Duggan leads medical team to keep district safe

District+Wellness+Coordinator+Mary+Ellen+Duggan+explains+how+COVID+testing+is+done+through+the+schools+new+pool+testing+service.

Annabella Ferraiuolo

District Wellness Coordinator Mary Ellen Duggan explains how COVID testing is done through the school’s new pool testing service.

Sahana Sivarajan, Staff Writer

District Wellness Coordinator Mary Ellen Duggan is working to keep our community safe from COVID-19 one step at a time.

With the help of many others, Duggan has had a tireless year of keeping students and staff in the district’s schools healthy, but says the hard work has been worth it. She can’t wait for normalcy, but believes there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s definitely been a challenging year, but it’s a challenge with rewards,” Duggan said.

When Duggan was young, she wanted to be a teacher, but by her junior year of college, she knew nursing was the right path for her. Being a school nurse and now working as a wellness coordinator combines things she loves most: teaching and nursing.

In July 2019 Duggan took on the new role of Wellness Coordinator, in which she educates community members on topics regarding physical and mental health. Before she had time to plan, the mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus struck the community, but she had no idea the coronavirus was next.

When we had EEE, that was our first hurdle, and then little did we know that was going to be nothing in comparison to what was around the corner in March,” Duggan said.

Duggan is proud of going through what she has thus far with COVID-19 and still is standing strong. Duggan says her biggest challenge is that people are really anxious about things which scientists don’t know the answers to yet. Duggan says she and her team have learned a lot over the course of the pandemic.

“Some of the things we had started out [with] sounded good on paper, but then when we went to put them into practice, I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s not gonna work,’” Duggan said.

School nurse Heather Allen said Duggan really helped the nursing team during this challenging time. Allen believes they could not have gotten this far in controlling the spread of COVID-19 without Duggan.

“It’s not just that she’s doing [testing and distributing all the tests] for our school; she’s doing all this stuff for all the schools in the district which is a huge undertaking for just one person,” Allen said. 

Overall, Duggan has learned a lot from COVID-19 and says she has had the opportunity to work with many knowledgeable people. Still, she believes the effort was not just her’s but the entire school’s to keep students safe and healthy.

“I don’t really think for this situation it’s just one person that makes the impact, it’s an entire team of people who have gone out of their way to put in tireless effort,” Duggan said. “Everybody jumped in and said, ‘Okay, this is what we have to do in order to make this building safe and in order to be able for everybody to be in school.’”