Theater grad becomes COVID nurse

Daniel Genovese-Scullin

Daniel Genovese-Scullin ’07 is a native Staten Islander — almost.

“My parents are from Staten Island,” Dan explained, “but they moved to Vermont before I was born. I lived up there for 12 years before we came back to Staten Island.”

After high school, Dan enrolled in the Wagner College Theatre program, graduating in 2007. He spent about six years performing on the road in shows like the national tour of “The Wedding Singer.”

“I really enjoyed it,” Dan said. “I didn’t know I was ‘done’ until my sister became pregnant with my nephew — and that’s when I decided to take a break. My heart just wasn’t in it in the same way.”

His transition from a performing career to becoming a nurse was more natural than one might think.

“Even in high school, I was always interested in science and math,” Dan said. “On top of which, I come from a nursing family. My mom, my cousins and four aunts are nurses, so it’s all around me.”

When he returned to Staten Island in 2013, Dan took a job as a home attendant for a private custodial care company.

With the R.N. certification he earned in 2015 after attending St. Paul’s School of Nursing on Staten Island, Dan worked as a critical care nurse at hospitals in Long Island and Queens while studying for his master’s degree in critical nurse leadership from Sacred Heart University.

Meanwhile, Dan’s romance with Anthony Genovese was getting serious. As the couple began planning their wedding, they also started thinking about settling down and starting a family — which, for Dan, meant coming home again to Staten Island.

A job opening at Richmond University Medical Center, the major hospital facility on the North Shore of Staten Island, came at just the right moment. In March 2018, Dan became pediatric trauma program manager at RUMC. That September, Dan and Anthony were married.

The job at RUMC was, for the most part, mostly administrative.

“I worked Monday through Friday, 8 to 4, pitching in occasionally on the hospital floor with overflow,” he said.

The job left Dan with time to help out as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, serving since last August as a clinical supervisor for Wagner College’s Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing as well as providing classroom instruction and individual guidance to students.

“I was really excited to return to Wagner,” Dan said. “I had such a wonderful experience as a student, and I was excited to be a faculty member leading a new wave of students through that experience. It was a proud moment, for sure.”

But Dan’s 8-to-4 job, and his classroom encounters, all changed in March when the coronavirus pandemic struck with full force.

“Me and Christopher Ruiz, the trauma program nursing director, were pulled from desk duty to work in the COVID trauma unit, working bedside as hands-on nurses,” Dan said. “I’m working 13-hour shifts, now — days, overnight, weekends, whatever is needed.”

The COVID unit at RUMC has a mix of 13 critical- and intensive-care patients.

“It’s been hard,” he said. “The experience is daunting, and the precautions you have to take when you come home, removing and stowing your clothing before you come in … I’ve never seen anything like it before.

“And, of course, there have been some really sad moments,” Dan said. “It’s especially difficult, caring for patients who can’t have their families there with them for emotional support.

“Even so, it’s been great to see how everyone has come together to work as a team.”

While Dan has been spending long days and nights fighting the coronavirus on the hospital floor, he and Anthony have been preparing for new life in their household. Dan’s twin sister donated an egg and another sister is carrying their baby, who is expected to be born at the end of May.

None of which should come as a surprise. Giving to others is part of Dan’s family heritage.

His mother is Mary Siller-Scullin, sister to firefighter Stephen Siller, Dan’s godfather. Most New Yorkers are familiar with the story of how Stephen Siller ran through the Battery Tunnel with a full load of firefighting gear to come to his comrades’ aid at the stricken World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. In his memory, the firefighter’s family created the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, raising money to support a wide range of philanthropic efforts.

Today, Daniel Genovese-Scullin puts on his personal protective equipment to work another 13-hour shift in the COVID trauma unit at Richmond University Medical Center — running toward danger, rather than away from it.

It’s a family tradition.