Students on the front lines

Many SNHS students are working to support our communities during COVID-19.  Eight of those students, Aaron Davis, Raday Gonzalez, Ting-Chun (Addison) Lin, Oscar Ochoa, Kimberly O'Kane, Keven Ta, Kathy Luangrath, and Sesait Tekle, were willing to share their stories from the front lines.

Aaron Davis.jpgAaron Davis

My Name is Aaron Davis, I was born in Los Angeles California, raised in Southern Arizona, and moved to Seattle 3 years ago with the goal of attending the University of Washington. I am a current Health Studies major and a double minor in Global Health, and Health Education and Promotion, I will be graduating in the Spring of 2021. After I graduate with my bachelor’s I plan to apply and hopefully earn my Masters of Public Health from the University of Washington Seattle campus. I aspire to work with at risk and traditionally marginalized communities to evaluate needs, and barriers that may be leading to lower qualities of life and unfavorable health outcomes. I see myself facilitating community-based research and evaluating programs aimed at reducing disparities within future career roles.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been working as an essential frontline worker in my role as an overnight program manager at a Mary’s Place emergency family shelter. The community I serve consists primarily of mothers and children who are often fleeing situations of domestic violence, and many refugee families with origins outside the United States. These are unsheltered families who have been sleeping in cars, in tent encampments, and staying temporarily with friends or family while in transition. During non-pandemic times, the work involves assessing barriers of individual families, getting our guests connected with resources to meet immediate medical needs, obtain new ID’s/ birth certificates or other legal documents, employment resources, housing resources, and government assistance such as SNAP. 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak we have shifted the focus of our program towards accommodating a safe clean site for guest to stay healthy and distance from one another at, and trying to provide a sense of stability and normalcy as much as possible. With the greater Seattle area essentially shutting down and limiting services for several weeks, families have been left in transitional housing limbo. Limited government operations has resulted in a slow in the distribution of permanent and transitional housing vouchers which guest use to transition out of shelter, and back into independent living. The ongoing pandemic is resulting in families staying in emergency shelter systems way beyond the standard 90 days or less, and a major part of my role has been to implement and enforce changes around our shelter site to ensure we can meet CDC safe distancing and isolation standards. 

An average workday for me as a frontline shelter worker includes deep cleaning our shelter site and all surfaces staff and guests come into contact with. I helped to develop and implement a site wide sanitation schedule for all shifts to make sure we reduce the opportunity for the virus to thrive. I have also worked to rearrange all bed spaces at the shelter to ensure each family is distanced properly from others and established “quarantine” rooms where symptomatic guests can self-isolate until we can coordinate COVID-19 testing. Social distancing has been a challenge at my work because the site functions as a communal living space with shared locker rooms, showers, and dining spaces. To help with these challenges we’ve worked with the local community to gather handmade cloth masks, and boxes of donated PPE that staff and guests may use through out the time they are in the building. 

An additional challenge and one that I personally feel has not gotten enough attention, has been the transition for the children that must stay in shelter. For children in situations of housing instability attending school is often one of the only reprieves they are afforded. Schools provide children experiencing homelessness with onsite resources, support, and a sense of “normal” as they get to interact with other children and spend time away from shelter settings, something that is crucial for their mental health. With the pandemic causing schools to go remote, all the children we’ve had in shelter have effectively been robbed of those vital social interactions and moments of reprieve. The fall out has been felt as we witness and try to provide support for those experiencing secondary trauma from the disruption of their routine.

As staff I’ve helped to coordinate school lunch deliveries from the district to our site, we’ve helped to gather the technology needed to move all of the children online, and assist the youth program leaders in delivering education and facilitating class. All while being cautious of the looming virus. 

What I would like others to know, is that families really are stuck in transition right now. It has been difficult to work on housing initiatives or progress with getting guests employed with so many businesses being shut down still. We have been facing challenges with apartments not wanting to show available units for rent out of fear of the virus spreading. In addition to housing initiatives slowing down, all processing of immigration and refugee paperwork at the local and federal government level has also halted for us. This lack of progress results in a great deal of anxiety and stress for the families left with no other choice but to stay in the shelter setting. 

Meeting people where they are, and offering support is now a main function of my role. We have gotten creative and introduced on site activities to break up the mundane such as group (socially distanced) yoga sessions, mindfulness hours where everyone is given space to speak and process what is going on in the world around us, and impromptu dance classes where we get families up and moving. These little gestures and activities have been great when breaking up tensions, especially when we have guests testing positive for the virus. I have also began working with our medical team to reassess how care is delivered to our pregnant mothers in shelter, and am partnering with community midwives to see if they can bring their affordable services to site since hospitals are not ideal spaces for delivery due to threat of the virus.

Juggling my role at work with school has been a challenge, especially since I am also a single parent of two wonderful children. I have found myself more times than not finishing up homework or studying at work during my breaks or down time. What keeps me going is my commitment to working with and advocating for communities in need. In my role I have been able to leverage skills and approaches learned while attending UWB classes in my work setting to improve safety, and address issues of inequity. Seeing the impact, the I can make in families lives keeps me focused and grounded. I am a firm believer that if you can do good, then you should do good; I am always actively looking for ways to help make someone’s day better, it really is just who I am. 

As a Health Studies major, this pandemic has really informed my views on public health and helped me find which roles in assisting communities I am passionate about. The pandemic has also given me insight into major gaps in health-related fields especially when it comes to issues of access and quality of care for populations from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The pandemic has boldly highlighted many inequities in our society but has also lit a fire within me to work towards changing systems for the better. I want to continue working with populations dealing with barriers and issues of access that create health disparities, and I would love to continue to influence programs and the way they deliver services to help break down those barriers. 

The work I do is often very thankless, almost always invisible, and rarely considered when people think about frontline workers even though we must assist and care for families with exposure and confirmed cases. Each time I show up to my building I put myself, an immunocompromised person, and my family at personal risk of infection. However, I could not imagine myself stepping away from this valuable work. My heart is in it, I love the families I serve, and I really believe in the mission there is no such thing as a throw away person, no child should ever be left to sleep on the streets, and that people deserve to be safe and sheltered no matter what is going on in the world. I am here to do my part in working towards making all this possible because it is at the core of my values and beliefs.

Raday Gonzalez.jpgRaday Gonzalez

My name is Raday Gonzalez, I’m from Tukwila Washington and I’m senior graduating spring 2020, I major in Health Studies because I have always wanted to work inside the healthcare field but I wasn’t sure what to pursue. The career I hope to pursue with a health care degree is helping medical staff without interacting with patients or other medical members. 

I want to focus on IT work inside hospitals such as EPIC (Electronic Portfolio of International Credentials) This software helps medical staff keep track of patients medical records and more. For me to be able to be successful in a IT role at any hospital It would be beneficial to pursue a higher education inside the healthcare field. I have decided to continue my education by going for a master degree at the UW campus. The program I got accepted into is called Health informatics and health information management. It’s a two year commitment that allows me to work and take classes at the same time. This program will help me improve my skills in a management way and also give me a better understanding on informatics and more.

2)      What is your role on the "front lines "of the COVID19 pandemic? What does it involve? What communities or groups do you work with or serve? 

My role at Seattle Children's Hospital is being a Unit Coordinator (UC), I am responsible for providing administrative support and coordination of patient care to ensure maintenance of an organized, family centered patient care environment. While proving excellent customer service, I am responsible for screening visitors and who want to enter/access inpatient units. And last I coordinate daily staffing needs for the inpatient nursing units. On the daily I work with nurses, residents and doctors. I do my best to assist them with anything they need such as documents and patients information.

3)      What experiences have you had in this role that you want others to know about? 

Working on the ICU can be intense and a little stressful because patients are under critical conditions which can make parents worry, nurses a little intense and doctors be aware of anything that can happen to a patient . Something to keep in mind with this role is that working under pressure can be normal and multitasking is a must to be able to accomplish a lot of task at once to be able to support medical staff at all times without having anybody wait.

4)      What's it been like juggling your role as well as school?  What keeps you going?

It’s been tough working full-time and attending school full-time but something that keeps me moving are my parents hard work and dedication. I know it hasn’t been easy for me to go to school early in the mornings and rushing to work right after a long day of classes but my parents are the reason why I do what I do. I  commute to school and it usually takes me an hour with traffic but It’s been worth It because my grades are paying off and my time at UWB has been a journey. Being a first generation student has been a difficult task but I want to prove my parents that I’m capable of paying off my own education and capable of showing them that their sacrifices will pay off one day. Our family migrated to this country with nothing but a dream and because of this country opportunities I’m making that dream possible by getting a great education.

5)      As a health studies student (or minor), how has the pandemic shaped your views on health and career plans related to health? 

This pandemic has helped me see a lot about our healthcare future. As a person who wants to go into the IT field, it’s important to understand that there’s a lot to understand and get done to be able to support all hospital Units and more. Currently, as a UC I can see ways to improve our department by improving better customer services to staff and family members. Although, this pandemic has been unreal I still want to go towards the IT field to improve hospital needs and medical staff.

6)      Anything else you want us to know in relation to this topic? 

Healthcare is the career path to take for a brighter future. I say this because the healthcare industry will continue to grow and grow and plenty of new roles will be open and those roles will be different but will still benefit the hospital.

Ting Chun (Addison) Lin.pngTing-Chun (Addison) Lin

1) Tell us a little about yourself (e.g. name, where you're from, expected graduation date, major or minor) and your career aspirations

My name is Ting-Chun (Addison) Lin. I am a Taiwanese student at UW Bothell's Master of Nursing program, expecting to graduate in 2021. My long term plan is to become a nursing professor to help educate future generations of nurses to provide compassionate care and to improve the long-term care system.

2) What is your role on the "front lines" of the COVID19 pandemic? What does it involve? What communities or groups do you work with or serve?

From March to May 2020, I was the Information Leader of the WE CARE project, an international task force by Chinese Christians to supports U.S. healthcare professionals during the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). WE CARE has successfully donated over 500,000 face masks to more than 35 U.S. medical facilities in 10 states, including Seattle's Virginia Mason and Swedish First-Hill. We also donated 100,000 masks to individual healthcare professionals throughout the nation. All the masks and costs are paid by public donations from 600+ donors around the world. I helped to co-lead 80 volunteers over 52 days, including the information team with 10 members. Our team developed and maintained our website that has over 1475 visitors and 2 Facebook fundraisers. We also developed new volunteer training manuals, websites, emails, and SOPs to contact hospitals and reach donors

3) What experiences have you had in this role that you want others to know about?

It was a challenging but fulfilling project. I spent about 8-10 hours every day during the first two weeks to set up the framework, including the websites, procedures, communicating with hospitals, coordinating our volunteers. We had to learn the differences between China and the US' standard on mask quality, so we can vet for affordable and high-quality masks for dozens of Chinese manufacturers. We also had to deal with customs to ship these masks in a complicated U.S.-Sino relations relationship. We also spent a considerable amount of time communicating with hospitals to ensure they can sign a waiver of liability of our masks and the logistics of shipping the masks to their facility. We also have to fundraise through different social media platform (Facebook, WeChat, Linked-in, Company Match Fund), set up 8 types of donation methods, and answer donors' questions.

During the process of fundraising and procuring these masks, it was prayers that led us through the various difficulties we encountered from selecting the right vendor, exporting, importing, to shipping. The import agent whom we went through is not a Christian. However, he told us that Christians’ prayers make a big difference because our shipment went particularly smoothly while many other shipments could not pass the custom.

4) What's it been like juggling your role as well as school?  What keeps you going?

I don't know how I would have made it through the past few months without the help of God, WE CARE team, professors, church, and teammates. I am thankful that my professors were very flexible and understanding of my situation (Shout out to Professor Helen Achilles Andrews, Dr Kosuke “Ko” Niitsu,  Dr Christopher Wade, and others). They gave me extensions, flexibility, and encouragement throughout the process.

What kept me going was seeing my nursing classmates overwhelmed by loads of COVID patients and how health professionals continue to fight despite not having enough PPEs. My team and church fellowship also supported me when I was burnt out a few times.

5) As a health studies student (or minor), how has the pandemic shaped your views on health and career plans related to health?

Health is more than just diagnosing and treating diseases. The supply chain and quality of medical supplies give health professionals the ammunition to fight the battle. Epidemiologists and other experts help us see the trend and big picture of where to invest our resources efficiently. Social determinants of health like socioeconomic status, neighborhood, and health literacy play critical roles in how minorities are disproportionately impacted.

These issues invoke my interest in learning more about public health, biostatistics, and health policies in my current master of nursing program and future advanced studies.

6) Anything else you want us to know in relation to this topic? 

Our project was founded on living out Jesus' love through the effort of Chinese Christians worldwide. When China experienced the peak of the pandemic in January, people all over the world supported China. When the US was going through the peak, many Chinese Christians worldwide, including a church in Wuhan, China, donated over $240,000 to purchase these masks to support US health professionals. Diseases do not stop at borders or boundaries. COVID hurts people from all kinds of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and countries. We are all in this together. And only by working together can we overcome COVID. 


Oscar OchoaOscar Ochoa

My name is Oscar Ochoa and I am from Los Angeles, CA. I have been living in Auburn, WA for an approximate 15 years with my parents, brother and sister. Like many, I am a first-generation Latino college student. I’m currently a senior graduating in the summer of 2020 from UWB, earning a bachelor’s degree in Health Studies. In the near future, I aspire to earn a position as a physician assistant (PA) specializing in emergency medicine or in family practice where I can play a larger role in patient recovery and treatment. 

My role on the “front lines” during the COVID-19 pandemic is working as a first responder. I currently work as an emergency medical technician (EMT), sponsored by a private ambulance company and have been for two years now. Our duties are to serve all communities in the King County area by providing quality basic life support (BLS) and critical care transportation. On a day-to-day basis, we respond to 911 emergency calls and non-emergent interfacility transports. The non-emergency transports involve various levels of care for patient discharges from hospitals, prehospital care and transportation. Most of our work come during our 911 calls. This is where we are dispatched with the requested fire department, police department, or other additional agencies that require our services because someone called 911 and need attentive care and transportation. Our headquarters are located in Kent, WA. However, the ambulance company I work with (Tri-Med Ambulance) provides transportation services to all communities in King County. The company is under contract with Fire Departments throughout the region, we deploy ambulances strategically to enhance response times. We respond to various types of calls ranging from abdominal pain, to drug overdoses, to motor vehicle accidents, to CPRs and anywhere in between.

During the pandemic, it felt surreal. I’ve been working as an EMT for two years now and I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the physical and mental toll it would take. The first encounter I had with COVID-19 was with a woman in her 80s who had a chief complaint of respiratory problems and a fever with a known history of pneumonia. She resided in Life Care of Kirkland, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in WA. We had our protocols in place. Our operations manager instructed everyone on what to do and how to protect ourselves. On that day, we had a unit of 3 people (usually it’s just 2) as we had a trainee. Nevertheless, before we contacted the patient, all three of us took a moment to ourselves due to uncertainty of the virus. Full transparency, we didn’t know what we expecting so we all gave each other a hug and gave ourselves words of encouragement. We put on our personal protective equipment (PPE) which included gloves, eyewear, a gown, face shield, and an n95 mask. The day was warm, but with the extra anxiety, being wrapped in the extra gear, it was hot. In short, we were able to safely transfer her from her bed to our stretcher. We took vitals, we treated her best way we knew how and we transported her to Evergreen Hospital. The transport was not very long, but felt like an eternity. After we transferred care to the nurse, our job was completed and the decontamination process began. The reality of being this close to the virus didn’t really take on full effect until the end of our shift. Our shift ended around 8pm that day, but when got back to our headquarters, paranoia and fear crept in. Our trainee was a father with a two-year-old boy, my partner was living people who were at high risk for complications to occur and I was living with my parents and younger siblings. Everyone was right in their own way to be worried about bringing the virus home. We each kept in touch during the night and the following week to see if we would develop any symptoms after the exposure. Personally, I was scared as hell when I came home that day. Scared not only for myself, but for what it would mean to my family. My parents are immigrants. No medical coverage for them and knowing them, contracting COVID-19 wouldn’t be enough for them to seek help at a hospital due to the fear from the hospital bill. My brother is 14 and my sister is 10, there was no way I was going to put them through that agony. I felt alone. That day, once I was close to home, I called my mother explaining her of what happened during work. I begged her over the phone to not make any contact with me because of the possible exposure. Once I got home, I stripped off my “contaminated” clothes and entered my room through a back door. I self-isolated due to the fear of the uncertainty of exposure. I didn’t see anyone for weeks and it was taking its toll. Fortunately, I never developed any symptoms and I had to courage of seeing my family once again after weeks of self-isolation. 

Fast forward to now (June) I’m better at recognizing what is happening. I’ve been kept up to date with the patients I interact with, I still follow all protocols and procedures and have not exhibit and signs or symptoms of COVID-19. However, work has still been busy. Some of my coworkers test positive for the virus, leaving extra shifts that need coverage. It left many of us who were not infected to work long hours since the outbreak began. During the pandemic, the longest shift I’ve worked was a 48hr shift straight with one day break, followed with 3 days of 13hr shifts. My experience during this role has been complex. I like to know things are kept in our control, however, COVID-19 striped me away of feeling. I have always acknowledged the inherent risk of my job, from needle sticks, to accidental exposures, to violent patients. I understand these risks and, in some ways, can mentally prepare for these challenges and understand the potential outcomes. However, COVID-19 brought on a lot of uncertainty. Throughout the pandemic, I had an amazing support group through work who could relate to what one was feeling. It was hard working during the pandemic at first because I had to bottle up my emotions about how I was feeling. I couldn’t express myself to my family because they didn’t know what it’s like. Even when I did, they would get frustrated with themselves because they wouldn’t know how to respond. But now I’m grateful for a support group that was created through peers and the staff at UWB who have been understanding, caring, and compassionate.

Working and juggling school has not been easy. My schedule is usually to focus on school during the week and work during the weekend or sometimes work night shifts after class. I have even taken my laptop to work with me because I’ve fallen behind on readings or homework. However, it doesn’t hurt to pick the brain of my coworkers when I need to run ideas by them or need some constructive criticism. I didn’t have a social life, everyone was kept at a distance, my days only consisted of me, my assignments, and work. During the pandemic what has kept me going? It’s tough to say, but a lot has to do with how I was raised. I’ve always put the needs of others ahead of my own. To this day, my mother does not like it when I work because of fear of the virus and she would rather have me focus on school instead. Bless her soul, but I always tell her that “if I don’t do it, if I don’t work, then who will. People need us mom and I need to be there for them. I’ll be okay.” During school, my parents have also kept me going. I have older siblings and younger siblings (3 brothers, 3 sisters in total), but my older siblings didn’t have a higher education. They didn’t finish high school and my parents didn’t even finish middle school. I keep going for them and always will. To show my younger brother and sister, my parents, and my older siblings that it’s possible. From coming with nothing to the U.S., to giving me everything I need to succeed, I just want to make them proud.

As a health studies student, it’s made my views about health disparities even more apparent. There’s no form of universal health care. What happens to those infected with the virus who can’t afford to get treatment or refuse to go because of the fear from the hospital bill. People are at higher risk than other for many reasons and don’t see their own representation. This virus has affected many, some more than others and it’s a sad reality. I want to work as a PA in a community that needs Latino representation. I want to endure confidence in my patients that they will be heard. Patients deserve to have their needs to be met and I think it’s important to treat the patient and not just solely focus on the disease itself. In order to lessen health disparities, I believe it’s important to bring the patient back, bring them into the conversation in order to maintain their integrity. 

Throughout these experiences, I still develop that love for medicine and patient care.

Kimberly oKaneKimberly O'Kane

I’m Kimberly O'Kane, and this is my story about how the pandemic has affected my experience as a volunteer with Concern for Neighbors Food Bank in Mountlake Terrace, and as a Health Studies major. Spring quarter was my first at UW Bothell, so COVID-19 is inextricable from my student experience while the entire country was introduced to basic principles of epidemiology and public health. For nearly a year I’ve been a regular volunteer, and my recent promotion to assistant director came after a board meeting revealed how many hours our paid director was working to manage our response to the pandemic. I simply volunteered to take on more responsibility to help with what was needed, and the role was suggested. On top of general tasks, I help train volunteers and answer questions, source and order items for distribution, fill in when the director is on an errand or vacation, and am one of the first to arrive and last to leave.

Before COVID-19 hit, I spent a few hours about every other Monday at the food bank, where we sorted through rescued produce in a big circle around pushed-together tables, chatting and showing off oddly shaped vegetables. My work schedule never let me see it, but distribution on Tuesdays was modeled after a grocery store, with stations to select from each kind of food and household items. The mission has always been to maximize choice and minimize barriers to access, though the model has shifted. Like most food banks in the area, we’ve adapted a ferry lane style system where someone with a clipboard talks to clients to obtain data and shopping preferences, shoppers assemble the cart, and runners load groceries into client’s vehicles. Through a combined effort of around 35 volunteer shifts over 3 days, each week we serve on average about 120 households from Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, and Brier; a roughly 20% increase from before COVID-19. We’ve been fortunate to mostly keep pace with demand, apart from the familiar supply chain issues, thanks to impressive generosity from individuals and businesses in the community.

During a time marked by profound social isolation and reasonable fear of the unknown, it is powerful to see the same faces every week. When clients sometimes express appreciation for my time, it’s not a nicety to say I’m happy to be there—it’s honestly the highlight of my week and the pinnacle of my social calendar. There’s a kind of camaraderie that develops between people who have a mission to complete that involves an element of danger. Sure, distributing food in a suburban church parking lot hardly equates to a war zone, but in those early weeks when so much remained unknown, the invisible threat of COVID-19 loomed heavy. It still does.

Most food bank volunteers are retirees, and while many of our regular volunteers were replaced by newly available teachers, bartenders, flight attendants, and students, our most dedicated at-risk volunteers are still working as much as ever. I am earnestly inspired by the deacon and retired warehouseman who does an hour-long arthritis warm up routine every morning to move boxes with a hand truck all afternoon, the immunocompromised client/volunteer who knows everyone and the answer to every question, and the small-statured grandmother who is frequently seen muscling carts apparently twice her size into the parking lot. I wouldn’t have met these and other neighbors otherwise, but they populate my mind and influence me constantly to be a little more empathetic, generous, and grateful.

It bears acknowledging that it is a privilege to serve the community like this, in more ways than one. I am fortunate enough to be able to do unpaid work, so I do it, because not everyone who wants to can. This isn’t my first serious volunteer commitment, in truth I owe my life as I know it to volunteering every day after school on a congressional campaign. Over the following 5 years, I held three different roles in the district and DC offices, eventually helping to introduce legislation that would improve access to school meals over the summer for kids facing food insecurity. Now, my work to reduce hunger is comprised of more modest tasks, but after graduation I hope to again work on public policy to address health disparities on a broader scale. Learning more this quarter about the undeniable disparities in individual health outcomes across socioeconomic classes, and researching the specific impacts of food insecurity on adolescents have further strengthened my resolve to work toward health equity now and in the future.

As the pandemic has made socioeconomic inequality even more glaring and the United States faces a reckoning about racism and oppression, giving thought to the problems of our lives and time can cause despair. The only antidote I have found to this feeling is taking action. It’s why I showed up to the food bank for the first time one day last fall, and why it’s become such a big part of my life. It doesn’t take infinite time, extra money, or the perfect skill set to be a person of action, just doing what you can to make being alive a little more pleasant for your neighbors. And, as it might turn out, yourself.

Kevin TaKevin Ta

My name is Kevin. I am from Vietnam but currently live in Bothell, Washington. I am studying at the University of Washington and pursuing a B.A. in Health Studies with a focus on Epidemiology. In my time at the University of Washington, I have developed a keen interest in the epidemiology field, including the study of disease spread and the development of plans to promote patient care safety in surgical procedures.  

My role on the “front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic has been at the Swedish Medical Center, where I work as a Surgical Core Coordinator for Surgical Services. There, I provide vital day-to-day support to surgical teams in fast-paced environments to meet supply and instrumentation needs. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Washington, all elective surgeries were canceled, and the Swedish Medical Center was put on high alert. The hospital created new check entrance points, and I adapted my role to help alter the flow of visitors and check-in processes, while making sure staff on campus were free of COVID symptoms, to promote community safety. During this time, I was also lucky enough to volunteer for research projects studying the re-processing of N-95 masks to overcome drastic supply shortages. 

I feel I have learned a lot from supporting our community, especially as it relates to developing research skills and developing new health protocols that we can all follow. The research skills and data processes I employed, which I learned from the Core Courses, helped me succeed significantly. I do not feel overwhelmed because UWB classes left me with the knowledge, tools, and resources needed in the workplace to respond to this emerging public health crisis. For me, this has just been the beginning step in my infection control role and I feel am prepared to move further ahead in this industry for my community. 

In the healthcare industry at large, people often think about doctors, nurses, and those working in direct patient care roles. However, there is far more involvement through other important officials and roles. A health studies major is one of the best options to help others understand and expand their knowledge, and the Pathway to Health Studies class gives students an understanding of over 250 non-clinical careers in healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaped my views on career plans related to healthcare more than ever, and this diverse understanding of industry roles was important. Doctors and nurses can save patients’ lives, but they cannot do that without the help of others in the system. For example, one cannot come close to treat a COVID-positive patient without personal protective equipment like N95 masks, and a variety of people are involved in supplying those masks, developing safety protocols, and researching sustainable re-sanitization practices. While re-processing is not the best option, in the meantime, it does at least to keep healthcare workers safer. As a research team, our job is to collect data and information needed to promote new protocols that ensure worker safety levels and prevent the spread of COVID in our communities.

COVID-19 has been the biggest pandemic in decades. As one of the first states to get struck in the United States, I feel we are doing well in our efforts to flatten the curve and stop the spread. We have a great community of professionals and private businesses and individuals who are willing to follow guidelines to reduce transmission. While we have seen friends pass away trying to save others, we must keep up the good work to honor their sacrifice and bring a better future to our community. As a Husky at UWB, I am proud to be a part of this war, knowing I am well trained in the classroom, by our best instructors, and can combine my academic learning with personal experiences in the field. I know I am not alone, because no matter if you are in nursing major or involved elsewhere in health studies, Huskies stay and fight together to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Kathy LuangrathSesait TekleKathy Luangrath & Sesait Tekle

1) Tell us a little about yourself (e.g. name, where you're from, expected graduation date, major or minor) and your career aspirations

My name is Kathy Luangrath and I am from Lake Stevens, Washington. I am a graduating senior in the Health Studies Program with a minor in Global Health. I aspire to be a medical social worker with a concentration in family and children.

My name is Sesait Tekle, I am from Renton, Washington. I am expected to graduate fall quarter with a major in Health Studies and minor in Global Health and Health Education & Promotion. My career aspiration is to work with underserved communities and populations to improve access to healthcare. 

2) What is your role on the "frontlines "of the COVID19 pandemic? What does it involve? What communities or groups do you work with or serve? 

Our roles on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic was done remotely in partnership with the Rainier Valley Community Clinic and the class B HLTH 301. Our role in this partnership was to create an extensive resource list for underserved populations such as new and expecting mothers, individuals experiencing homelessness, families, children, immigrants, refugees, and so on. We focused heavily on social and mental health support for these populations throughout King County and surrounding areas. Over the course of Spring quarter, we worked on finding support, organizations, and programs that could benefit these populations. Our list grew from a broad list of Social and Mental Health resources to diverse sub-categories such as housing, food support, WIC (women, infant, and children) support, and many more. In the end, our master list of resources houses 23 full pages of resources containing essential information and sources of contact for the programs and organizations we found. But we did not stop here.

As we were free and had a surplus of control to do anything with this partnership, we decided to branch out of utilizing our general and long list of resources and expanded our project to increase the accessibility and useability of our lists even further. The reason for this is because we are both the daughters of immigrant parents who often struggled and had a difficult time navigating through the system, so we tried as much as possible to have our project be as accessible, equitable, and culturally sensitive as possible given our time-frame. Due to this, it resulted in us exploring the many possibilities and modes of communication channels. We first explored the possibilities of creating posters but realized how limited the area of a poster is available for including the many resources we found. This led us to consider other modes of information sourcing such as Google MyMaps, a platform that would allow us to incorporate geographical location and all of the information we found. With everything we collected, we created a total of 9 items including 1 master list, 4 posters, and 4 corresponding maps that could hold many more resources. 

Our aim in creating this project stemmed from our personal background, culture, and the struggles our parents often experienced when navigating the many systems within the US. Further, our goal was to be an ally and create a space for families, new + expecting mothers,  and individuals to feel supported, secured, connected, and welcomed. We also wanted communities to know that there are so many programs and support groups that are here for them, every step of the way in their journey. Thus, the purpose of the title of our project, “Here for you, Every Step of the Way” was derived from these values. 

3) What experiences have you had in this role that you want others to know about? 

Experiences that we would like to share is that no matter how small a project may be, make the best of it and reach for the sky. When we first received our assigned project, we discussed limitless ideas to expand our project. After speaking to our partner, Jodilyn Owen, about our ideas, she approved and gave us the pass to go however big or far with it, and we did. 

We would also like others to know that there are hundreds of resources available for them no matter their status, age, or other determining characteristics. So many support groups and programs are available to support individuals every step of the way. That said, we would like to emphasize that there are always resources and support available for those needing it. So please, do not hesitate and reach out if needed.

4) What's it been like juggling your role as well as school?  What keeps you going?

It’s been difficult juggling our role and being a student especially with the series of events that are happening around the world. For Sesait, it has taken a mental and emotional toll on her which makes it difficult for her to be hopeful for what the future has to offer. Kathy mentions that it has put a lot of stress on her body and mind. We often found ourselves up at odd hours of the night working to create, research, and piece together information as we wanted this project to be a resource for those experiencing hardship or for those interested in finding resources to help others.

But what has helped both of us in persevering, is the certainty that our project is going to have a positive impact on those in need of any sort of assistance. This project was bigger than just providing avenues of resources, it was about providing spaces that individuals and families felt safe and accepted regardless of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc. Also considering the fact that our immigrant parents went through similar obstacles and made many sacrifices to be where they are now, gave us purpose and we use that as a guide to anchor us to strive. 

5) As a health studies student (or minor), how has the pandemic shaped your views on health and career plans related to health? 

As students in the health studies major, we both found that the pandemic shaped our views on how health can be more than just the fieldwork. In relation to this project, we were able to provide healthcare and support to communities remotely. As well as learning about how health is truly interconnected with other areas such as policy or shelter. 

Further, we also found that the current pandemic gave us a glance that healthcare is an adaptable and continuously growing field. Despite the barriers and restrictions that are placed, there are so many efforts to improve the livelihoods and health of communities across the nation.

6) Anything else you want us to know in relation to this topic? 

Here are the links to our resource maps:

COVID 19 Resource Map:  

Mental Health Resource Map:

New + Expecting Mothers Resource Map: 

Women, Infant, and Children Resource Map: