Please click here for the latest information regarding Benedictine University's response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Jose Adame, MPH
Epidemiologist, Georgia Department of Public Health's (DPH) HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Section
Life as a recent graduate from Benedictine University’s online MPH program has been more than rewarding for me. From my first course, to choosing an internship site, to applying for jobs, the opportunity has been exciting and life changing. I have always wanted to dedicate my time and work to continue in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and what better way than to start in my own community? After completing my internship at the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Section, I was offered a position and began to fulfill my calling.
Interning and working at DPH has allowed me the opportunity to put the skills I developed at BenU to the test. From helping develop and conduct a survey regarding the use of antiretrovirals for HIV exposed births in hospitals, to using real data to analyze comorbidities associated with HIV positive women in Georgia, the internship helped me develop and master skills needed as an epidemiologist. Now, with the current Covid-19 pandemic, I have quickly become exposed to the work of field epidemiology, in which my day consists of managing cases, contact tracing, as well as preparing data to be analyzed by senior epidemiologists.
As every day working in this field has become a learning experience, I will without a doubt continue to master the skills I have currently developed to become a well-rounded public health professional.
I'm currently the epidemiologist for the Wayne County Dept. of Health, Human & Veterans Services (Wayne County, MI). We reported our first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 10th, and have since grown to 1,655 cases and 45 deaths as of March 31st. I am primarily responsible for disease surveillance and investigations. Due to the sheer volume of new cases being reported on a daily basis, our disease control efforts are primarily focused on high-risk occupations (health care workers, police, fire, EMS) and those living in congregate settings (LTAC, SNF, AFC homes, jails, prisons, etc.). While cases have exploded in March, my work on COVID-19 actually began in January 2020 when we partially-activated our Public Health Operations Center, in conjunction with our Emergency Preparedness colleagues, in response to the outbreaks in China and other countries overseas. Beginning in March, our PHOC has gone into full-activation mode.
It is an immense collaborative effort and we have amazing partnerships with the state of Michigan health department, as well as our regional local partners in the Metro Detroit region. We are a highly interconnected metro area, so it is not unusual for a case to live in one county, but work in another. Our large hospital and healthcare systems have also been extremely proactive in their response to this pandemic, setting up curbside and "pop-up" testing sites in a matter of weeks, as well as developing their own, in-house COVID-19 testing capacities, which relieved pressure on our state public health laboratory.
I'd like to give a shoutout to all BenU alumni nurses, epidemiologists, infection control professionals, doctors, and all other healthcare professionals working during this pandemic. It moves so incredibly fast. Thank you for all your hard work!
Lukas Ayers, BS, MPH
Benedictine University, Class of 2017
Jackie Bender, MSN/MBA in progress
Emergency Department Nurse, Pediatric Emergency Trauma Department in Northern New Jersey
I have been an Emergency Department nurse for five years and for a little over two years I have been working in a busy Pediatric Emergency Trauma Department in Northern New Jersey. We are currently expanding our patient population from ages 21 and under to 35 and under. Our unit is still fully functioning with our normal pediatric patients, but now have a huge influx of COVID19 patients. I am proud to serve my community and care for the pediatric population. I am currently working towards my dual degrees (MSN/MBA) and hope to be a nurse administrator in the future. Benedictine University and the faculty have supported me throughout my journey, especially through these difficult times. Thank you to everyone working on the front lines during this pandemic!
I am working with the LA County Department of Public Health in their Vaccine Preventable Disease Control Program. Our department, the Immunization Coalition, works with community partners on improving vaccination coverage in LA. Currently, we are doing a study on the Immunization Policies and Practices at Community Based Adult Services Centers (CBAS). These centers serve aging adults and adults with disabilities. Before the pandemic, our study was looking at whether these centers, which serve about 22,000 adults in LA County, had policies for screening for vaccine preventable diseases in their participants or staff. Preliminary results have shown that there are very few that check for the recommended vaccinations - including influenza and pneumococcal disease which disproportionately affect our study population. Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, knowing whether these centers are looking at the vaccination status is of even greater importance. When the analysis is complete, in the next two months, my team hopes to make policy recommendations to help increase this vaccination screening. Not only will this information be vital if/when there is a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, it is also important for the continued care of the staff, participants, and family members who work with these CBAS centers.
On a personal note, working in a public health department during a pandemic has been both meaningful and frustrating. I am so grateful to be doing something to help, but I wish I could do more. I am so impressed with the calm urgency in how the Department of Public Health is helping with the pandemic, how they ramped up all their efforts and pivoted to working from home at all hours to analyze data, translate information, and educate the public. It is amazing to also see that none of their existing projects have fallen by the wayside, we still are still monitoring air quality, tracking food-borne illnesses, working on preteen vaccines, and tracking the flu. All my training at Benedictine University has prepared me well for this experience and I am ready to take the next step.
My masters in nursing leadership has equipped me with the tools to support my staff and prepare for the changes the next few months may bring to healthcare and the country. As a returning graduate student pursuing my MBA at Benedictine during this crisis, I have felt very supported by the faculty as they guide us through necessary curriculum changes to ensure we receive a quality experience. I am thankful for my Benedictine education and faculty as we navigate these changing times.
My name is Shannon Roussy, I am an alumna of the Benedictine MPH program. I wanted to share my current experience with the pandemic response.
I work as a community health center in Washington state as the health educator. Washington, specifically the Seattle area, has quite a large number of cases and in order to better serve our patients we have transitioned all care to telemedicine visits until further notice.
My role has allowed me to reach out to patients, particularly our Spanish-speaking patients, who maybe be under-informed about the pandemic and ensure that they fully understand social distancing measures, the stay home order, and how the symptoms differentiate from the regular flu or common cold.
While I’m not on the front lines addressing the pandemic like our medical staff, I feel that my efforts have helped aid out patient population and community into better understanding the crisis at hand and ensure that they are prepared for what is happening.
Shannon Roussy, MPH, CHES
I started the MSN program in August of 2019 and have had such a great experience thus far so I thought I would share my testimonial to Benedictine University's MSN program! Benedictine University and its MSN faculty have been nothing short of supportive of their students during this surreal and trying time. I am so grateful to be attending a university that cares so much about the success of their students as well as their health and safety.
As an employee of the Illinois Department of Public Health I work with healthcare coalitions consisting of hospitals, local health departments, Emergency Management, EMS, and many others to prepare our state and the locals to respond to public health events such as COVID-19. My MBA and MSN education at BenU has prepared me well. The knowledge I have gained in areas of project management, communications, leadership, and healthcare administration has allowed me to be an asset to my team and the communities we serve. I am confident that our state, our communities, and our healthcare systems will effectively recover from this event. I am thankful for the support I have received from my professors and the BenU community during this stressful time of balancing an increased workload while completing my MSN degree.
Ashley Thoele, MBA, BSN, RN, MSN
Emergency Medical Services and Highway Safety
Office of Preparedness and Response
Illinois Department of Public Health