These Two Alums Are In It Together, While Staying Apart

Lisa Cooper ’90 and Quentin Cooper J.D. ’97 MBA ’98 are juggling their large family, marriage, and busy careers while Lisa shelters in place alone to continue working in health care.

Pandemic parenting is hard. Period. But parenting six kids, virtually, while working in health care, quarantined away from your family? Well, that’s at another level.

But that’s life for Lisa Cooper ’90, who is staying close to her job in Santa Cruz while her husband, Quentin Cooper J.D. ’97 MBA ’98, is home with the kids in Woodside.

Lisa, a registered nurse who currently serves as CEO of Santa Cruz Surgery Center, says when six Bay Area counties officially ordered residents to shelter in place on March 16, “I gotta tell you, my initial instincts were to send an email to the board of directors saying I’d come in to the center after hours. But that wasn’t sitting right. I wanted to be there to help.” And since there was a possibility of her interacting with ill patients and then becoming a carrier of coronavirus, she rented a place away from her family to keep them safe.

That left Quentin working from home with the kids. “It’s been a big challenge.”

While working (remotely, for now) as the head of QWCooper, a boutique law firm serving tech companies, he is also de-facto teacher as his children transition to remote learning. Five kids are home—ages 8, 10, 14, 17, 20—and oldest son, 22-year-old Owen, is currently quarantining with roommates in San Diego where he attends college.

Lisa’s surgery center is not a hospital, so the number of surgeries there have dropped to only urgent cases. Lisa has been working to help local hospitals in their efforts to combat COVID-19. In mid-April, for example, “We had 130 medical professionals come to our parking lot to do drive-by testing for antibodies to the virus,” she says. Her clinic has also been volunteered as an alternative site to house coronavirus patients in case hospitals become overwhelmed.

As CEO, she’s had to address the needs of her center’s staff, the majority of whom are effectively out of work while only the most essential surgeries are performed. “We immediately gave them as much PTO as we could, we’ve told them all that their health care benefits will be in place through May,” she says, noting that the clinic is facing cash flow issues in the near future if work restrictions are not relaxed soon. “So all these things are keeping me up right now.”

Personally, it’s been tough, too, she says. “It was the first time in 28 years I wasn’t with Quentin on his birthday. And I missed Easter with the kids.”

Lisa Cooper in mask
Lisa Cooper ’90 is a registered nurse who currently serves as CEO of Santa Cruz Surgery Center. Photo courtesy Cooper.
Lisa Cooper driveway testing
Lisa Cooper ’90 participates in testing for COVID-19 antibodies in a drive-through testing event she helped organize at her clinic. Photo courtesy Cooper.

Meanwhile, Quentin says he’s been busy holding down the fort both at work and at home. “We try to have a family dinner every night… we’ll FaceTime in Lisa if she’s available,” he says. As for maintaining any semblance of a routine, he says they’ve been doing their best. “You know I teach, too, I’m an adjunct at Santa Clara law school. And I think the message to me and other teachers—and what should be the message to all teachers and parents—is, ‘Hey, let’s not stress people out more than they already are. Let’s give them some room to breathe.’”

As for his business, “the biggest challenge is not giving into fear, not future-tripping. Because right now everything is fine,” he says. “There’s a lot of challenges with technology, of course, with learning how to work from home…but I try to avoid catastrophizing.”

The Coopers acknowledge that they’re privileged to continue working full-time and to have a healthy family. Not everyone is so lucky. But if there is a silver lining to be gleaned here, Quentin says it’s that he’s in awe over people’s resilience. “I’m very hopeful, that we are adaptable to most challenges that come our way,” he says. “There’s a lot of things I miss right now, but just the fact that we are adapting is pretty amazing.”

Quentin Cooper on Zoom
Quentin Cooper J.D. ’97 MBA ’98 says he’s getting better at Zoom video conferencing, which he’s using now to continue running his law practice, check-in with his wife, and help his children do their school work. Photo courtesy Cooper.