Spring, Hope and Our First Heroes and Helpers

Dear Tulane Community:
It is springtime in New Orleans.
I know it is easy to forget this with the challenges we are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak. Typically, in New Orleans this is a time for family gatherings, crawfish boils and, for many, a period of important religious observances. While this year is different, Tulanians are still finding a reason and a way to virtually “gather” wherever they are with online celebrations, feasts, Seders and services.
Perhaps spring, with its sense of renewal and hope, is an apt metaphor for these exceptional times. Each day we renew our commitment to combat this outbreak, and that gives us hope. One Tulanian who epitomizes this is Angela Birnbaum, director of the Tulane Office of Biosafety. Through Angie’s tireless efforts, she has established a biosafety program at the Tulane National Primate Research Center that is a national model and supports one of the nation’s leading efforts to develop a vaccine, tests and treatments for COVID-19. But, in addition to these important responsibilities, she has gone far above and beyond the scope of her normal duties to develop a process to decontaminate critically needed N95 and other protective masks so that they can be reused by frontline doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. In doing so, she has mitigated a dangerous shortage of equipment that is central to keeping our health care professionals safe.
Angie has also used her expertise to secure the support of a nonprofit company to provide disinfected personal protective equipment for frontline heroes working in both the New Orleans hospital system and throughout Louisiana. In recognition of all she has done, and is doing, to protect and save lives, it is my distinct pleasure to designate Angie as the first honoree of the Heroes and Helpers program.
Commitment such as Angie’s not only replenishes supplies of protective equipment but, as I noted above, it creates hope. Though we have much further to go and many difficult days ahead, there is a glimmer on the distant horizon, a growing confidence that we will win the battle against this disease and that the springs we once knew will return – with all their joy.