DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University Nursing alumnae Melissa Todice and Elsa Cunha have been designated as heroes by the WCSU Alumni Association for their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Todice and Cunha were nominated by Monica Sousa, a WCSU Nursing professor.
Todice and Cunha both graduated from WCSU and work as nurses at Danbury Hospital in Danbury. Todice works as needed in several units, including Progressive Care and Medical Surgical units, and others. Cunha worked as the ambulatory nurse manager for the outpatient departments of Gynecology/Oncology and Perinatology before moving to the role of team leader for the COVID testing site at Danbury Hospital. Both are being recognized for their tireless work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Todice, a Shelton resident, graduated from the WCSU nursing program in 2012 and has worked as a staff nurse for the past eight years. She recently completed her MSN-FNP from Fairfield University, graduating with a 4.0. Todice said she hopes to specialize as a cardiac APRN in the near future.
As a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic, Todice said health care professionals are being faced with a set of obstacles they’ve never seen before. “To work as a nurse with patients with a highly communicable disease that no one knew how to treat was overwhelming to say the very least. We never took a pandemic nursing class. It was a shift in thinking that we aren’t used to as nurses — we had to think about our own safety, and the safety of our families given our line of work.”
On being nominated for the Alumni Service Award, Todice said, “It’s an honor, but it’s an honor that extends past me, to everyone that I work with. The integrity of the health care providers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with during the hardest time in our careers has been unbelievable. The new nurses who started during the most chaotic experience in my eight years of nursing have been nothing short of inspiring. Our work is a vocation — we come to work for our patients, to advocate for them, to heal — but the resiliency of our health care providers makes me proud to be part of this profession.”
Cunha, of Danbury, graduated from WCSU with a degree in nursing in 2010. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Connecticut, Cunha shifted from the ambulatory nurse manager for the outpatient departments of Gynecology/Oncology and Perinatology to helping in the testing center set up in the Danbury Hospital parking garage. She quickly became a team leader and eventually the site leader of the testing center. Cunha began working in the testing center in March when the pandemic began, up until July 4, when it became too hot and unsafe to work in full protective gear.
She has since helped to set up new testing sites at 79 Sandpit Road in Danbury, which serves as a pre-procedure COVID testing site, as well as one at 401 Federal Road in Brookfield, which serves as a symptomatic site. The Danbury location sees between 100 to 200 patients a day, while the Brookfield site sees around 40 patients a day, all during a three-hour window from 1 to 4 p.m.
The WCSU Alumni Association is looking for WCSU alumni who have made tremendous contributions to their communities. The Alumni Association will award the Distinguished Alumni Service Award to two alumni each month during the fall 2020 semester who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. This could mean providing community support, putting in extra time as an essential worker, and so on. When possible, the Alumni Association hopes to honor all recipients with an on-campus celebration.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.