October 20, 2020

COVID-19 Heroes Tribute

A new video celebrates members of the UMass Amherst community contributing to the fight against COVID-19

“Let’s take this education that we have and make some good trouble with it,” Shashi Buluswar '95MS, ’02PhD, the CEO of the Institute for Transformative Technologies, advises his fellow UMass alumni.

Buluswar is one of many members of the UMass Amherst community making “good trouble” for COVID-19, by working on the front lines to combat the virus and to help others through this difficult time. He and four other UMass Amherst COVID-19 heroes are honored in a new video produced by the Alumni Association for the campus’s virtual Homecoming 2020 celebration.

Buluswar recalls, “When COVID hit, there was a massive panic about shortage of ventilators.” His company came up with an oxygen delivery device that can be used in remote villages, hospitals, cities, and even in homes.

Another COVID-19 hero featured in the video, Rebecca Bunnell ’89MEd, spent 14 years in Africa working on HIV and Ebola. She says, “At the end of the day, it’s people at the community level who can really make a difference.”

Said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, “The influence of the UMass community extends well beyond campus. Many of our alumni and students are embracing the revolutionary spirit as they create, innovate, and provide care in the face of this pandemic.”

Watch the video to hear the stories of the five gritty, brave, entrepreneurial students and alumni listed below.

Gabrielle Abelard ’97, ’01MS is a clinical assistant professor in the UMass Amherst College of Nursing. She is also a cognitive behavioral therapist, consultant, and advanced practice psychiatric nurse with her own private practice. She is rising to the challenge of treating patients isolated due to COVID-19.

Shashi Buluswar '95 MS, ’02PhD is the CEO of the Institute for Transformative Technologies. The company works on a range of topics, including water security, energy, and health, and is currently working to address shortages of medical oxygen in the developing world, with applications for treatment of COVID-19.

Rebecca Bunnell ’89MEd is the director of the Office of Science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She has worked on the front line of health crises across the globe for decades, from AIDS in Uganda and Kenya to Ebola in Sierra Leone, and is now working to validate and rapidly release the CDC’s scientific findings about the coronavirus to the public.

Jake Gramstorff ’21 is a psychology major and an ROTC cadet. He was called up to serve as a National Guard medic at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Mass., where he provided direct care to veterans, including those with COVID-19.

Akshay Kapoor ’14, ’20MD graduated from UMass Medical School in an early ceremony in March 2020, taking the Hippocratic Oath via Zoom. Within a week, he began working as a physician at Yale New Haven Hospital and the Yale Primary Care Program, where he volunteered to be on a team focused on patients with COVID-19.