Students Send Heartwarming Messages, Care Packages to Frontline Workers

Two health care workers in scrubs and masks hold up colorful care packages

Rush Medical College student Sanket Aggarwal remembers how impressed he was by the perseverance of the nurses who helped him adjust to COVID-19 protocols during his clinical rotation this past year.

That’s partly why he and other student leaders and groups across Rush University created care packages, including encouraging messages, for clinicians at Rush who are treating patients who have COVID-19.

“Due to the length of the pandemic and the political climate drawing attention away, sometimes we lose sight of how much we owe to frontline clinical workers,” Aggarwal says. “We wanted to do something to alleviate the stress they face.”

Two students assembling care packages hold up notecards

Aggarwal and fellow third-year medical student Christi Brown, who are co-presidents of the student group Do No Harm, kick-started an idea that grew to include seven other student organizations spanning each of Rush University’s four colleges. Together they raised money for roughly 1,000 care packages, which include wellness items like stress balls, lip balm, lotion, tea and candy.

Each care package contains a card with encouraging messages written by Rush students, who assembled and handed out the kits to the nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and other clinicians who have been caring for patients with COVID-19.

“Thank you for your dedication and service to the medical field. You are truly making a difference in the fight against COVID, and we as students look up to you!”

- Christi Brown, third-year Rush Medical College student

“We have to take care of frontline workers,” says Brown, who developed the idea for the wellness packages. “They’re crucial for making sure our patients are safe and healthy. The pandemic has been here for a long time and the numbers are getting bigger, but our frontline workers are still going.”

Two people wearing masks push carts through a hospital corridor

Team effort

Brown and Aggarwal first estimated they would have enough resources for 200-300 care packages, but they reached out to other organizations and the interest around campus grew. That included assistance from Rush Wellness and Bryant Adibe, MD, chief wellness officer at Rush.

“Everyone was eager to help,” Brown says. “It really shows that our students are thinking of our frontline workers. It’s not an easy job.”

“Not only have you worked tirelessly to help patients in the COVID units but you’ve also been a role model and asset to students such as myself. Thank you for persevering, thank you for staying strong, thank you for being YOU!”

- Sanket Aggarwal, third-year Rush Medical College student

Brown worked with the Office of Student Life and Engagement to pick up deliveries and store items for the care packages at her home. Then, during the winter break Brown single-handedly assembled 700 care packages herself to accommodate the University’s social distancing guidelines before taking them all to the University for distribution to frontline workers.

Two seated nurses wearing scrubs and masks hold up colorful care packages

Brown and Aggarwal, who managed the budget and item inventory, credit Shobha Rao, MD, Do No Harm’s faculty adviser, for connecting students with University and Medical Center leadership as they were trying to figure out how to complete the project. They also praised University staff members Kapula Patalinghug, Graham Davis, Melissa McCrary, Justin Sapp, Ahad Bootwala and Kamran Ali for supporting the project and providing help with logistics, from ordering items for the care packages and facilitating delivery to finding room to assemble the care packages.

The other student organizations at Rush involved are the American Medical Student Association, the American Medical Association, the Military Medicine Interest Group, the Physician Assistant Student Society, the Graduate College Student Council, the Student National Medical Association and RU Well.

“Knowing people were there to support us every step of the way was very reassuring,” Aggarwal says. “It’s pretty amazing to see how everyone came together. There was a spirit and determination to get this done, because we all feel strongly about showing frontline workers that we care.”