LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Dr. Keandra Thompson

Position: Health Services Manager
School: Lake Washington School District
School District: Lake Washington School District
City, State: Redmond, WA

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Dr. Keandra Thompson was nominated by her supervisor, Dr. Shannon Hitch.

Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like to be responsible for the health and wellbeing of over 30,000 students and another 3,000 staff members during the COVID-19 pandemic? The first published cases of COVID in the United States occured within the boundaries of Lake Washington School District. Just a couple months prior to these cases becoming public, Dr. Keandra Thompson was selected as the new Health Services manager for Lake Washington School District. You can imagine the incredible challenge she faced, leading in a new position, within a new environment, at the same time as everyone was looking to her for direction and guidance due to a global pandemic. 

In her role as Health Services manager, Dr. Thompson was hired to set policy and guide the work of health services.  Her position is responsible for supervising and directing the work of district nurses and health room staff.  She is overqualified for the position, with multiple degrees and credentials, including her doctorate as a nurse practitioner.  However, she demonstrates a passion for school nursing and is dedicated to ensuring the health and well-being of students.  Her goal upon starting was to open her district's first health clinic, which would be designed to ensure that all students, regardless of language, socio-economic status or age, could get appropriate medical care.  Sadly, this goal has been placed on hold, as she is now navigating her district's response to the pandemic.

As the pandemic appeared, Dr. Thompson immediately became responsible for the health and safety of the learning community. There was no playbook for how to do this work. Instead, there was tremendous confusion, fear, and unanswered questions among students and staff. Some students and staff were personally impacted by the deaths in Kirkland, and the national media spotlight quickly came to the district.

"While this was happening, we began navigating all of the guidance and information coming from our local health department, state agencies, and community providers," said Dr. Hitch. "Dr. Thompson was the leader we didn't know we would need, at a time when we were about to experience one of the greatest impacts on both our community and within education."

Dr. Thompson brought knowledge, experience, and expert guidance to her district's leadership team. She helped the team make incredibly difficult decisions, such as closing schools, and she created safety protocols when her district's most vulnerable students resumed school in the fall of 2020. She led district nurses in a collaborative and cohesive response at a time when they were overwhelmed and understaffed. Dr. Thompson maintained a sense of calm, but she worked with intensity and urgency in responding to this crisis. She remained focused on the needs of students and advocated for equity throughout her district's response. She performed at the highest levels at a time when everyone was working well beyond their capacity.  

Dr. Thompson also had to support and help district leaders in navigating challenging community responses to masking, isolation, and quarantine. She engaged in comprehensive health education for staff, students, and families, and she led the work with honesty, humility and humor.  In addition, the nursing team is significantly understaffed at a time when all students are returning to school. This required Dr. Thompson to step in and not only do the duties of her position, but provide direct nursing services.  Further, she was asked to take the lead in contact tracing and testing. The complexities involved in setting up public health systems, in an understaffed district, while being responsive to urgent daily needs...there are simply no words to describe her workload.  Yet, she still shows up every day with positivity, compassion, and a deep love for students.

"We are truly blessed to have her working in LWSD.  Dr. Thompson has been responsible for keeping our entire community healthy during one of the most challenging times in our country and in education," said Dr. Hitch.