May 4, 2020
Last week, UNC-Chapel Hill celebrated National Superhero Day by promoting the tireless work of those in the Carolina community who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response: the essential workers who help keep our community operational and provide the health care we need; the researchers who are advancing the cause of science in the development of treatments, disease mitigation strategies and public guidance; and the faculty and staff who are supporting students through a semester like no other.
The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health would also like to take the time to honor those in our community working on the front lines in the face of a pandemic. Read more from the students and alumni who have shared their stories.
Aoife O’connor, Master of Public Health student in the Community Preparedness & Disaster Management Certificate Program
“I am employed temporarily with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) as a transcriber on the Epi-on-Call line. We take phone calls from providers across the state who are calling for guidance, as well as to report new COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and deaths. When a new call comes in, it’s my job to immediately transcribe the voicemail and communicate the message to the on-call nurses who then respond ASAP.
“The phone line is manned 24 hours a day, and I oftentimes work evening and overnight shifts to allow the original health department staff to focus on other priorities during the crisis, as well as to help relieve some of their day-to-day work overloads.”
Victoria Oropello, first-semester Master of Public Health online student in the Public Health Leadership Program
“I hold a master’s degree and multiple licenses in the mental health and addictions realms. I am currently the director of forensic services in the Wake County Detention Center, and I work as a behavioral health clinician in the WakeMed Health and Hospitals System.
“I manage the day-to-day detention and court mental health and addiction needs for nearly 1600 inmates, and on the weekends, I work at WakeMed at two of their hospitals and a total of six emergency departments. We are stressed and anxious but doing our best to provide solid patient care in the safest way possible.
“Working on the front lines as an essential employee has greatly opened my eyes to the community and global public health needs. A pandemic will offer you that opportunity. As nerve-racking as it is, this is a prime time for experience and growth in the field of global public health.”
Casey McCormick, 2014 Master of Public Health alumna in health behavior
“I am currently working on the front lines as a nurse in the emergency department at UNC Medical Center. We are currently triaging patients outside in our parking lot. We are seeing more and more cases every day and are having to adapt our process and policies in the emergency department almost daily to deal with the predicted surge.
Meanwhile, we are still seeing cases like traumas, strokes and heart attacks. Limited access to personal protective equipment has certainly made this job a bit scarier. The front lines are always unnerving, but I’m grateful to be able to help.”
See more general information about COVID-19 at the Gillings School’s Coronavirus Information Portal.
Read more about how Gillings students and alumni are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in our previous feature.
Find a roundup of all our experts’ coronavirus-related media outreach in this Twitter moment.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.