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.
“We are all in helping professions, so if you see something that needs to be done, you do it. Nurses typically step in, and in this case, we needed to take care of the Drexel community,” says Kate Morse, PhD, assistant dean for Experiential Learning and Innovation and associate clinical professor.
As the full COVID-19 task force began to take shape in the early months of the pandemic, it was clear having a COVID-19 tracing team would be an essential component to meeting the needs of the community. At the outset, there was limited infrastructure, which was being developed concurrent to contact tracing. “This is so important to public health, so when I was called, I didn’t have to think about it at all. I wanted to do my part. Every little bit helps,” says Susan Solecki, DrPH, associate clinical professor of nursing in the Graduate Nursing Department. Solecki states, “with HIV, SARS, EBOLA, any kind of crisis – we share a mindset of ‘this is who we are.’ It is in our DNA. You have to do something. This is what I went to nursing school for.”
Speaking with Drexel community members who had been exposed and who had tested positive for COVID-19, involved regular phone calls, symptom checks, understanding contacts with other individuals, care and support. “Nurses, as a profession, are a community within themselves,” says Theresa Fay-Hillier, DrPH, associate clinical professor in Undergraduate Nursing. “We are good at reaching out for help and are very resourceful. We all knew our strengths. We never felt like we were out by ourselves [on the contact tracing team]. I was really proud of what we were doing. Students would remark that they were happy to hear from the nurses.”
Despite the challenging circumstances, members of the contact tracing team continue to be inspired. Kymberlee Montgomery, DNP, senior associate dean of Nursing & Student Affairs and chief academic nursing officer, shares that “there are many things and individuals that inspire me. My family, close friends, animals and the preservation of a natural environment provide significant inspiration for me. I am also truly inspired by assisting others to reach their maximum potential through their own paths or creating innovative programs to help them achieve their goals.” “I am inspired daily by my students and colleagues,” says Anthony Angelow, PhD, chair of Advanced Practice Nursing and assistant clinical professor in the Graduate Nursing department. “More than ever, over the past year, faculty members and professional staff needed to quickly develop ways to offer nursing education in the face of a pandemic. I am in awe at the amount of creativity and innovation I’ve seen, especially on such short notice.”
“What is common among healthcare providers around the world, is that they want to care for patients, to improve life for people. There is much more good than bad. The arc of goodness is long, and it will come out. That is what inspires me. If I can teach a nursing student that this is your contribution. We have to prepare students to survive in a chaotic environment,” says Morse.
COVID-19 CONTACT TRACING TEAM:
Pictured: Anthony Angelow, PhD, Theresa Fay-Hillier, DrPH, Kimberly McClellan, EdD, Kymberlee Montgomery, DNP, Kate Morse, PhD, Jenny Ni, Susan Solecki, DrPH, Helen Teng, PhD
Not pictured: Katie Anderson, Erica Chang, Leah Condon, Mikaela Perez