In April 2020, Oregon State University scientists embarked on a groundbreaking project testing the greater Corvallis community to determine the prevalence of the virus that causes COVID-19.
A year later, the TRACE-COVID-19 team has conducted prevalence sampling in six Oregon cities, including Corvallis, Bend, Newport, Hermiston, Redmond and Eugene. They also started testing students, faculty and staff on OSU’s Corvallis and Cascades campuses through TRACE-OSU and implemented wastewater testing for the virus in Oregon communities.
For many students in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, the TRACE project allowed them to gain hands-on experience in the field of public health. Two of those students are Ezra Affomaundo and Kate Boyd. Both Ezra and Kate are fourth-year public health majors studying health management and policy.
We asked Ezra (EA) and Kate (KB) how they got involved in the TRACE project and what this experience has taught them.
Why did you decide to get involved in TRACE?
EA: I decided to get involved in TRACE because I saw this as a great opportunity to get involved in the pandemic and gain experience in my career. I wanted to be a part of a program that serves the community in a time when there is a huge need for hope and data.
KB: I decided to get involved with TRACE because it provided me a great experiential learning opportunity amidst a pandemic where those opportunities were dwindling for students. It was inspiring to be a part of providing an additional resource for communities and Oregon State, and to collect information used for research during this pandemic and prospective ones. I had to jump on the first opportunity I got to help.
What has been one of the most memorable moments working on TRACE?
EA: My most memorable moment with TRACE was receiving the Beaver Champion Award. It felt great to be recognized by the Oregon State community and celebrate our accomplishments during this pandemic. It was rewarding to know how much of an impact we made.
KB: One of my most memorable moments with TRACE was providing free testing to a family put out of work because they lacked access to a test in the early months of COVID-19. Because of TRACE, they were able to resume working after. Another memorable experience was driving to Hermiston in Eastern Oregon to perform boot-leather epidemiology, something we learned about in my class.
What has being a TRACE team member taught you?
EA: Being a part of the TRACE team has taught me how important public health is to our communities. I have enjoyed meeting many amazing public health professionals and have learned how to organize such a huge operation.
KB: This experiential learning opportunity has led me to apply course knowledge, empathy and persistence toward different populations, and it improved my communication skills. This directly affects other people’s lives. Learning how to efficiently problem solve tough situations, understand differences between populations and create positive outcomes has tailored skills I will take with me throughout my professional career.
How will you use this knowledge beyond OSU?
EA: I want to become a program planner and health administrator. Being a part of the TRACE team has given me considerable leadership and organization skills that will help me succeed after my undergrad years and into my career. I cherish every moment that I have shared with my coworkers and supervisors and all of the amazing knowledge they have shared with me.
KB: As a senior heading into my next stage of life, this recent and wholesome experience is something I hold dear to me as a positive outcome of COVID-19. This has been a tremendous opportunity to meet new people within and beyond my major, with our diverse backgrounds coming together and adhering to the common goal of navigating and mitigating this pandemic.