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.
“I personally had to be there. I needed to do something,” says Genevieve Porrecca, MSN, assistant clinical professor and simulation education specialist in the Undergraduate Nursing Department. A sentiment repeated over and over by Drexel nurses and health professionals as the COVID cases increased nationally. The determination to help all people stay safe and healthy was a unifying moment this year for many students, faculty and professional staff, who worked or volunteered with Drexel’s COVID-19 response. The cross-disciplinary teams came together with a shared purpose to help the Drexel community. “It was gratifying to work with faculty outside the Physician Assistant Department. The interprofessional contribution was meaningful, and I appreciated the chance to get to know members of the testing team on a deeper level,” says Annie Madden, MHS, director of Clinical Education and associate clinical professor in the Physician Assistant department.
The initial COVID-19 testing site for Drexel University started in Myers Hall on campus, where they were able to test four people at a time. As the testing need increased, more volunteers arrived from across campus, and eventually, the testing site was moved to Race Street, where the testing team, at its peak, saw around 1,000 people in one week.
As quoted from a recent DrexelNOW story: “I initially took this job because the pandemic is such a confusing time for everybody, and I just wanted to contribute whatever I could,” Saznin Chowdhury, a third-year health sciences student in the College of Nursing and Health Professions said. “When I first joined, I was very scared because this is a novel virus and we had not a lot of data and knowledge about it. … I just wanted to help out the Drexel community, and learn to get comfortable with the environment that I was working in.”
Jennifer Cummings, MSN, assistant track director, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Track and assistant professor in the Graduate Nursing Department says, “when this opportunity arose, I wanted to get involved, because I could meet this need. I was impressed with the students who wanted to make sure they were doing everything they could to keep people safe. …their care and concern for their families, friends and community was inspiring.” As the need for testing continues, Cummings shares, “we need to come together; we all have valuable things to offer. We need to approach things with humility, to be able to say I was wrong. Kim McClellan has been a mentor to me through all of this, and she really helped me focus my skills to be useful in the area most needed.”
As a member of the testing team, Stephen Gambescia, PhD, clinical professor and director of Doctor of Health Science program in the Health Administration department shares this important advice: “Be a servant leader. Follow through on what you agree to do; if you cannot, explain why. Be intellectually honest with yourself and others. Go with your ideas or those of others that are rational and ethically sound.”
COVID-19 TESTING TEAM
Pictured: Ferne Cohen, EdD, Jennifer Cummings, MSN, Stephen Gambescia, PhD, Ann McDonough Madden, MHS, Kimberly McClellan, EdD, Jennifer Olszewski, EdD, Alis Panzera, DrNP, Genevieve Porrecca, MSN, Helen Teng, PhD.
Not pictured: Helena Aklilu, Saznin Chowdhury, Jordan Perez