Pulse

Chaplain’s Corner: 2 Years of COVID

The Rev. Daniel D. Warriner is UConn Health’s chaplain. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

Is there any way to recap these past two years? It’s hard to say. Yet, moments like this are necessary because acknowledging this benchmark is important.

Remember when we were just supposed to wait two weeks and everything would be alright? But then two years passed. Many got sick. Some recovered. Some died. Our patient care routines changed. Our lives changed.

COVID has impacted my entire life — all of it — mind, body, and spirit. COVID brought loss. My reaction to the losses from COVID brought grief. So it makes sense that I’m still grieving. I talk about grief a lot because it is all around us. How about you? As we emerge from pandemic life, could I encourage you to spend some time considering how COVID has affected you — mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually.

Your grief is necessary. However, if I’m honest with myself, tackling grief is often the last thing I want to be doing. It’s hard to make space to really sit with a loss. But even when it doesn’t feel productive and I’d rather not deal with it, going through the grief process is an absolutely necessary experience. Why? Because the reality is that you lost something and it hurts badly, and like any other injury, it needs to be addressed and tended to. If a cut gets infected when left untreated, how much more will our grieving, injured hearts cause us trouble if we don’t take intentional steps to heal after a season of loss?

yellow heartDo you know what happens to grief if you do your best to ignore or hide your pain? It listens to you and goes somewhere into the depths of your heart, where it transforms. It doesn’t go away, but rather gets balled up and tends to “leak” out in the form of anger, depression, or unhealthy habits. This is worse than the grief itself.

So, how do we care for our grieving hearts? Just like any other traumatic injury, we have to acknowledge it, find ways to rest, and patiently work through the steps of healing. Depending on the moment and the stage of grief, this might look like a conversation with a friend, prayer, taking a long run, reading a good book, going on a day trip, or talking with a counselor. These are small steps on the road of healing. They don’t take away what happened but they can help to move us forward in our journey.

Grief and loss have the power to define us, but they also have the power to spark growth in us. What may start off like a small seed in you can blossom, causing you to grow in ways you hadn’t imagined before. My hope is that we can navigate this path of grief with empathy, kindness, patience, and love — both for ourselves and for one another.

—Rev. Daniel D. Warriner, UConn Health Chaplain

Nancy Dupont Honored With Dr. Deckers Award

The 2021 Dr. Peter J. Deckers Employee Appreciation Award goes to Nancy Dupont, UConn Health’s epidemiology director.

Dupont was chosen among seven finalists, each of whom was featured in his or her own nomination video.

Stream the award presentation ceremony on Mediasite.

award presentationaward presentationaward presentationaward presentationaward presentationaward presentationaward presentationclose-up of hand medals

Also at this year’s celebration, as a culmination to our “Seasons of Gratitude” efforts in December, Dr. Andy Agwunobi, UConn Health CEO and interim University president, conducted a hand medal ceremony. The hand medal is a commemorative piece designed to honor the selfless service of the UConn Health workforce. Leaders across the organization are conducting medal presentations for their teams throughout the end of the year. In addition, the UConn Health community is invited to continue to post their sentiments of gratitude on our Wall of Gratitude.

 

Making Positive Changes in a Slow but Productive Way

Linda York portrait
Linda York is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UConn Health. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UConn Health, every day I am educating patients on their diet for various reasons.

Perhaps it’s how to eat a lower-fat, healthier diet to lose weight, how to eat a consistent carbohydrate meal plan to achieve better glucose control, or how to improve gastrointestinal symptoms by making dietary modifications. Whatever it is, it involves change. As we all know, achieving change can be overwhelming.

Why is that? In the Fogg Behavior Model explained in the book Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, author B.J. Fogg explains that there is a relationship between three factors: motivation, ability, and prompt. He explains that motivation can be on a scale of 0 to 10, and the higher your motivation the easier it is to do something. However, we need something to prompt us to do something. These prompts or cues for me could be that before I go downstairs, I bring my running clothes and sneakers so it is easy to put them on and do my morning run.

Another important point is to have specific little habits that you do which will add up to losing weight versus having a goal of just losing weight. An example could be, every time I sit down to eat I am going to drink 2 cups of water. This will fill me up and help me to eat less at that meal, and help me stay hydrated. Perhaps feeling good about drinking those 6 cups of water will help you to then eat at least half of the plate of veggies. One good tiny habit leads to the other.

How many times have you heard to do a half hour of aerobic exercise every day? Perhaps if you try to do a five-minute walk at the same time every day, you will be successful at being consistent in that five-minute walk and gradually will increase your walk to 10 minutes and so on until you get to your goal of 30 minutes each day. Eventually, walking for a half hour and drinking two cups of water before each meal will become a habit.

So next time you want to make a change such as learn a language, lose some weight, or become a better listener, break it down and achieve one tiny habit at a time.

—Linda York M.S., R.D., CDCES

Linda York is a Sodexo dietitian who works in the outpatient clinic at UConn Health.

Campus Safety Corner: Community Connection

Creating connections and engaging our community make up one of the cornerstones of our mission.

UConn Police Department group shot on Farmington campus
UConn police officers at the UConn Health campus for the Connecticut Special Olympics torch run June 2021. (Photo provided by Maggie Silver)

We understand the importance of human connection. As a police department, we try to find new and innovative ways to create new connections. We want to be part of our community and support the community in any way that leaves the community better.

Our officers know that giving back to the community is essential. Many of us do so by donating time, random acts of kindness, and helping others in need. We accomplish some of those goals by getting involved with many great organizations.

For example, we are strong supporters of the Special Olympics. This year, thanks to the hard work of Sgt. Dominic Nesci, the Law Enforcement Torch Run ran through our Farmington campus, with many officers participating, including Sgt. Nick Catania running in full uniform.

Chief Silver about to rappel down a 30-plus-story building
As a community outreach effort, UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver is taking part in a fundraiser for the Special Olympics by rappelling down a 31-story building at the Mohegan Sun Casino Sept. 3, 2021. Pictured here is the start of her descent in the same event in 2020. (Photo provided by Maggie Silver)

We also have conducted food drives, toy drives for DCF children, and stuff a cruiser with school supplies for inner city kids. For us, connecting with the community is a priority and hopefully we serve as a role model for others to join in helping.

It is also fun as it pushes us out of our comfort zone. Last year, I rappelled down 31 stories for “Over the Edge for Special Olympics of Connecticut” campaign. If you want to see some 2020 pictures go to my page. I also had a great group of people cheering me on and waiting for me at the bottom. I’m doing it again this year, on Sept. 3 — scary and fun but also a great way to support!

Take time to help each other. When we support each other, we succeed, we heal, we grow.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Campus Safety Corner: Report on Policing

Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver
UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

Our communities today, especially individuals of color, feel that the police are a threat to their well-being. We respect and recognize that the history of policing is tarnished with their role in perpetuating racial injustice. We recognize and ask for forgiveness for the role of policing in segregation, xenophobia, corruption, and encroachments on constitutional rights. These are unpleasant truths for all us in policing. We acknowledge the pain, frustration, and anger that our communities feel and the distrust they have for the police.  However, we ask for forgiveness and hope. We want to learn and improve. There over 900,000 police officers in this country. We recognize that there are bad apples but we ask for hope that most of us want to be a resource and supportive of our communities.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, UConn Health had an increased need for security.  To provide the care that our community needed without becoming a financial burden, I had officers from regional campuses as well as Storrs relocated to UConn Health. This provided essential security functions for our health care workers and supporting staff working around the clock to combat the pandemic. We were fortunate to have the resources to allocate due to the campus closure at the other campuses. Currently, we are in the process of returning those officers to their assigned campuses, which might have contributed to the perception that we have all these officers on the UConn Health campus.

Our officers also receive the same training and authority to protect and serve their community as every police officer/police department in the state. UConn Police officers receive annual training in use of force and de-escalation techniques. We receive extensive training that focuses on communication and the use of less lethal options that are available to the officers. Our officers are taught about constitutional rights and provided with legal updates to make sure they understand application changes in areas like the constitutional amendments, which are continually altered by case law. Just recently we had officers attending a class addressing “Crowd Management and Protecting Civil Rights.” We mandate all our officers to read all policies and procedures and to speak up if they have a concern.  The well-being of our community members and supporting the mission of UConn and UConn health is our priority.

Finally, the sad truth is that there are predators out there who will target the weak. Quantifying the prevention police officers have in their communities is impossible. We understand threats that exist and try to keep our community safe. For example, Federal Bureau statistics indicates that in the last 10 years, the United States averages approximately 20 active shooters per year and those numbers are on the rise. In the last 10 years, approximately 164 shootings have taken place in hospitals across the country. As a public institution, we are fully open to the general public.  We do not have the benefit to regulate access as private institutions. The freedom provided often comes with higher exposure.

The UConn Police Department values our community.  We acknowledge that change and transformation are always needed. We police with the consent of our community. We welcome our community as a partner and want them to hold us accountable. We work with our officers to ensure that they are not dehumanized by the uniform. We believe that ethical policing is essential and we focus on developing a policing culture that has a sense of ownership and loyal to every community member.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Campus Safety Corner: UConn Police Community Survey

Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver
UConn Deputy Police Chief Maggie Silver (Photo by Kristin Wallace)

Constructive feedback can be empowering and helpful for all of us to achieve our goals. While feedback when not delivered appropriately could develop hurtful feelings, it is vital to understand that feedback helps us progress. Developing critique sessions for yourself and/or your team takes practice. At first these sessions may seem time consuming but with patience and commitment, constructive criticism just makes you and the team stronger.

There a few guidelines to follow when exposing yourself and the team to constructive criticism. First, be transparent about your goals. Second, remember that disagreement on issues is not necessarily a bad thing. Difficult dialogue helps us understand other perspectives and grow. Third, create situations where feedback is exchanged, meaning those receiving feedback are willing to receive it.  Our goal is not to criticize but to analyze what can be improved, what is being done well, and identify actionable items for growth.

In the spirit of positive growth, the UConn Police Department is seeking our community’s feedback. We want to hear from you about what is being done right and what we need to improve. To achieve this, we invite all members of the community to provide feedback through our anonymous online UConn Police Community Survey. Your opinion matters. Our goal with the survey is to capture the attitudes and opinions of the community with respect to:

  • overall agency performance
  • overall competency of agency employees
  • citizens’ perception of officers’ attitudes and behavior
  • communication with the community
  • community concern over safety and security within the agency’s service area
  • citizens’ recommendations and suggestions for improvements

Completing this survey should take about 15 minutes and help shed light on how we can better assist our community. Find it at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R5RFHCJ.

Do you have a suggested topic for the Campus Safety Corner? Email your suggestion, with “Campus Safety Corner” in the subject line, to pulse@uchc.edu.

Looking at Us: Registered Dietitians

‘Changing the Way People and Patients Eat, One Plate at a Time,’ a perspective from UConn Health dietitian Linda York

Linda York portrait
Linda York is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at UConn Health. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

You have seen them around – perhaps in the NICU, on the medical floors, in the cafeteria, at medical meetings, education seminars, in the outpatient cancer center or diabetes nutrition clinic. Who are they? They are the registered dietitians of UConn Health, employed by Sodexo. (Sodexo is a worldwide food service company for hospitals, companies and other venues and has been at UConn Health for several years.)

March is National Nutrition Month so our Sodexo registered dietitians will be in the cafeteria featuring a weekly theme and a delicious recipe from Sodexo.  Chef Roland will prepare a sample of the recipe for you to taste.

Here is a summary of the weekly themes presented for National Nutrition Month.

Week 1: Kerry Coughlin, MSRD, kicks it off with “Smart Tips to Build a Healthy Salad.”

Week 2: Hannah Anctil, R.D., presents “Eating on the Run in 2021.”

Week 3: Erin McDonald, R.D., offers “Power Up Breakfast.”

Week 4: William Kelsey, R.D., features a cultural food theme.

National Nutrition Month 2021 logo
(provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

The other Sodexo registered dietitians at UConn Health who are working behind the scenes for National Nutrition month are Erica Burdon, MSRD, Chris Carnright, MSRD and myself.

And who keeps us all organized? That would be Melissa Kelly, MSRD, Sodexo hospital clinical manager, who not only manages the R.D. staff, she also offers her clinical expertise and guidance in all areas of clinical nutrition.

Be sure to check Lifeline for posts featuring the weekly recipe/handout done by our Sodexo registered dietitians.

And next time you see one of us, please say hello. We are here for you!

—Linda York MSRD, CDCES