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Alumna Spotlight: Mary’s Center Chief Nursing Officer Helps Lead COVID-19 Response

April 3, 2020 – Nurse leader Dara Koppelman (G’18) received her master of science degree in health systems administration at the School of Nursing & Health Studies. For several years, she has served as the chief nursing officer of Mary’s Center, a well-known network of community health centers founded and led by Georgetown BSN alumna Maria Gomez (NHS’77). “As nurses,” Koppelman says, “we know that times of crises are when we need to shine most.” She took some time to share her thoughts on the COVID-19 response.

A head shot of Dara Koppelman in front of trees
Dara Koppelman (G’18) is the chief nursing officer of Mary’s Center.

Question: Tell us how the nursing team at Mary’s Center has responded to the pandemic.

Koppelman: It has been so amazing to see our staff step up to the plate. We have completely changed all of our workflows in less than two weeks’ time. Not only has everyone been flexible to the changes, but they have shared ideas, creativity, resources, and more time than I’d like to admit. Mary’s Center is working to conquer this crisis head on and continue to serve our community in new ways.

Question: How have Georgetown and the center’s values informed your approach to this historic public health crisis?

Koppelman: As a Georgetown alum and a Mary’s Center employee, I am so honored to serve my community, to be part of an amazing team, and to be able to be innovative in the ways that we do this.  Georgetown’s value of caring for the whole person is inherent in Mary’s Center’s social change model, and we continue to achieve this even during this time of crisis. We continue to provide health services, social services, and educational services to help our community thrive.

Question: How have you, as a nurse leader, approached this truly extraordinary time?

Koppelman: As nurses, we know that times of crises are when we need to shine most. This isn’t the time to be afraid or tired. All of us are working around the clock and using every creative fiber in our brains to think of new solutions to new problems. 

I continue to be inspired by my amazing team, and it’s really been so wonderful to know that we’re all working hard at this together. I think it’s really important during normal times, and especially so during crises, to make sure to hear the concerns and ideas of your staff and to keep them as informed as possible. We have been having daily virtual meetings with leadership teams and weekly virtual town halls with all of our staff to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and that all are kept as up to date as possible.  

Question: Anything else you might like to highlight about the nursing team and colleagues across Mary’s Center’s network?

Koppelman: I can’t say enough how amazing our team is.  Everyone is so dedicated to serving our participants and our community, and it is truly beautiful to see.  People have been so creative and generous, from donating items from their homes, creating educational videos for our students and even our staff, and helping in ways that we probably couldn’t have dreamt up 2 months ago.

We have a wonderful team at Mary’s Center who continues to be committed to serving our participants’ needs, despite the challenges we are facing. I am hopeful that when we ‘go back to normal’ we will be able to incorporate these newfound methods into our normal practice, and we will be able to serve our community even better than we were before.

Editor’s Note: Visit Mary’s Center’s website to learn more. Gomez is also a visiting distinguished professor at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, and Koppelman is a clinical instructor at NHS. The NHS Committee on Mission and Values is currently supporting a Virtual Community Service Initiative with Mary’s Center to provide needed items for individuals and families via Amazon.com. Visit the center website to learn more. Q&A by Bill Cessato, who co-chairs the Committee on Mission and Values.

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COVID-19