Offering a Breath of Life

Abdullah Alismail helps people breathe.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. At a briefing in Geneva, the director-general of WHO claimed the agency was “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity of the outbreak, as well as about the alarming levels of inaction.”

While it had become a top priority for healthcare workers to keep their patients alive, the machines that help patients breathe were in startlingly short supply.

Early on, Alismail, assistant professor of Cardiopulmonary Sciences and Medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center, had realized how high the demand would be for ventilators, which were crucial in the early months of the pandemic for supporting patients with severe Covid-19 infections.

A skilled respiratory therapist, Alismail is working full time while pursuing a doctoral degree in Claremont Graduate University’s School of Educational Studies. He continues to respond to demands at the medical center, keeping a running inventory of ventilators should the main hospital’s ICU need more.

Alismail’s work is not just at the bedside. He also assists in evaluating scholarly studies being published. He says that working in healthcare requires interdisciplinary teamwork: It has been the key to his success.

“CGU sharpened my view of learning and research skills to find a solution,” he said. “Interpreting research and studies in peer-reviewed journals significantly helped me at the bedside to understand how to provide the best care to my patients.”

CGU’s classroom environment has made a significant difference, too.

Being in a classroom “ challenges you to be better and humbler every day,” Alismail claims. “Since I am in a doctoral program, I took several classes in research and statistics, and those were the best.”

Beyond research and statistics, Alismail points to the courses he took in Transdisciplinary Studies, a signature part of any CGU education. He strongly feels that learning to find a solution to any problem is best achieved when approached from all sides.

Another significant responsibility that he holds at Loma Linda involves training future respiratory therapists. As the director of clinical education, he ensures that students can still graduate on time by developing a virtual curriculum that gives them the experience of working with ventilators and shaping treatment regimens.

Asked what a prospective student might expect to find at CGU, Alismail described the nurturing atmosphere.

“You’re walking into a welcoming, scholarly environment that encourages you to achieve your goals with humbleness and confidence,” he said. “That is why we say, at CGU, that students are ‘carrying the flame forward.’ ”

To many of his patients and their families, Alismail is seen as a hero, working as a first responder and helping patients breathe. In times of crisis, such compassion is like a breath of fresh air.

“The moment when you provide the medical treatment that allows a breath of life to occur for someone short of breath means everything.”

Student and teacher in classroom
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