Hunsung Heroes

We are proud of the many members of The Hun School Community who faced the COVID-19 challenge head-on. Whether they were caring for patients in hospitals, working to ensure the availability of vital technology and medical devices, or advocating for mental health during these unprecedented times, our Alumni have been on the front lines since the very beginning. We are honored to celebrate them in this series, aptly titled Hunsung Heroes.

If you know of someone we should highlight, please email Nancy DePalma

Hunsung Heroes: Memphis Madden ’11

Sometimes, the path envisioned is not the path taken. That certainly holds true for Memphis Madden ’11, who initially planned a career in neurosurgery in a big city. “Toward the end of my undergraduate studies, I started to get into other disciplines like sociology and anthropology and realized that I enjoyed the cultural and community aspects of health more,” she explains.

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What about the mental health toll of COVID-19? Dr. Michael Axelrod ’89 is tackling it head on.

Dr. Michael Axelrod ’89 has almost three decades of experience in the mental health profession. As a child clinical psychologist, school psychologist, and now as a professor at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, his background in mental health and research lends a unique perspective on the current COVID-19 crisis. While most have been preoccupied with the physical toll inflicted by the virus, there is another very real danger—to mental health.

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Jason Applegate

Jason Applegate ’15 has seen firsthand the impact a nurse’s care has on sick patients. “I grew up visiting my mom (Diane Applegate, now The Hun School’s Director of Health Services) in the hospital,” explains Mr. Applegate. Watching her in action inspired him to follow in her clog-supported footsteps, first to Villanova University and then into nursing. “I always knew I wanted to help people,” he says.

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For Janine Cadet ’13, the Connection is Loud and Clear

Janine Cadet ’13 knows what isolation and loneliness can do to a person. As a second-year medical student at USC, she recently conducted research into how social isolation affects healthcare and healthcare systems. Her timing may have been eerily prescient, since she never knew she would see her research come alive in front of her. “We have been hearing so many stories of how people are isolated because of COVID-19 and though it is necessary, it’s heartbreaking for the patients and their families,” she says.

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Hunsung Heroes: Kaley Wills '13 Fights the Good Fight...with a Little Help from Hun Friends

“The number of patients we have coming in with symptoms, the amount of PPE we have, it changes every day. There is a greater need for flexibility than ever before.” While her time in the ER has prepared her well for the unpredictability of the situation, the severity has not been lost on her. “I remember when we first intubated a COVID patient. I was terrified, even though we intubate all of the time. We’ve all seen it on the news, but then you realize that this is going to hit us hard.”

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Lilly in scrubs

While Ms. Wirpsza is concerned about patients and her colleagues, she also believes in silver linings. “As a nurse, I am a firm believer in preventive care and now really is a great opportunity for taking a look at yourself. If you’re borderline diabetic, it’s time to change your diet. We’re all adopting better hygiene and cleaning habits at home, and maybe even getting more exercise. That really is a good thing for society.”

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Hunsung Heroes: Tali Weinstein ’16

Tali Weinstein ’16 is a mechanical engineering student at Rochester Institute of Technology. His current co-op placement is at Teknic (a manufacturer of industrial brushless servo motors), where he works on a variety of projects to improve the manufacturing process of advanced servo motors. Of course, that was before COVID-19 reached the U.S. and Teknic received a call from DigiKey and Steve Richardson, MD, (a Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology Fellow at the University of Minnesota Medical School) regarding a prototype of an ambu bag robot.

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