NIHD medical staff celebrates March COVID Heroes

By: 
Register Staff
Staff Writer

Continuing to recognize those who have played vital roles in combatting the pandemic, Northern Inyo Healthcare District medical staff is pleased to honor Casey Solomon, and Drs. Monika Mehrens and Stacey Brown as the March COVID Heroes of the Month.
Mehrens joined NIHD in 2019 as part of the Hospitalist team, splitting her work time between Bishop and Idaho. As the pandemic’s severity grew in early 2020, Mehrens drove from Idaho back to Bishop to assist with emergency preparations and COVID patient care. Her ideas and knowledge became a welcome addition to the NIHD’s Incident Command team that oversaw pandemic planning.
“Her creative innovation of the Respiratory Care Unit allowed NIHD to continue to safely care for patients with COVID while maintaining as much separation as possible from other patients,” said NIHD Chief of Staff Dr. Charlotte Helvie. “She also developed a plan to conserve limited personal protective equipment (PPE), simplify workflows, and minimize risk to patients and staff.”
Helvie noted that the system Mehrens developed continues to meet these essential goals today and has helped providers and staff cope with ever-changing patient volume and severity.
“The medical staff can never thank Dr. Mehrens enough for her resourcefulness and continued commitment to the patients, providers, and staff at NIHD.”
Mehrens nominated Casey Solomon for her honor.
“While the whole Respiratory Department has played a critical role in pandemic care, Casey was especially knowledgeable and helpful to me when our ICU was full of critically ill COVID patients,” Mehrens said. “We had numerous ventilated patients, others on breathing support treatments, and many on high flow oxygen therapy.”
Recalling the pivoting required in the face of a COVID surge, Mehrens hailed Solomon for her out-of-the-box thinking.
“We had to get creative and play with different settings, and Casey was amazing,” Mehrens said. “I always felt reassured when she was there. We put our heads together, and I think we were able to avoid several intubations because of it.”
Solomon joined NIHD’s 12-member Respiratory team in 2019.
This month’s final recipient almost needs no introduction. A key district leader in many capacities for many years, it should come as no surprise to the community that Dr. Stacey Brown has been at the forefront of the pandemic since its earliest days.
“For almost a year, Stacey has been saving lives, even more than usual,” Helvie said.
As the chairman of Infection Control, Brown has led the district’s COVID response alongside Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Timbers, and not one but two chief nursing officers: Tracy Aspel, who retired in October, and Allison Partridge, who seceded Aspel. Brown has also served as the lead physician representative on Incident Command.
“Stacey rapidly deployed plans for drive-through COVID testing, keeping non-critical patients out of the Emergency Department, and in the process, helped conserve PPE and decrease exposure for the clinic staff,” Helvie said.
Brown also advanced telehealth processes so that NIHD’s doctors could continue to provide medical care to patients without the risk of exposure to COVID. He organized the community to help provide cloth masks and gowns, so NIHD never ran out of these items, and he and Timbers kept the public informed with regular news conferences.
“Now he has the mammoth and ongoing task of helping coordinate the vaccine distribution efforts,” Helvie said. “It is impossible to list all of his accomplishments during the last year and even more impossible to know how many thousands of lives his contributions have touched.”
Brown joined NIHD in 2001. A beloved community figure, Brown, is best known for establishing and continuing to build NIHD’s Rural Health Clinic. He hopes to one day see the expansion of the RHC and all of NIHD’s clinic services.

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