A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Meet the Mason Nation: Lisa Park, MD

By Mason Spirit contributor on August 17, 2021

As executive director of Student Health Services at George Mason University, Lisa Park oversaw the university’s rapid pivot to telemedicine, the diagnostic COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students, and the case investigations and procedures to isolate and quarantine students with potential cases of COVID-19. This is what she and her team of 42 doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical assistants, and lab technicians have trained for, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging.

A TYPICAL DAY?: Park laughs when asked what keeps her busy during a typical day. “Meetings,” she says. “A lot of meetings about processes that affect the whole university and processes that affect student health and the clinical care we provide to students.” She isn’t kidding. At the height of the pandemic, she had six meetings a week with the outbreak mitigation team, including three with the Fairfax County Health Department to pinpoint trends or clusters of outbreaks. There are meetings about diagnostic and surveillance testing strategy, and quarantine and isolation, as well as clinical meetings concerning continually evolving scientific evidence around COVID-19 care and applying those changes at Student Health Services and university-wide.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: “Testing is one piece of containing the virus,” Park says. “Getting a sample from a patient is one step—you have to be able to get the test results through IT infrastructure. They have to be accurate—that’s the lab. You have to be able to communicate the test results to the patient, to the health department, to Housing if there are residential students [involved] so they can be isolated and close contacts quarantined. So, there are many more pieces to managing COVID than just testing, and so many hardworking people involved for each test.”

KEEPING THE MASON NATION SAFE: According to Park, one of the most important factors for keeping the whole process working has been buy-in from the Mason community. “I’ve said from the beginning, this pandemic is really driven by people’s behavior,” she says. “I think that Mason, especially students and staff, have been great at following those behavior precautions. And that is what has kept us safe.”

ON AVOIDING BURNOUT: Throughout the pandemic, Park has urged the campus community to stay vigilant—”because what we all do off campus is just as important as what we do on campus.” It’s even more important, she says, to give each other grace and patience, and that extends to her staff, too. She implemented an on-call schedule at Student Health Services so that staff who aren’t on call can truly disconnect and get some time to unplug, rest, and rejuvenate for the work ahead. She says that’s critically important to avoiding burnout. It also means her team will be able to continue to provide telehealth and mental health resources to students after the pandemic passes.

—Melanie Balog

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