Healthcare Administration Alum on the Frontlines of Vaccine Work
Growing up in Amesbury, the daughter of a nurse, Meaghan Sydlowski “was never interested in medicine — and I hated shots.” Everything changed at Stonehill, where her vague calling to work in service and social justice was sharpened into a clear passion for public health.
“My pivot point was my Learning Community: Culture & Commerce with a travel component to Peru. I was still undecided at that point. It was the trip to Peru that really shaped” my course, said Sydlowski ’14, who today is on the frontlines of vaccine work in Los Angeles.
After learning about healthcare in under-resourced areas, “I couldn't get the health inequities out of my mind. Shortly after returning from Peru, I declared a major in both Spanish and Healthcare Administration.”
These last few months, Sydlowski has worked supporting vaccination efforts at a community clinic in L.A. as a program officer in the International Medical Corps Emergency Response Unit. Sydlowski oversees clinical volunteers and supports supply operations, among other duties.
Sydlowski spent most of 2020 as a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning Officer with the unit, collecting COVID-19 data and analysis at hospitals around the U.S. and Puerto Rico, while also tracking supplies, equipment, and more.
“I remember sitting in Healthcare Professor Larry Lencz's class, where a guest speaker told us about her work with USAID [United States Agency for International Development] in the West Bank and Gaza, and Papua New Guinea. I was simultaneously excited and terrified at the idea of working in the humanitarian field—and realized that it was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Her work with Campus Ministry and HOPE helped shape her vision for her future. She said her HOPE service immersion trip to Nicaragua was a key moment. And her experience with Campus Ministry’s Urban Plunge was “influential in my effort to pursue work in the humanitarian field as my vocation—one of the many ways the Catholic teachings at Stonehill resonated with me.”
Stonehill was Sydlowski’s springboard to Boston University—where she earned her Master's in Public Health, with a concentration in Global Health—and to Harvard Medical School, where she worked as a research assistant in Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.
She was also an intern at the UN’s World Food Programme in Rome, and a global health consultant “assessing HIV service packages for key populations in Latin America,” she explains.
As you might guess, as a global health expert, Sydlowski has been beyond busy during the pandemic.
She was recently deployed for a stint to Texas. (In fact, when we caught up with her for a few follow-up questions, she e-mailed: “Apologies for the delay and brevity—we are slammed here in TX trying to demobilize our mobile medical units.”)
The World Health Organization recently classified the Corps as an Emergency Medical TeamType 1 provider, meaning they’re “capable of deploying quickly and providing medical services in response to a disaster anywhere in the world.”
Now back in L.A., she typically reports to the vaccine clinic by 8 a.m., drawing up vaccines before the clinic opens. When doors open, she’s making rounds to vaccination stations, checking on the supply status, forecasting supplies they’ll need, among other jobs.
“We’re building the plane as it's flying,” she said of COVID-19 vaccine work.
It helps that she loves what she does—and likes a challenge.
“Every solution has to be tailored to the situation and the population affected. What worked in a previous disaster, hurricane, or clinic cannot simply be duplicated,” she explains. “Local priorities, cultural norms, and resources need to be considered for each response in order to be successful. I love that each project I work on is so different and requires critical thinking.”
Bringing it all back home, Sydlowski recently talked to Professor Mitch Glavin’s Supply Chain Management class. She Zoomed with the class “literally from the frontlines of the pandemic,” from a vaccination clinic tent in LA, Glavin said.
“In fact, she had to move twice until she found a decent WiFi connection. There was some audible background noise—it all added to the immediacy of her presentation,” said Glavin, an Associate Professor and Chair of the Healthcare Administration Department. His students "were thrilled to be hearing directly from someone who was dealing daily with many of the supply chain concepts and problems we had been examining throughout the semester.”
Glavin said Stonehill is “a bit unusual in that we offer an undergraduate major in Healthcare Administration. Master’s programs are more typical for healthcare administration. Our program is one of only 48 undergrad programs in the U.S. that is fully certified by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration.”
Listening to his former student speak to his class from the pandemic frontlines, Glavin said Sydlowski’s “passion is evident, but also I’m so impressed with the sheer doggedness and resilience she and her colleagues summon every day to keep going forward despite setbacks or obstacles in their work. Her courage and willingness to head off into troubled places on very short notice is remarkable.”