While pursuing her master’s degree online in Homeland Security through Penn State World Campus, Charlotte Roy worked full-time as the hospital emergency manager at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She was working in the hospital emergency operations center during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and the experience, she says, changed how many people approach hospital safety. We caught up with Charlotte recently to get her perspective on the tragic event, and her thoughts on how her Penn State World Campus education has helped her career.
Tell us about your background, and why you chose Penn State World Campus for your studies.
I was a nuclear medicine technologist for many years, and I was interested in radiation safety and decontamination. That led to my later interest in emergency management.
The Penn State World Campus Homeland Security program had an option focused on public health preparedness, and I knew that the curriculum would suit my needs and what I was looking for professionally.
What do you do in your job now?
I’m our hospital’s emergency management coordinator, and also the safety officer. Basically, I work on all preparedness and response efforts for our main hospital campus and offsite campuses. We try to prepare for any emergencies that would affect the physical structure of the hospital or our ability to provide care—hurricane, flood, ice storm, fire, evacuation, you name it.
How has your Penn State degree helped you professionally?
So much of what was part of my program at Penn State, from terrorism to critical infrastructure protection and cyber security, has molded what I do every day. And it has made me more qualified for my safety role.
One course in particular gave a good basis for preparation related to agroterrorism and biosecurity. It covered ways to prepare for and respond to events such as a poisoned food and water supply. We used a lot of that information when preparing for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Take us back to the 2013 Boston Marathon. What was it like for you, while you were working?
The marathon runs directly in front of our hospital, but we’re at mile 17, which is not where the bombings occurred. We weren’t as impacted with trauma patients as hospitals near the finish line. But we had hundreds of employees who were working at the end of the finish line that day, and when the suspect was finally caught, it was only 4 miles from our hospital. We were impacted during the shelter that was in place while the suspect was at large.
It was very unsettling event, and very emotional. Everyone here knew, in some way, one of the victims or responders. Afterwards, there was a lot of psychological injury that we’ve been dealing with.
But the 2014 marathon was good. It was a healing year. We all made it through the preparedness and made it through the day. It was a good day to have closure and move on.
Have the bombings changed your approach to public safety and preparedness?
Yes, the bombings made all of us look at things differently than how we had in past. Much of what we were doing in past was focused on reacting to prior events. We were preparing, but now we’ve shifted our strategies to focus on active preparedness. We’re doing more training and drills, and really examining what we’re drilling and how we’re training.
Have questions for Charlotte?
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