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A Burning Desire To Help: Penn State Women’s Hockey Alum & Med School Student Finding Ways To Support Coronavirus Fight

A typical day for Penn State alumna and University of Minnesota Medical School student Laura Bowman begins at 7 a.m. with a Chobani yogurt parfait and a coffee to go. This routine is normally followed up by class from 8 a.m. until noon, followed by a workout and more classes or clinical in-person experiences until the day ends with some more studying and a bit of relaxation. 

Like millions of students across the world, Bowman, who plans to specialize in pediatric medicine, has needed to adapt to online learning due to the global coronavirus pandemic that has drastically changed every aspect of her normal routine. But she and her fellow medical students face the additional challenge of having the clinical aspect of their education stalled. 

With only virtual classes and in some cases standardized exam preparation to stay on top of, students like Bowman are left with time on their hands. Many are wishing that they too could join in the healthcare community’s effort to combat the virus. 

“It has been frustrating not being on the frontline, helping in the hospitals,” Bowman said. “We see people in the field sacrificing for the community, and have a burning desire to do the same.”

Two of Bowman’s classmates, determined to bring some normalcy back to daily life and aid their healthcare colleagues, founded a group called Minnesota CovidSitters. CovidSitters helps the families of health care providers by providing services like babysitting, pet sitting and grocery shopping. Students are grouped into “pods” of three to five and assigned to a family. Bowman said she was one of the first students to volunteer, and is currently babysitting for a family with two toddlers.

Bowman spends her time away from classes doing a variety of activities with the two children, including biking, making cookies, and completing puzzles. The group’s work has been highlighted as an example of medical students’ efforts to join the fight against coronavirus while clinical experiences remain on hold.  

“The CovidSitters team has been unbelievable through this whole experience,” Bowman said. “They started the group with the sole purpose of helping people. The family I babysit for is thankful for our help, and constantly reminds us how much of a relief having us is.”

CovidSitters has been diligent in taking all possible measures to prevent the spread of the virus and keep its volunteers and beneficiaries safe. Each group of students is assigned only to one family for precisely this reason, and Bowman echoed the importance of nation-wide social distancing efforts in slowing the influx of patients to already overwhelmed hospitals. 

 “Everyone has been very conscientious of preventing the spread of [COVID-19] and social distancing,” Bowman said, noting that if a volunteer or a member of the families they serve is exposed to the virus or shows symptoms, the service ceases until the individual has self-isolated for the appropriate amount of time. 

Bowman graduated from Penn State in 2017 as the women’s hockey team’s all-time leading scorer before continuing on to medical school. She said that her time in Happy Valley helped prepare her for the current moment. 

“My time at Penn State taught me resiliency and how to depend on my community,” she said. “These are good utilities to have during this pandemic.”

This sense of togetherness has carried over into the healthcare community that Bowman has entered since leaving Penn State, a community that she said is built on support and pride of helping others. Covidsitters reflects this philosophy, and Bowman said that a sense of community would be key to overcoming the pandemic itself. 

“It’s going to take sacrifice from everyone, and a lot of selflessness,” she said. “There are many people in my community giving and helping others. Seeing the effects of those acts of kindness makes me believe that they are the key to helping the country and the world get through this.”

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About the Author

Andy Mollenauer

Andy is a writer for Onward State, a senior majoring in journalism, and a die-hard Wisconsin pro sports fan despite being from our nation's capital. His taste in music is absolute garbage, ranging from Bon Jovi to Slipknot to Avril Lavigne. If you want to talk sports or share memes and cute photos of French bulldogs, email him at [email protected].

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