.

Using these donations, the OuTreach Team organized a lunch delivery to 21 OTs at Bellevue from their favorite local Greek restaurant. The group also collaborated with students and faculty throughout NYU OT to create an accompanying thank you video and compilation of digital cards for the OTs.

According to OuTreach member Courtney Jacoby (MS '21), this delivery sparked additional opportunities for collaboration between the hospital and NYU OT. The OuTreach Team has since donated tablets with video capabilities to help Bellevue patients feel more connected to their families.

A screenshot of a Zoom meeting with NYU OT and Bellevue's OTS -- some are wearing medical masks.

NYU OT faculty, administrators, and OuTreach team members taking a photo with Bellevue's OTs after the Zoom insession.

To show their appreciation, Bellevue’s OTs offered to schedule a virtual session to share their experiences working with COVID-19 patients. Over 100 students joined the session to hear first-hand from their future colleagues about a range of topics, including how Bellevue’s OTs have adjusted their practices to mitigate COVID-19 exposure, preserve PPE supplies, and promote patients’ emotional well-being in an isolated environment as well as how their team takes time to decompress and problem-solve as a group.

“This was an incredible opportunity as Bellevue is one of the hospitals on the front lines, and for them to make time to teach us what it’s like to be an OT out there right now is beyond words,” Jacoby said.

The OuTreach Team has additional efforts in store, with lunch and dessert deliveries being organized for OT departments at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and conversations taking place with NYU Langone and Mount Sinai.

“We are also looking to buy lunches at even more hospitals outside of the Manhattan area, such as in Brooklyn or Queens,” Jacoby said. “The more money we raise, the more hospitals we can buy lunches for.” 


To get involved with the NYU COVID OuTreach Team, please email clj325@nyu.edu.

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