As the COVID-19 pandemic began driving systemic changes around the globe in early 2020, on Drexel’s campus, groups of students, professional staff and faculty began to form dedicated teams to help the University respond to the public health crisis. From the case investigation teams, to COVID-19 testing teams, to contact tracing teams and finally to vaccination teams, these heroic individuals play a critical role in keeping the Drexel community safe and informed from the outset through the present time.
For both Bhargavi Sahu and Nina Kulkarni, MPH, getting involved with the Drexel COVID Investigation Team was about helping people and finding a way to contribute to a global challenge. Sahu, who is a senior in the Dornsife School for Public Health, joined the team in March 2021. Kulkarni was one of the original members of the team, beginning in the spring of 2020 and is now the testing and vaccine sites manager for the Drexel COVID Surveillance Project.
The investigation team connects with students who have tested positive for COVID-19. The team speaks individually with each student to better understand their contacts, health history, timeline of exposure and importantly helps students understand quarantine protocols and guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The team checks in on the students every single day to evaluate their symptoms and see how they are doing.
Dedicated to being a trusted source of information, the team works to stay up to date on the latest guidance from the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Philadelphia Department of Health.
“People were really struggling, and we wanted to provide a safe space to support students,” says Kulkarni. “There was so much empathy needed with students from all backgrounds,” says Sahu, “I believe in being the change that you wish to see. Awareness and education are critical to the social determinates of health.” Kulkarni says, “kindness goes a really long way. … I talk to students daily who struggle with COVID, and they may not have been having the best day, but empathy is so critical to having people hear you. Treat everyone with respect.”
Sahu and Kulkarni were inspired by the teams they worked, and continue to work, so closely with to keep the Drexel community safe. “I really get inspired by people who are genuinely helping other people, those who are selfless. I look to all the people on this team, and I see that selflessness and genuine passion for the work they are doing. Also by strong leadership and strong women like Dr. Cruz, Dr. Montgomery, Dr. Lovett and Dr. McClellan,” says Kulkarni.
COVID-19 CASE INVESTIGATION TEAM
Pictured: Bhargavi Sahu
Not pictured: Nina Kulkarni, MPH