Three graduate nursing students are among a group of 80 health care providers from the Northwell Health system who volunteered their services in Houston after Hurricane Harvey caused severe flooding and destruction that overburdened local hospital staff and severely limited access to regular medical care.
Christian Velez’18, Fereshta Azizy’20, and Meghan Ann Billia’19 – professional registered nurses who are pursuing master’s degrees at the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies – worked for a week earlier this month at MD Anderson Cancer Center, where they were assigned to a 48-bed oncology unit that provides novel cancer treatment for patients who no longer respond to conventional therapies.
“We were there to provide relief to the nursing staff who have been working tirelessly and nonstop during the hurricane,” said Velez. “They were really grateful to have us help in any capacity. As nurses, we are not strangers to lending out a helping hand and this was a great opportunity to help our fellow nurses in Texas.”
Velez and Azizy were among the first batch of 40 professionals – including nurses, physicians, technicians and other personnel – that Northwell sent to Houston beginning Sept. 4. Billia joined the second team of 40 the following week. More than 600 people within the health system initially responded to a call for volunteers.
Northwell Health President and CEO Michael J. Dowling notes that the health system is one of the largest cancer treatment providers in New York, with employees whose skill levels matched the need in Houston. In the past, Northwell Health has coordinated emergency responses locally to Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, and has also sent teams to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
Velez and Azizy, who work in North Shore University Hospital’s cardio-thoracic intensive care unit, are both pursuing a MS degree in Hofstra’s adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program. Billia works in medical oncology at Huntington Hospital, and is in the family nurse practitioner program.