CHICAGO — Before she was even hired, Chicago Schools’ new chief health officer addressed a health problem Wednesday – by rushing to the side of a woman who collapsed during a school board meeting.
“I’m a physician. Someone was in need. I just wanted to make sure she was not in a critical situation,” said Dr, Stephanie Whyte hours before school board members agreed to pay her $157,000 a year in the newly created position of chief health officer for Chicago Public Schools.
Elizabeth Whitfield was walking to her seat after making an impassioned plea to board members to spare Stagg Elementary from a management and staff shakeup when she collapsed and fell to the floor. Whyte, who was nearby, got on her knees to comfort and monitor the woman. Whyte kept the crowd away, along with a retired nurse, until paramedics arrived.
She was conscious, and “awake and aware” when she was taken off by paramedics, Whyte said.
Paramedics treated the woman on the scene, and she was released, authorities said. In her new role, Whyte will oversee several new health policies approved Wednesday, including the stocking of four to six epinephrine injectors, called epi-pens, in every CPS school to prevent life-threatening allergic reactions.
Students also will be allowed to carry and self-administer epi-pens with the written approval of their parents.
“You’d have to be an idiot to oppose it,” Mike Carlson told board members Wednesday. His daughter, Katelyn Carlson, died following an allergic reaction to peanuts during a 2010 CPS school party, leading to a change in Illinois law on stocking the pens in schools.