When COVID-19 arrived in the United States, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation employee and U.S. Army Reserve member Rabiu Ahmad dusted off his books from respiratory therapy training in 2015.
“I chose respiratory therapy [as a reservist] because I knew we would need it someday,” he said.
Continuing, “But I couldn’t have imagined this.”
When Ahmad got the call for deployment in March, he messaged his manager to coordinate backup and within days was on his way to Stamford Hospital in Connecticut, which was overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
“At that time, everything I’d heard about COVID was in the media,” he said. “And then all of a sudden we were there and I was seeing the reality of a pandemic that had seemed very far away.”
Ahmad spent three months serving at the hospital, working in lockstep with doctors and other healthcare workers. He spent that time on day and night shifts applying treatments to patients – many of whom were unconscious battling the virus – and monitoring life-saving equipment such as ventilators.
The work was quite a diversion from his civilian role as a syndication fund manager at U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), the St. Louis-based community investment and tax credit subsidiary of U.S. Bank that finances projects such as affordable housing, economic development, historic renovation and renewable energy.
Of choosing to join USBCDC three years ago, Ahmad said, “There’s a ‘double bottom line’ in that we’re able to make money while improving the lives of people,” then adding with a smile, “which are two things I like doing.”
Ahmad was born in Nigeria and completed a bachelor’s degree in economics at American University of Nigeria before immigrating to the United States and completing a master’s degree in finance at Webster University. He was driven to enlist in the Army Reserve in 2015.
U.S. Bank, which was recently named by Military Times as the No. 3 employer for veterans in the United States, has a longstanding commitment to supporting veterans and military service members. During Ahmad’s deployment, his team at USBCDC sent a care package to the hospital for his entire unit.
“I’ve actually missed going to the office this year,” said Ahmad, speaking of the workplace culture more so than the building itself. “We have a group of really smart people working together to build something good and, with that, there’s a fearlessness to both try new things and to do the right thing.”
That’s of course a different kind of fearlessness than confronting a global pandemic, quite literally, face to face. Before returning to his civilian role, Ahmad and fellow service members were asked to march through the hallways in military uniform so that hospital staff could thank them for their contributions.
Ahmad said that he stepped out of the hospital door with a new perspective. Life is more precious. Relationships are more important. Empathy comes more naturally. With the holiday season approaching, he reflected.
“If you have the capacity to be strong for others during a hard time, then that’s a gift you can give.”