Olivia LaHaye is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate.
As our entire world is grasping the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare workers are putting themselves at the highest risk while fighting against this virus. Across the country, men and women in the healthcare industry are working long hours, spending time away from their families, and sacrificing their own safety for the greater good of our nation. Many of these healthcare workers are Ragin’ Cajuns working throughout the country. Each one plays a unique role in the fight against COVID-19. Even though they all are working in different aspects of healthcare, they share a connection to UL Lafayette. They are fighting each day for the health of our country.
The Alumni Association was lucky enough to interview three of our own: Mary Doucet, Skipper Bertrand, and Gene Kraemer.
Mary Doucet ’87 is currently working in New York City as a CJR Bundle Program Manager at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. As a licensed social worker by trade, Doucet has been redeployed to a regional hospital to work as a social worker during COVID-19. Doucet received a finance degree from the then University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1987. After dabbling in that profession, she decided to go back to school to obtain a master’s degree in the field of social work. As she pursued a career as a social worker, her life led her to New York City, where she ended up combining her skills from her undergraduate and graduate degrees to become a CJR Bundle Program Manager. “It was because of my finance degree from [UL Lafayette] that led me to get that position,” said Doucet.
As her day-to-day life has changed due to COVID-19, Doucet’s primary responsibility as a social worker is to contact the family members of current patients since they are not allowed any visitors at the hospital. “I’m mainly reaching out to family members to offer support and find out what we can do since they can’t visit their loved ones,” said Doucet. Even though her days have been difficult, Doucet finds positive moments throughout her day when she is able to help a patient successfully. “[I love] hearing the joy of families when they are so relieved that someone is reaching out to them,” said Doucet. Doucet is taking everything one day at a time during this crisis and is determined to help others through her impactful work.
Skipper Bertrand ’97 is working as an ER physician at Baylor Scott & White Health in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. As a proud graduate of UL Lafayette, Bertrand has taken his Ragin’ Cajun pride with him throughout medical school, residency, and now working as a physician in Texas. Bertrand finds that one of the hardest parts about working during COVID-19 is that it has completely changed how he practices medicine. “Having patients wear masks and gloves is a completely different way of working than ever before,” said Bertrand.
As his unit continues to adapt to the challenges of this pandemic, Bertrand is grateful for the support they have received from the community. “It has been phenomenal,” said Bertrand. His hospital has also been having celebratory parades every time a COVID-19 patient is discharged. Throughout these brighter moments, Bertrand has felt his community come together and encourages everyone to reach out to their friends and family that are first responders during this time.
Gene Kraemer is currently a student at UL Lafayette, as well as a medic in the Army National Guard. Kraemer initially felt the desire to serve after he witnessed the Army National Guard helping during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Presently, Kraemer is stationed in Westwego, Louisiana, working at a COVID-19 testing center with his unit.
Kraemer has been extremely busy working at the testing center. “Over the first few weeks, we did over 250 tests a day,” said Kraemer. One of the hardest parts of this whole experience for him has been being away from his family. However, Kraemer is proud of the work they are doing and the success of their testing center. “We are really on top of things,” said Kraemer. As our country continues our fight against COVID-19, Kraemer is hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that we will all get through this together.
These are a few of the many examples of Ragin’ Cajuns that are working the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are brave, strong, and resilient individuals who are putting their own lives at risk for the greater good of our community. Not only are they incredible people and proud Ragin’ Cajuns, but they are truly our healthcare heroes.
Photo caption: Signs like the one shown above at Lafayette General Medical Center have been placed at area hospitals by the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The signs are in place to praise healthcare “heroes” during the COVID-19 outbreak, and help generate community support. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette