By Rebecca Roybal Jones

Pitching In

More Than $300,000 Donated to UNM Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

While physicians, nurses and staff have worked tirelessly to provide quality emergency and intensive medical care to patients whose lives have been affected by COVID-19, the UNM community has pitched in to support them. 

Since mid-March, UNM alumni and other New Mexicans have donated more than $300,000 to the UNM Hospitals Crisis Relief funds. The funds were created to support nurses, doctors and other frontline medical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Uher, vice president of development for the UNM Foundation, which raises money for the Health Sciences Center, says the funds were set up in response to the community’s needs, and to help providers and the hospital system.

The donated funds are being used for food and lodging for health care workers created by the crisis, as well as for equipment and supplies. A fund was also created for health care workers at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, as well as for HSC students facing numerous disruptions to their studies.

The foundation sent out email blasts to 110,000 UNM alumni, Uher says. “The response was just overwhelming,” he says. “It was just pretty incredible.”

About 500 donors contributed amounts from $5 to five figures, totaling more than $300,000, he says.

Some of the funds donated were used to purchase iPads for patients to use while hospitalized so that they could virtually visit with family and friends, Uher says. Visitors weren’t allowed to visit their loved ones earlier this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“If you think about being in the hospital and it’s scary and you don’t know what’s going to happen to you . . . it’s a great way to connect with family,” Uher says.

Sharie Rowland decided to make a donation to the crisis funds after seeing a news story on TV about the plight of health care workers not going home after their shifts to avoid passing the virus on to their families.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking care of us and risking your health to take care of us,” Rowland says.

She’s pleased to be one of the many people who were moved to donate to the cause in their own way, whether by writing a letter to nursing home residents or children setting up lemonade stands to raise money to supply health care workers with personal protective equipment.

“It’s a monumental joy for me to share what God has blessed me with,” Rowland says.

JoLou Trujillo-Ottino, vice president of sales and marketing for Delta Dental of New Mexico, says the hospital workers are awe-inspiring.

“They were working so hard to provide care,” she says. Some had to separate from their families . . . None of us thought it would last this long. The hospital workers have been vital to the recovery of so many New Mexicans.”

Trujillo-Ottino says the local nonprofit wanted to help pay for personal protective equipment and other supplies for hospital staff.

It’s not too late to make a contribution. To donate, visit the UNM Foundation website.

“Having our alumni step up and say they want to support the university – it’s so inspiring,” Uher says.


Categories: Community Engagement, Health, News You Can Use, Top Stories