Grebel alumni among COVID-19 frontline medical workers

Friday, May 29, 2020

At Grebel, we are so proud of the compassion, skills, and dedication of our alumni. We know that frontline workers in healthcare have been working ceaselessly during this current global pandemic. Thank you to all who have been taking care of vulnerable people and keeping our communities safe. Here are a few updates from Grebelites on the frontlines. We’d love to hear from more of you! You’re welcome to send us your update to

Mike Groh (Grebel 80-81) writes:

Mike stands with a videoscope station and holds a toolbox while dressed in protective equipment. He is about to assess a patient with suspected COVID-19All is going well in Tecumseh.  Eleanor is busy at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital and I’m still crossing the border to get to work at Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. The border is easy as there are only a few essential workers ( nurses and healthcare professionals who have been deemed essential by the US and Canadian governments) crossing in the morning. Typically I’m the only car in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel at 05:45 in the morning. Our hospital is starting to open up to elective surgery after having been closed down by COVID-19 for only emergency services. At one point we were probably at 90% COVID-19 occupancy.

We were also hit pretty hard by the virus. About 25-30% of the Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiologists were out with COVID. Everyone is back to work at this point but some were pretty sick. Here are a few pictures for you. That’s me all garbed up to head up to an in-patient unit for an intubation of a suspected COVID-19-positive patient. I’ve got my toolbox and my videoscope ready to go. The other is a typical daily crew of Nurse Anesthetists with a message that we sent out on social media. Feel free to post either or both.

Mike stands in a group picture with the health team, each dressed in scrubs holding up paper that says "we stay here for you. Pleas stay home for us."

Jay Green (BSc 2002) writes: 

Jay takes a picture of himself wearing protective equipment at ths hospital. including a yellow face mask and clear goggles.

I am currently working as an emergency physician and the chief of emergency medicine in Kitchener. This pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for me and my family. It has required seemingly countless hours of preparation and planning to ensure that we are keeping our patients and staff safe. I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing team of colleagues and friends who are a daily encouragement as we weather this storm. I, like Brenda, am married to a former Grebelite (Sharon (McCullough) Green), who is an occasional teacher and currently has her hands full managing our kids learning at home as well as dealing with my rather unpredictable schedule.Jay Green stands at a swing set with his wife and two kids. They wear black shirts that promote flattening the COVID-19 curve.

Jason Booy

Jason Booy (BSC 2008) writes:

As a Family Doctor in Toronto my clinic has been doing our best to keep our patients safe by using virtual care as much as possible. We have had a difficult time ensuring sufficient protective equipment for our staff, but I am so proud of our team for their dedication and ingenuity during this time. We also had the experience of reversing roles to become hospital patients ourselves since, to our great joy, our daughter was born right in the middle of this pandemic.


Art Winter takes a photo of himself wearing a full face shielf and mask in his hospital setting.Art Winter (BSc 2005) writes:

I continue to work as a community family physician in Kitchener, though my routines have changed dramatically. I primarily do visits by phone, with a small number of in-office visits every week. When I am there, we are taking every precaution possible and I end up looking like this! Local volunteers have contributed caps and gowns for us to use in the office, which has been greatly appreciated.

Brenda (Shantz) Prins (BSc 2002) who is on our alumni committee shared the following:

I am working as a Nurse Practitioner at St Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener on the inpatient cardiology unit. It has been challenging as we make adjustments to ensure the safety of our patients and ourselves but it has been a privilege to receive notes and thoughts of gratitude from friends, family, my community and beyond.

Brenda is photographed in a nursing station wearing yellow protective gowns with a face mask, goggles and gloves.


Esther takes a selfie of herself wearing goggles over glasses, a blue mask, and scrubs.

Esther Willms (BSc 1981) writes:
As a midwife we have had to make adjustments, wearing PPE, ensuring safety in all settings whether clinic, home, hospital or birth centre. But at the time of a baby’s birth that all falls away as we welcome the new baby to their family.


Ryan Petryschuk (BSc 2011) writes:

My name is Ryan Petryschuk and I work as a Pharmacist at a couple Remedy's Rx Pharmacies in Kitchener. Every day has been interesting as we try to manage our drug supply, figure out which services we provide are essential and make sure that people who are quarantined have everything they need. It has been nice to see that most people have been understanding of the changes that have been required in our day to day operations including reduced quantities of medication. I hope that everyone continues to work together as we continue through this challenging time. 

Ryan stands in a pharmacy and wears a blue mask


Hannah Snider stands on a balcony overlooking waterlooHannah Snider (WLU 2003) writes:

I am a family physician with a focused practice in mental health and functional medicine.  

My role within this crisis has been in support of the mental health implications.  My practice changed from meeting in person to meeting almost exclusively virtually (either via telephone or video).  I see patients for individual appointments, and run two forms of group psychotherapy - Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Whole Health for Mental Health, a program I created to help address mental health from a whole person (body and mind) perspective.

Both of these groups have continued to run virtually throughout this crisis.  Participants have described these as being important supports during a time that for many is resulting in increased anxiety, re-triggering of past trauma, and loneliness/isolation.  

I have also started a new weekly support group for patients whom are looking for additional support during this challenging time.

It has been challenging to navigate new technologies and approaches to virtual based mental health care and has been frustrating to advocate for government recognition of the importance of this.  Joys and hopes are also abundant - I feel continually privileged to be a part of patients' journeys, and to be witness to the incredible resilience that exists within us all, even through a challenge such as COVID19.

Alina BalzersonAlina (Balzer-Peters) Balzerson (BA 2012) writes:

I am working as a Midwife out of Grand River Hospital and in the community. Everyone in healthcare has had to make adjustments to ensure the safety of our patients and ourselves. It's a challenging time to become parents, but many are rising to the occasion and are very happy to assist with preventative measures, such as mask wearing and visit adjustments. I'm really proud of the way everyone has responded and our clients are thankful they can still receive the care they deserve. 

Matt Snider (BSc 1999) writes:

Matt SniderI am an Orthopaedic Surgeon in K-W working primarily at Grand River Hospital and MSK Centre. The cancellation of all elective surgeries has had a major impact on our patients and worsened already long waiting lists. Providing emergency orthopaedic surgical care (fractures and infections) has meant seeing the transition in the operating rooms to COVID-19 protocols for emergency and elective surgeries.

With most of our surgery days cancelled it has provided an opportunity to develop programs for virtual patient care and to advance our rapid recovery and early discharge programs after joint replacements. Exciting changes that will hopefully improve our ability to catch up on the cancelled backlog.

In these unprecedented times it has been great to see our community and health care system adapt and to be able to still look after each other.

Alisa MacBride Smith (BES 2001) writes:

Alisa wears her protective equipment at the hospitalAlisa and her husbandI'm working as a registered nurse in the inpatient oncology program at Grand River Hospital. I am fortunate to be able perform the same role and provide the same care as pre-covid, albeit with a whole lot of extra gear and new routines. This has been a challenging time for the members of our community who are admitted to the hospital, facing their own personal health problems without the physical support of family members in the hospital. I'm touched at the way people are finding creative ways to care for their loved ones in hospital from a distance, and I'm also touched by the outpouring of support from the community for those of us working on the front lines.

Gina Nighswander DriedgerGina Nighswander Driedger (2004-2008) writes:

I continue to be a proud nurse at Sick Kids in Toronto. This has been an incredibly stressful time to be in healthcare as I worry constantly about bringing COVID home to my family... but my love for, and duty to my patients, our families, is stronger than my fear. Love will always trump fear. “Our” kids need us, so we show up every day, and risk it all to help them.

Through all our gear, we still listen to teddy bears’ chests, sew up broken stuffies, use our stethoscopes to find the “drum beats” (heart beats), “tickle armpits” (temperature checks), use “Elsa spray” (freezing spray) to make them brave for IV insertions, fix “ouchies,” put on bandaids (whether they’re needed or not) and all the stuff that goes with working in paediatrics. All that doesn’t change, despite the pandemic.

We are fortunate right now to have enough PPE, although they’re being rationed beyond what is safe/ideal. We are grateful to have the masks, gloves, and gowns we need. We are also fortunate that children don’t seem to be hit as hard by COVID but we are cautious at what will come in the months to come.

I pray everyone else stays safe, and healthy in these uncertain times. I especially think of my fellow frontline workers. Sending big love your way!

  1. 2021 (26)
    1. June (1)
    2. May (4)
    3. April (5)
    4. March (5)
    5. February (5)
    6. January (6)
  2. 2020 (51)
    1. December (2)
    2. November (2)
    3. October (5)
    4. September (3)
    5. August (4)
    6. June (2)
    7. May (5)
    8. April (11)
    9. March (5)
    10. February (5)
    11. January (7)
  3. 2019 (19)
    1. December (1)
    2. November (2)
    3. October (1)
    4. September (6)
    5. July (1)
    6. June (1)
    7. May (3)
    8. April (2)
    9. March (1)
    10. February (1)
  4. 2018 (25)
  5. 2017 (26)
  6. 2016 (24)
  7. 2015 (31)
  8. 2014 (24)
  9. 2013 (25)
  10. 2012 (14)
  11. 2011 (25)
  12. 2010 (8)
  13. 2009 (14)
  14. 2008 (7)
  15. 2007 (13)
  16. 2006 (6)
  17. 2005 (11)
  18. 2004 (14)
  19. 2003 (4)