Two years ago, Bill Lonneman strapped on his gear, left his hotel room and hit the streets of New York City.
However, this wasn’t a sightseeing vacation. It was answering the call for which he had been preparing.
“A few years ago, it occurred to me that maybe I should actually get involved with the Red Cross rather than just talk about it,” said Lonneman, assistant professor of nursing at the Mount. “I teach community and public health, including nursing history and disaster health care. I’ve always admired the Red Cross’ work, and also wanted to be able to share my experiences with my students. So I volunteered and received their training to become part of the medical disaster response team.”
Lonneman was part of a traveling assessment team, visiting small towns such as Chappaqua and Greenwich to see how the local healthcare people were holding up and where the Red Cross might best help. Once they got into NYC, Lonneman’s role was to serve in the medical clinics in the shelters of Brooklyn and the Bronx.
“It was humbling to be part of such a big response in an overwhelming situation,” he said. “So many people were displaced, especially those who had few resources even before the storm. But everyone, from the people I cared for to strangers on the subway, was so appreciative of just that fact that we were there. People would see my Red Cross badge and just light up. One lady in a restaurant said it was just so nice to know that people—even from Cincinnati—knew and cared about what was going on there.”
Before he started teaching at the Mount, Lonneman was a primary care/general practice nursing practitioner. He said he’s been a community activist in the city for thirty years so teaching is an extension of his life. Working with the Red Cross is another way he says he can use his skills.
“Nursing is so much about bringing not just your skills and knowledge, but who you are to a situation,” he said. “That’s what I love about it. The Red Cross response involved working with many different professionals, some from other countries and some from the NYC public health department, coordinating the care so people would get what they needed. Yes, I treated wounds and managed medicine and helped people problem solve, which is what nurses do every day. The main thing was just being there.”
Lonneman is active on the Mount’s campus as well. He helped found the Environmental Action Committee in 2009 which helped create the sustainability studies minor, helped the university sign the St. Francis Pledge and helped get the Hillside Community Garden started on campus.