March 12, 2024 | Alumni

For Kerwin Simon, the chaos of Covid led to clarity around his academic and professional pursuits. “For those of us who work in healthcare, Covid was one of the saddest times,” Kerwin says. “We were putting bodies into trailers outside the hospital. A doctor said to me, ‘it’s tragic that all these people are ultimately dying of things that can be controlled, like diabetes and high blood pressure.’ That’s when I really started to focus on access to care and the inequities in the healthcare system.”Kerwin has worked for NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) for 20 years. He started as a rehabilitation tech and is now Assistant Director of the Rehab Department at Kings County Hospital, where he has gravitated toward the administrative side of healthcare as his career progressed.

Originally from Trinidad, the fifth of seven boys, Kerwin came to the U.S. after high school. He worked full time while earning associate degrees at Medgar Evers College and Touro College, then a BA at CUNY School of Professional Studies. He was a member of CWA Local 1180 when he read about SLU in the union’s newsletter. Kerwin applied for the tuition assistance program through 1180’s Education Fund and just days later he started classes toward a master’s degree in urban studies.

“SLU opened me up to what happens to minority, underserved populations and gave me a push to help this group

Kerwin was working at the hospital and taking classes at SLU when the pandemic began. As he continued to observe what was taking place at Kings County – with so many people dying of Covid due to underlying health issues – he added healthcare courses to his track.

“SLU opened me up to what happens to minority, underserved populations and gave me a push to help this group. We learned a lot about the inequities in healthcare in our classes,” he explained. “At work, the hospital’s mandate is to treat regardless of ability to pay – uninsured people are treated, they are not denied care. But eventually a bill is sent, and patients avoid the follow up care they need, because they cannot pay. And then the patient is sent to collections. And then the problems are magnified.”

He graduated in 2021 with his master’s in urban studies and a healthcare specialization. Kerwin is now working on a PhD in healthcare administration with a focus on healthcare access for people of color, through North Central College.

Kerwin credits his studies at SLU with both his interest in earning a PhD and his ability to do it successfully. “What I learned at SLU is helping me immensely right now – I thought I was a decent writer until I got to The Writing Center at SLU! Those resources were helpful. I got the tools I needed to learn how to push through ten journals in four days and then write a 15-page paper.”

Kerwin found the classes at SLU instrumental and the professors incredible. “The access professors gave us to materials, journals and information was very helpful,” he says. “And the warmth of the staff and the empathy of the teachers, especially during Covid, meant a lot. To join class after a day at work and have the professor take a moment to acknowledge what was going on, to have everyone share what they were going through during those moments, was excellent.”

What I learned at SLU is helping me immensely right now

Kerwin routinely recommends SLU to hospital staff who are looking to do their master’s or learn more through a certificate program. “I recommend SLU because there is so much access and because the professors understand we are adult learners – they tailor curriculum to adults and there’s an understanding of our schedules and interests. Further, if you are in a union that pays the tuition, then the expense is not on you, which is amazing.”

“I used to be a shy person – but the professors at SLU are far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. They helped me to speak up and advocate for myself. I had a great run at SLU. It was challenging, nourishing, and the professors were willing to share their knowledge with the entire class. It is helpful to be part of a college that helps you to stand up for what you believe in. I would recommend it to anyone.”