Fatmira Purovic ’92 has been working tirelessly to help our community remain healthy and back in school during the pandemic. This is no small task — rather, it is an ongoing Lion-sized effort for which we are all most grateful.
As Healthcare Director, Ms. Purovic has helped to shape and oversee our School’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, from liaising with the New York State Department of Health and bringing testing clinics onsite to helping faculty and staff receive vaccinations and everything in between. As COVID-19 and uncertainty have redefined life for all of us, Ms. Purovic has been a calm center at the eye of the storm. Her reassurance, expertise, and caring have made a huge difference for our students, families, faculty, and staff, as we continue to navigate the changing face of the pandemic together.
An Alumna Returns to Her Alma Mater
We have felt Fatmira’s quiet strength as a healthcare provider for over 15 years, but not everyone knows that she first came to Dwight in 1991 as a student. After moving to the U.S. from her home in the former Yugoslavia (Montenegro), she enrolled as a senior and it was here that she made her new family home, though she didn’t quite know it yet. Her husband is Eddie Purovic, long-time dedicated member of our Security team, who previously taught P.E. and coached soccer, boxing, judo, boys basketball, and conditioning for all scholar-athletes. Their son, Ram, also graduated from Dwight in 2014.
“Dwight helped to build a solid educational base for me,” Ms. Purovic shares. “Coming in with only one year left in high school was a challenge, but Chancellor Spahn helped me to make my course selections and he and all the teachers were so supportive. It was an exciting time and I really excelled in class.”
After having learned English, Ms. Purovic was drawn to master another language — Japanese — and she began studying with Radomir Kovacevic, who was also from the former Yugoslavia (Serbia). He was a Dwight Japanese, philosophy, and P.E. teacher, and quite notably, a masterful conditioning coach. Mr. Kovacevic, who drew on his own experience as a three-time Olympian representing Yugoslavia in judo and winner of the 1980 bronze medal to coach, had learned Japanese while training in judo and studying at Tokyo’s Tokai University. His famous grueling workouts tested the mettle of many students; alumni often credit him with helping to shape them literally and metaphorically, and Ms. Purovic was no exception: "Mr. Kovacevic was not only my Japanese teacher, but also my mentor and life coach. While I did not participate in his physical workouts, he taught me to believe that I can overcome any challenge life brings if I remain calm, continue to work hard, and never give up."
After graduating from Dwight, Ms. Purovic, who had become fluent in Japanese, parlayed that expertise into a job as a data entry specialist at Marubeni America, which is headquartered in Japan. She left several years later to have her son and be with him full time. When Ram went off to preschool, the moment had come for a career change and it was nursing school that beckoned.
In 2005, when Dwight’s School Nurse was retiring, Chancellor Spahn, with whom she had remained in touch, invited Ms. Purovic to fill her shoes. Delighted to be asked, she returned to her alma mater, where her husband had been working as a P.E. teacher and coach; this time with Ram, who had enrolled in fifth grade. The whole family woke up each morning bound for Dwight from their home in Queens.
“Over the years, Dwight has grown and the number of students has increased, but throughout one thing has always remained constant, which is what I most enjoy about my job: how students have always found comfort in me and the special connections that I have forged with them,” Ms. Purovic explains. “The bond of trust is there, which is especially important when students are ill and feel most vulnerable. Some older students have, over the years, occasionally found their way to my office, perhaps with an excuse to see me for emotional support during college application season and exam time when they are most stressed. I have always offered them a steady hand and encouragement in addition to treating their physical symptoms.”
Calm, Cool, and Collected
One of the enduring truths about Ms. Purovic is that she does not get stressed herself. Amid the last year when everyone has faced more anxiety than usual, she has remained centered and grounded. “During this challenging year especially, Radomir's encouraging words often came to mind: to stay calm, work hard, and never give up,” she shares. “Though he passed away in 2006, Radomir’s legacy is carried on through his wife, Savka, who is the Main Office Coordinator on our Riverside Campus, and their three children who also graduated from Dwight. My family’s connection with Radomir's family has remained strong over the years.”
When Dwight closed last spring, Ms. Purovic dove head first into attending every online seminar and reading every publication to educate herself in preparation for helping Dwight to navigate the pandemic. “I connected with experts and with colleagues at other schools to share information and insights. After every new webinar, I reviewed and reflected on the emerging understanding from the infectious disease professionals and shared what I learned with our incredible Dwight team,” she explains. The Dwight team, which had the unique advantage of implementing lessons learned from our campuses that had reopened in spring 2020, went into high gear over the summer to ready our facilities and School to welcome our community back safely.
With that knowledge, Dwight was one of the first schools in New York City to reopen last August; so, too, were we among the first to establish on-site testing clinics. This was thanks to Ms. Purovic, whose research enabled us to partner directly with Quality Laboratory Service rather than having to go through another third-party clinical provider, increasing convenience and dramatically shortening the amount of time to receive results from 10-14 days to 48 hours. This enabled our community to be better prepared to respond and reduce the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19 significantly, so in-person learning could continue as seamlessly as possible.
Ms. Purovic has, understandably, received an untold number of questions from community members, and has moved from behind the scenes to a more visible position than she ever could have anticipated. She has helped us to feel comfortable with changing testing and quarantine guidelines. As more and more people become vaccinated, one thing will remain the same: Ms. Purovic will continue to offer the latest scientific information and reassurance regardless of what comes next. “I was at Dwight in 2009 when we faced a novel H1N1 influenza virus together, and I look forward to the time when we can all see beyond this pandemic,” shares Ms. Purovic. “While the nature of viruses is such that new strains emerge, I hope that science and technology will enable us to better fight them armed with the knowledge gained over the last year.”
When taking a rare moment for herself, Ms. Purovic can be found bass fishing on a lake in upstate New York, where her family enjoys time away from the city. “Being on the water with a fishing pole is always the most relaxing for me,” she shares. Ms. Purovic can also be spotted atop a ski slope in winter alongside Ram, who was a competitive racer before college. Every weekend, their family was on the mountainside cheering him on, and skiing remains a favorite activity.
Dwight in Her Heart
“My love for Dwight goes far beyond someone who likes and values their job. The School and Spahn family have given my family so much — an invaluable education and more,” she says. “If there are 24 hours in a day, I want to put in 30 to give back a little of what they have given to me. After coming to School day after day, year after year, the bonds are so strong; and everything I do for students, faculty, and staff is what I would do if I were to treat a member of my own family. This makes my job special, and we will get through this pandemic together as an extended family, stronger and closer than ever.”