man playing guitar with granddaughter

Feeding our healthcare heroes

April 28, 2020 | Greg Hardesty
Caregiver shops in the commissary UCI Health created for its healthcare workers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A UCI Health worker selects items at UCI Medical Center’s pop-up commissary, intended to make life easier for the 4,800 or so essential employees who report to the hospital campus in Orange. Photo by Carlos Puma for UCI Health

A section on the store shelf was empty. “We’re out of oatmeal raisin,” the store clerk said. “Do you want any of these other bars?”

“Yes, whatever you have,” the shopper replied.

The clerk, Ted Lee, was actually a volunteer stepping away from his usual job as an occupational therapist at UCI Medical Center. The shopper was Gladys Newbury, a UCI Health clinical social worker.

And the store was the lobby and a former conference room in Edward Shanbrom Hall on the medical center campus in Orange.

Since late March, Shanbrom Hall, home to the Surgical Education Center and numerous medical research offices, has also become a makeshift commissary where medical center staff can swing by during their shifts for a free bag of staples, including beans, rice, bread and — yes — toilet paper.

The idea for the commissary came from Chad T. Lefteris, the new CEO of UCI Health. He and other health system leaders had been thinking of ways to make life easier for the 4,800 people they call "healthcare heroes" who report to work each day at the medical center during the COVID-19 crisis.

UCI Health pays for the food and other essentials, although there have been some donations, said Jacklyn Yi, a UCI Health business analyst in procurement and contracting who also manages the commissary.

Newbury was visiting the commissary for the first time April 16 midway through her day shift. Among the items she picked up were pasta, toilet paper, fruit and snacks for her two children, ages 5 and 7.

“It’s great because I can come here during working hours,” she said while shopping. “I think it’s very generous for our university to have this.” 

Read more about about feeding healthcare heroes ›

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