University of South Florida

Donation to USF will support new training program for nurses during COVID-19

The University of South Florida Foundation has received a generous $57,000 donation from Sarasota businessman David Kotok and his partner Christine Schlesinger to support the development and delivery of a new continuing education training program by the USF Health College of Nursing.  The program will help nurses stay safe while treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four-part educational series, “Frontline Nursing During COVID-19: A New Paradigm,” will be offered virtually to nurses locally, statewide, and nationally starting in early February.

Kotok said he was inspired to work with USF on this unique program after listening to a presentation by Usha Menon, interim dean of the College of Nursing, during a recent Sarasota-Manatee campus virtual event hosted by Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook.

“I listened to Usha Menon’s presentation on the current state of nursing and the challenges that nurses are facing as they work on the front lines with COVID patients,” Kotok said. “I learned that USF was applying for a grant to develop a program that will help nurses manage the many complexities associated with working with COVID patients including their own mental and physical health.  It inspired me to think in terms of helping USF beyond the business programs that we have supported; it triggered something in me. If this program saves one person’s life, it’s worth it.”

Kotok and the Sarasota financial services company that he cofounded, Cumberland Advisors, have supported USF for several years.  In addition to sponsoring the 12-terminal Bloomberg Lab on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, he has used his vast network and partnerships with organizations such as the Global Interdependence Center to bring exceptional financial experts to campus for conferences and intimate learning experiences for USF students and the larger community.

“This project is near and dear to my heart, and it is heartwarming to find a philanthropist who is so invested in the welfare of nurses,” Menon said.  “Nurses face so many challenges such as increased suicide rates, burnout and PTSD. The pandemic has increased these already existing issues exponentially.  Since the pandemic, close to 1,000 nurses have died from COVID-related issues and this number is on the rise. As nurses we spend so much time caring for others, but who cares for us? This program will serve as a critical resource to empower nurses regarding self-care and resilience.”

“David has a longtime interest in nursing,” Holbrook said. “Not only did he establish an endowed nursing scholarship at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, but also his longtime life partner, Christine Schlesinger, retired after practicing as a geriatric nurse practitioner for 40 years. That said, this gift is not about David and Christine, but rather about the nursing population; whether newly graduated or later in their careers, many nurses were never adequately prepared for the unprecedented current situation.”

“I saw a video of nurses picketing for lack of PPE and read stories of what travelling nurses have confronted day after day; nursing aides and assistants working two shifts at different facilities – going into nursing homes – without proper training,” Kotok said. “Everybody wants to recognize our health care workers, and that’s nice, but what does it change?  This program has a purpose; it’s not political in any way and will provide much-needed information specifically for nurses.”

More About the Program

“Frontline Nursing During COVID-19: A New Paradigm” is a four-part educational webinar series designed to provide frontline nurses with the tools needed to empower them to advocate for their safety and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is an innovative program focusing on the safety of nurses and offering professional strategies for self-care and empowerment.

The curriculum will be designed by an expert group of experienced nurse leaders, educators, practicing nurses and instructional design professionals. Topics will be directly related to keeping nurses healthy and safe while caring for their patients and their community during the global pandemic.

A nursing continuing education unit (CEU) credit will be awarded for completion of each webinar.  Kotok’s generosity allows the program to sponsor credits for nurse participants. Learners that complete the four-part series will be invited to participate in a 12-part podcast series delivered monthly over the following year, from April 2021 to March 2022. These podcasts will keep the learners engaged and informed regarding the state of the science, self-care, and other timely COVID-19 related topics.

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