The Ohio State University Alumni Association

2021 Alumni Awards

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Frontline Workers –

E. Gordon Gee Spirit of Ohio State Award

The award recognizes people and programs that best exemplify the spirit of Ohio State.


female medical staff member giving a shot to a male patient

Embodying the Buckeye spirit

Elizabeth Seely ’90, chief administrative officer at Wexner Medical Center, couldn’t be prouder of the medical center’s frontline workers and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faced with incredible challenges, these dedicated workers stepped up to care for the community. They had no roadmap, Seely says, but they forged ahead. When obstacles blocked their way, they pivoted and innovated until they found a solution. Seely shares her experience with these frontline workers who exemplify the spirit of Ohio State.

What was the biggest obstacle faced by your staff and faculty?

Uncertainty and fear, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. I like to use this analogy: Picture yourself in a boat in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of other people. You get a call over the radio that says, “There’s a tsunami heading your way. If everybody paddles hard and fast enough, you might out paddle the tsunami. Meanwhile your boat is going to leak, and people might fall overboard, and you’ll have to pull them back in.” So you paddle as fast as you can, as hard as you can, for as long as you can. That’s what it felt like we were all doing. And our team is still doing it, especially now with a new surge driven by the Delta variant. Everyone is working exceptionally hard to kept our boat afloat, and keep everyone safe. Each and every day our team is working exceptionally hard to outrun the tsunami.

Can you give some examples of frontline workers’ response?

Whether it was our clinical teams delivering outstanding care at the bedside, our supply chain team making sure we had needed supplies and equipment, our clinical laboratory teams ramping up new testing platforms, our communications team getting information disseminated, our environmental services team making sure facilities were clean and safe — there was not a single person in Wexner Medical Center who didn’t have a role in our response. Our teams truly embodied the Buckeye spirit in everything they did.

How did Wexner Medical Center support frontline workers?

We provided respite hotel stays, meals, encouraging notes, grab and go items in the cafeteria, even toilet paper. The dogs in our Buckeye Paws therapy program visited staff to ease anxiety. Our mindfulness resources have been popular, and we created an employee resource center to assist anyone with nonwork challenges related to housing, food security or other issues. We continue to offer these services today.


See all 2021 Alumni Award honorees