Free Coffee | Beaufort County Now | ECU student groups thank ‘health care heroes’ with free coffee

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Rob Spahr.

Clarance Phillips serves coffee to ECU health care faculty, staff and students outside of the Brody School of Medicine on March 23. | Photos: Cliff Hollis

    For more than a year, the students, faculty and staff on East Carolina University's Health Sciences Campus have been faced with an unprecedented set of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Adapting to constantly evolving instructional guidelines and clinical experiences. Adhering to the strictest of safety guidelines so they did not endanger themselves while they cared for their patients. And constantly worrying if returning home from simply doing their job or pursuing their education would put their own loved ones at risk from the deadly virus.

    The challenges presented by the pandemic were not isolated to health care workers, they were felt across the university.

    But on Tuesday morning there was a warm reminder that at even though ECU's students are spread across different campuses, they all represent the same Pirate Nation.

    That reminder came in the form of free cups of Starbucks coffee.

Coffee is served from a Starbucks truck at the Brody School of Medicine on March 23 as part of a student-led initiative to thank health care faculty, staff and students.
    As students, faculty and staff from the Brody School of Medicine arrived at the front of building for the day, they were greeted by a large Starbucks truck with a sign reading "Thank You to Our Health Care Heroes!!"

    The free cups of coffee were courtesy of a partnership between ECU's Student Activities Board and Student Government Association aimed at warming the hearts of health care personnel one Cup of Joe at time.

    "Main Campus doesn't get to see everything that happens on the health sciences campus and at Brody," said Lilah El-Halabi, president of the Student Activities Board. "We're making sure to show them appreciation for all of the work that they're doing, so they know that they're not alone and that we're still thinking about them."

    This was the second of three stops for the Starbucks truck as part of the "Health Care Heroes" initiative to thank ECU's health care faculty, staff and students. The first stop was at the Student Health and Counseling Center on Main Campus and the final stop will be from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. on April 6 in front of the College of Nursing and College of Allied Health Sciences.

    "Especially with the pandemic going on, all of the people over on the health sciences campus are out there helping protect us, helping us to stay safe. ... Sometimes it might go unnoticed, but I think the general population needs to understand what these people are doing for us," said Tucker Robbins, president of the Student Government Association.

    "So anything we could do to show our appreciation to them, even if it was just a cup of coffee, we thought it would make their day a little bit brighter, at least off to a better start," he added. "Because who doesn't love coffee? And who doesn't love Starbucks coffee? And who doesn't love a free cup of Starbucks coffee?"

"Especially with the pandemic going on, all of the people over on the health sciences campus are out there helping protect us, helping us to stay safe. … Sometimes it might go unnoticed, but I think the general population needs to understand what these people are doing for us."
  – Tucker Robbins, SGA president

    Third-year medical students Spencer Bell and Veronica Lavelle said they arrived at Brody extra early on Tuesday morning because they were excited to get the free coffee.

    "Obviously everyone has had a tough year, there's been a lot going on for everybody — not just us," Bell said. "Just knowing that people are thinking about us is really special to us."

    Lavelle said the third-year medical students have spent the last year witnessing the hard work and sacrifice that ECU's residents and soon-to-graduate fourth year medical students put in during the pandemic.

    "We've be trying to build up and get ready to do that ourselves, so it means a lot that people appreciate what we're doing and want us to have a good morning," she said.

    While many would consider Dr. Robert Frere a front-line worker, the clinical associate professor in Brody's Division of Neurology is quick to point out that the doctors who worked in the intensive care unit throughout the pandemic and other health care workers "who have really been on the front lines" deserve most of the credit.

    But the warm cup of coffee on a cold and rainy morning was still greatly appreciated.

    "It's been a tremendously difficult year. There's no one that this hasn't affected in one way or another," said Frere, whose neurology practice had to completely change how they treated patients due to the pandemic. "I think this was a wonderful way for them to recognize and extend thanks for everything we've all gone through in the past year."
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