Alumni
Alumni Profiles

Derel Finch ’87: Guided by Mind and Heart

Jonathan Shipley, Bush Class of 2021 Parent
“Every person has intrinsic and infinite worth.” This statement, made by Head of School Percy L. Abram, has been recalled often by Dr. Derel Finch ’87 lately. Life itself hangs in the balance where Dr. Finch is concerned. He is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve realized what has really made a difference hasn’t been the response in the hospitals,” Derel reflects, “but the commitment of every person in our community to change their lives for the greater good. This is a testament that when we truly work together we can accomplish amazing things.” The work, admittedly, has been hard. Derel says, “The last couple of months have been overwhelming.” A state of emergency. A scramble within the hospital to make room for a wave of COVID-19 patients. Unknowns about supply chains for personal protective equipment. Insufficient testing. Patients dying alone due to protective policies. “We were literally developing protocols to determine who would get a ventilator or not.” Yet, from crisis can come opportunity. Teams have come together across boundaries for common purpose. Innovations have emerged. Small contributions have made big differences. “Together,” Derel notes, “we’ve produced the flattest curve of any high-volume state in the country.” Think our small individual actions can’t move mountains, or, in this case, halt a pandemic? “It’s actually the only way great things get done,” Derel says. “And we have much work ahead.” Small actions. At Bush, it was running lines during basketball practice under the watchful eye of Basketball Coach Willie Bascus. At Bush, it was trying to solve what seemed to be impossible math problems in Upper School Math Teacher Janice Osaka’s calculus class. Two very different people shared one common goal for Derel. “They pushed me to be my best, and they pushed hard. But, always with care; always with love.” Basketball practices were arduous, but Derel would always complete them. The math problems did have solutions, and he found them. “They, and the rest of the teachers at Bush, helped me become the best me. I never really thanked them as much as I should have. So, thank you, Willie. Thank you, Janice.” Many are saying thanks to Derel and his fellow colleagues and calling them heroes as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc. He has also been amazed at the hospital’s work. “To some degree, however, it’s expected: they’re trained heroes.” What strikes Derel during COVID-19 is the outpouring of support from the community. Help in many facets has come the hospital’s way. Restaurants donate food. Dental offices donate masks. Letters and pictures are being mailed in by children. “Thank you to all of us from the hospitals,” Derel says. “It has warmed many hearts and reminds me about the power of gratitude and the power of a helping hand.” His own helping hands, managing life support at Swedish Medical Center’s ICU and running COVID-19 response, were formed in part, by the helping hands of Bush faculty. The balance between scientific discernment and analytical approaches (the mind), and crying with a dying patient at the hospital (the heart), were molded at Bush. The importance of both the mind and the heart is something Bush supported. Derel says, “These principles I now use to help guide me.” Where the pandemic will lead us, Derel doesn’t know. He only knows it is monumental. “COVID-19 is everyone’s. The impact is staggering. After we all get through this, and we will, we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘That’s when everything changed.’ The world will never be the same.” But those small actions make that change. Derel’s world was never the same after he first set foot on Willie Bascus’s basketball court. Derel’s world was never the same after solving those first calculus questions in Janice Osaka’s math class. Small actions are perhaps never small at all.
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