By Ivan Rubalcava, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Originally published in Pipette Gazette.

The current coronavirus pandemic has created a world of political, economic and undoubtedly biological unrest.

Fluctuating details surrounding politics and the world economy have generated uncertainty in the hearts of many Americans, leaving us wondering who and what to believe in during this time.

A recent call to check-in with a friend quickly became a debate of Presidential Executive Orders and whether they have benefitted or hindered health care in America. We finally agreed that, despite the initial response, the pandemic had permeated our country down to the community level.

Since the first case in America, it was not long before stories surfaced of front-line health care workers developing COVID-19 themselves, some of them never to recover. It became evident that we could put faith in the work of medical personnel, despite what happens in Washington and Wall Street. These medical heroes spend hard, long hours, sometimes being called upon to serve outside their specialties in primary or critical care roles to solve life-threatening problems, frequently at significant risk to their own health.

Understanding the burden of health care workers has prompted many students at UT Health San Antonio to want to help in some way, such as volunteering side-by-side to triage potentially infected patients entering the hospital. However, volunteers find themselves in a quandary of wanting to serve the community in this crisis. At the same time, traditional ways of volunteering at hospitals have dissipated to reduce viral transmission by controlling those coming and leaving their facilities. The burning question has now become: “How can I help those in need when asked to stay home and socially distance?”

To answer this question, we must draw upon the resources available to us in this time of change. In response, I spoke with a grocery store manager and learned about their new curb-side ordering system. I then started a go-fund-me campaign meant to unite people behind health care workers by bringing healthy, individually packaged snack foods to hospitals so that the front lines workers can have sustained energy while treating the sick.

With the help of donations from the San Antonio community, I have been able to make multiple deliveries to University Hospital, Methodist, and Santa Rosa hospitals. Medical personnel need to know that their community outside the hospital walls understand the immense sacrifice they endure and support those individuals who put on their uniform to do the work they do. 

Here at UT Health San Antonio, we strive to discover creative ways to promote health care for those Texans in need. Today, these needs lie within the walls of our own institution, and many of us have stepped up to support societal leaders. Though times seem harsh, the resilience and heroic acts of selflessness from our health care workers will surely pull us through the pandemic. While social distancing is still necessary, it is my wish that we at UT Health San Antonio can engender social cohesion by continuing to build positive relationships in the community under a shared mission–health for the greater good of society. 


Ivan Rubalcava

Ivan Rubalcava is a second-year masters student in the Department of Cell Systems and Anatomy where he studies the processes of bone health in the lab of Ramaswamy Sharma, Ph.D. After graduating from UTSA with a bachelor of science in biology, he worked in the community with various non-profit groups before returning to school. During his time here, he has developed various outreach initiatives, for which he has received scholarship and awards. Ivan will be graduating in 2020 and has dedicated his work to science research and attending to some of the most pressing issues surrounding community health.