University of South Florida


USF Heroes

Joshua Mizels

Joshua Mizels and USF Health faculty advisors established the Coco Clinic, an interdisciplinary  telehealth clinic that monitors COVID-19 positive patients who are self-isolating. The students are making daily follow-up phone calls to help assess their vitals using at-home medical devices, check on their mental state and address other needs. The clinic began in early April with all volunteers and now also fulfills the third- and fourth-year clinical education requirement, which has been restricted from all in-person interaction since mid-March.

Jessica Perez Maqueda

Jessica Pérez Maqueda rallied her family and friends together to personally purchase 1,000 face masks. She delivered them to Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton in response to the high demand for personal protective equipment. She moved to Tampa Bay from Spain in 2005, where she raised her two sons and worked at a child abuse prevention center and taught English as a second language in the School District of Manatee County. She expects to graduate with a degree in elementary education in spring 2021.

Meredith Mechanik

When USF announced it would be transitioning to remote learning for the remainder of the semester, Meredith Mechanik worried about how students could stay connected. So, she launched the College Pen Pal program. Since its March debut, Mechanik and her colleagues have formed matches between more than 1,600 participants from 100 different universities.

“While there is so much uncertainty right now, there has been comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together,” Mechanik said. “Regardless of location, major or university, college students around the world are having the shared experience of social distancing. We are so excited to see what kinds of connections and creative endeavors come out of this project.”

Stacey Struhar

Stacey Struhar has been interim director of the Tampa Feed-a-Bull Food Pantry for only four months and has stepped up at a time when visits have tripled. She has been tirelessly working in the pantry each day to ensure it remains stocked, there is adequate staffing, and bags of groceries are ready for students who need the assistance now more than ever. She has also coordinated with the President’s Office and the USF Foundation for fundraising and to host a food drive.

tracy Overstreet

Tracy Overstreet has been pivotal in the planning, coordinating and launch of the USF International Student Support Fund. The COVID-19 crisis has posed unique challenges to international students as they are not eligible for funds under the CARES act. Tracy and his team recognized this need and worked tirelessly with the USF Foundation to put together a Herdfunder in order to raise money that will have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of these students who are facing loss of income, homes and communication with their families.

Susan Perry, Marcia Johansson, Denise Maguire, Ann Joyce

This interdisciplinary team from the College of Nursing collaborated with the Tampa Police Department and the Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise to set up a COVID-19 donation giveaway where members of the Sulphur Springs community could drive through or walk up and pick up non-perishable groceries, toiletries and cleaning supplies. About 50 families in this under-served community received essential supplies. The college also coordinated the event with members of Abundant Life Church to ensure the community’s coronavirus needs were met.

Samuel Harris

Sam Harris was so impressed by Fresh Kitchen’s pick-up operation in South Tampa, he felt they’d be the perfect partner to run a mask drive. The third-year medical student contacted the restaurant group and arranged to have several of their locations collect mask donations. Harris plans to pick them up and inspect them for suitability, wash the masks, and ultimately redistribute them to high-risk patients and their families, including refugees and homeless patients from Tampa Bay Street Medicine and the student-run Refugee Clinic. In addition, Harris continues his volunteer work, distributing hygiene products and following up on his patients, while still maintaining restricted distance.

Avalon Jade Theisen

Avalon Jade Theisen has led a worldwide effort to create and deliver “Care Cards” to spread gratitude and kindness during COVID-19. The initiative is through her non-profit organization Conserve it Forward. The cards have been provided to hospitals, assisted living facilities, grocery stores and more. More than 5,000 have been delivered and are filled with nature-themed messages, artwork and photos. Theisen is the 2019 Miss University of South Florida. 

Ben Mittler

As Geographic Information Systems (GIS) manager, Ben Mittler has helped develop the Florida COVID-19 Hub, a resource guide to GIS data, mapping tools, news and related information concerning Florida's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This online, interactive platform includes local mapping in Tampa Bay at the zip code level, highlighting COVID-19 cases as the crisis unfolds. Mittler also has been collaborating with researchers in the College of Public Health and Muma College of Business on additional coronavirus research projects.

Marc Rosales

Following USF Health’s collaborative effort with Hillsborough County to establish three new COVID-19 testing sites, nursing instructor Marc Rosales became one of the first to volunteer. He collected as many as 100 samples a day. Rosales says there weren’t long lines for testing and the operation ran very smoothly. 

Amanda Sharp

Amanda Sharp has been leading outreach efforts in downtown Tampa to those who need assistance with clothing, food and personal hygiene. She’s gathered donations to assemble kindness bags filled with snack items, toothbrushes, socks and other hygiene products and has delivered them to the homeless community. This population has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 since many shelters, kitchens and food pantries are functioning at a lower capacity. This effort is part of Sharp’s “Human Kindness for Homelessness” initiative launched in December 2019.

Laura Sabella

When USF and K-12 classrooms transitioned to remote instruction, Laura Sabella was instrumental in ensuring education students who were completing their final internships in local classrooms stayed on-track to graduate this semester. This abrupt change in instructional delivery provided an opportunity for USF students to gain experience teaching online, but more importantly, allowed them to support overwhelmed K-12 teachers and provide continuity and stability to local school children. 

Samantha Motis

Samantha Motis volunteered to assist medical professionals in New York City, the hot zone of the pandemic. She worked 12-hour shifts for an entire month, treating coronavirus patients. Samantha has been a registered nurse since 2015. She is slated to graduate from the USF Nurse Anesthesia Program in December.

Jianca Reid

MPH student Jianca Reid is currently supporting COVID-19 response in Broward County where there are currently over 5,000 cases. In her role she assists Broward County residents with scheduling COVID-19 tests, assisting them with PPE applications, and contact tracing.

Elizabeth Dunn

USF College of Public Health instructor, Elizabeth Dunn, helped to address the COVID19 pandemic by volunteering at the Hillsborough County Medical Supply Procurement Warehouse working with a team to inventory PPE for distribution to health care providers.

USF IT Heroes

COVID-19 introduced a never before experience for USF Information Technology (IT). As the entire USF community transitioned to remote learning, IT went into overdrive delivering technology solutions within one week. Faculty began teaching students using technology tools supported by IT. Administrative staff began working remotely using technology devices connected from home to USF's enterprise applications. Doctors treated patients virtually using a telehealth solution created by IT. Apps were created to enable students to elect “pass/fail” for their courses, or to request financial assistance in their time of need. Every IT employee went above and beyond, devoting every hour of that first week of transition to enable academic and business continuity of the USF community.

Return to article listing