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Social Impact Heroes: How and Why Dr. Rebecca Heiss & Dr. Dermot Jevens Created A Memorial For The Victims Of COVID-19

Social Impact Heroes: How and Why Dr. Rebecca Heiss & Dr. Dermot Jevens Created A Memorial For The Victims Of COVID-19

Every member of our society needs to take this disease seriously and do their part, as we as a community will only be as strong as our weakest link.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rebecca Heiss and Dr. Dermot Jevens.

Dr. Dermot Jevens is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and entrepreneur who currently serves as Treasurer/ Secretary for the American Animal Hospital Association. Previously, he was Senior Vice President, Collaboration and Innovation for Compassion-First Pet Hospitals, where he was responsible for culture development, all specialty recruiting and innovation at a 41-hospital specialty and ER network. Jevens also served as founder/ CEO of Upstate Veterinary Specialists, a multi-specialty animal hospital with locations in Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC.

Dr. Rebecca Heiss, Ph.D. is founder and CEO of Icueity, a mobile application that focuses on building self-awareness (available in June). Her new book, Instinct, will hit shelves in 2021. Heiss is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who uses her background in evolutionary biology to inspire people to break free of limiting, fear-based behaviors.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Over the past month we have both been deeply impacted watching the number of deaths related to COVID-19 continuing to rise. It is such an impersonal number that does not reflect the individual lives we have lost. These people are grandmothers, sons, nurses, teachers, grocery store workers, friends, colleagues, lovers, all part of the fabric of our society, our communities and our families. We did not want to see their stories lost. Additionally, the loved ones left behind are unable to mourn together, or share stories together during this time of social distancing and we wanted to create a place where those stories could be shared, and where a community could develop around each loved one we have lost.

This is what motivated us to create MourningAmerica.Org, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to create an online memorial where families and friends can tell the story of their loved ones in their own words, a place where their stories will not be forgotten, a place where stories from families and friends can provide some comfort for the loved ones left behind.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I think the thing that struck us since we started this site is the uniform call by the families who have lost loved ones to all of us that this disease must be taken seriously. They do not want to see others go through the loss that they are experiencing.

We also feel that we get to know these people through their stories, from Margot who loved chocolate desserts and could drive a stick shift like nobody else, to Rob who always gave you the truth and often with a laugh.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Our organization is making an impact by providing a way for families to share the stories of the loved ones they lost, and giving them a way to know that they will not be forgotten. This is not a memorial site that creates a generic memorial, rather it is a site for families in a few sentences to truly create an image of who their loved one really was.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Our first submission was from the family of Azar, a wonderful lady who was the first victim of COVID-19 in the Santa Clara region. Listening to her son describe his mother brought us both to tears. However, since then what we have found is that all of the stories that have subsequently been submitted deeply move us. From the daughter who struggled to spell her Dad’s name properly because she was crying so much, to the friends of Robert Mulkey who just adored their friend, every story is moving.

The other people who have impacted us are those who have reached out with words of encouragement, or who may not have known individual people who have died but reach out with encouraging messages to the families.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Leaders must work in unison across the country if we are to defeat this disease. Political leaders must coordinate with medical leaders and come together as one team. Every member of our society needs to take this disease seriously and do their part, as we as a community will only be as strong as our weakest link.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership ultimately requires honesty and courage, applied selflessly. In the case of COVID-19 we are seeing many leaders emerge around our country. However, because of the intense political divides we have seen over the past decade or so, we are still not seeing unified leadership against this common enemy that we all have.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Our two biggest lessons learned are to some degree lessons we already knew from other “start-ups” we have been involved with — you must have patience, and you must surround yourself with the best team possible.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This project here is the one we would love to develop a movement around, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides a place for individuals to find comfort at a time when they need it most. Secondly, it provides a reminder to us all that we cannot let this happen again. Finally, we want it to be a motivator that we must come together as a country and as a world to fight this common enemy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We are all #MoreThanANumber. We need to learn again to care about each other.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Any of the victims’ families from MourningAmerica.Org or any of those healthcare and other frontline workers who are so valiantly working to help all of us. Their stories must never be lost.

We feel it would be tremendously insightful to have a group meeting with all living US presidents. Imagine what could be learned from a whiteboarding session that included all living US presidents where we asked three questions

  1. What did we do well in our fight against COVID-19?
  2. What could have been done better?
  3. What should we do to ensure this did not happen again?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We can be followed at MourningAmer on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please visit our website at MourningAmerica.Org. We really would appreciate any help we can get in spreading information about our site to those who have lost loved ones to this horrendous disease.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!