My Story

My Story is a compilation of experiences shared by public health professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some content has been edited for length.  To submit your story, please send it to president@upha.org.

JoDee S. Baker, MPH - It is a Beautiful Catastrophe

Working the COVID19 response has been a life changing experience.  I worked in Epidemiology for 16 years and 5 years ago, switched jobs and work for Informatics.  When the pandemic started ramping up, I was pulled into the response, like many of my colleagues, and was able to put my beloved Epidemiology hat on again.  Sure, there are downsides.  Working 11+ hours every day.  Not seeing my kids as much as I would like.  Feeling that there is an impossible amount of work to do and not enough time to do it in.  But, I feel that I have been stretched and my knowledge increased.  I've been able to work with amazing individuals, both on a local and state level. I have never seen the level of care, passion and hard work that I am seeing now in my entire career.  It's a beautiful catastrophe.  People doing more with less.  Working long hours with not a lot of "thank you's" but knowing that the cause is more important than praise.  Of course I work and pray for the health of the citizens of Utah, and am so fortunate to work with such dedicated individuals.

Laverne Snow – I Feel Compelled to Help, but I Am Helpless

As a former President of UPHA I feel compelled to help, but I am helpless. I am self-quarantined in my childhood home in Sacramento caring for my incredibly resilient 94 year old mother. I look out the windows from my parents’ corner suburban lot, the street is quiet, no noise, no one screaming in the streets, no National Guard, a few people walking their dogs. If I didn’t hear or read the news, I could easily believe everything was normal, business as usual, nothing to feel concerned about, that is, unless I needed toilet paper. None to be found. My son and his family chose to stay in Uzbekistan. Even though his and his wife’s work is all digital now since their school was shuttered by the first imported case of COVID-19. They believe they and their three young children are better protected by the gravity with which the government there takes lock-down, safer there than enduring a very long flight and the pandemonium that might greet them upon return to Philadelphia. Let’s hope they win the gamble.

I want to express my gratitude for my public health training and what it enables me to do to help my 94 year old mother experience whatever quality of life she has remaining. She has been through a lot, she has contributed a lot, and she deserves the best I can give her.  I want to plea for everyone in public health to carry on, however possible, to practice what we know is true science, to bring down the curve, minimize or extend out the transmission, wait out finding vaccines and treatment, and prioritize human dignity, health and quality of life over economic and social desires. We will come through this.  Some will develop immunity, some will avoid exposure, some will survive the emotional and financial crisis of having their retirement savings in the toilet. We have the technology to survive. We need to assure we have the national will to do what’s right.

 

Oreta Tupola – I Have Never Been so Proud to Be a CHW

It has been a crazy time for many, but especially for Community Health Workers in Utah. How do we practice what we do best when connection is our expertise and our best practice for motivating and engaging patients in their health care?

CHWs all over Utah have had to adjust their schedules as their outreach and ability to meet community members where they are (physically) is one of the best strategies used in connecting and building relationships and helping to motivate members to be engaged in their own health. BUT another skill that CHWs possess is flexibility, the ability to adjust as needed and navigate systems and resources especially through situations that may seem impossible. And that is exactly what happened with COVID-19. CHWs continue to connect, engage, and empower their patients, clients and community members through technology, social media, email, phone calls, texts and in person for many taking safety precautions of social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment.

CHWs are organized and are hosting online support groups, posting materials in different languages on social media, joining different tasks force, and volunteering at food banks and schools to help pass out lunches.

On Tuesday March 31st CHWs gathered virtually. Emotions, fear, worry, and concern were shared among all BUT there was still a strong presence of hope, courage, and empowerment.  The biggest concern was how to continue supporting community members effectively. I have never been so proud to be a CHW especially during this time when the full impact of this pandemic is unknown and our future seems so dim. CHWs are again rising to the occasion.  They see the light at the end of the tunnel and assure community members that "this too shall pass" and we will soon be able to be out again to fulfill our mission of empowering communities, one community member at a time.

 

Tetea Woffinden, CHW Section Lead – Please Don’t Forget Our Scope of Practice

I took notes at the Community Health Worker Section virtual meeting on March 31st and I was impressed by the sadness I felt for those who had the opportunity to speak at this meeting. Here are some very interesting points that came to my mind about the CHW Section:

  1. These meetings will provide personal, emotional care, and above all mutual support.  They will give everyone encouragement and courage to cope with this unpredictable situation. That’s why I remind everyone: Please don’t forget our scope of practice.
  2. This is a unique opportunity to be close to our families and take things slowly. This is going to end, but we have to be patient. This is a time to learn, listen, and follow directions.
  3. The communities are more vulnerable and need our unconditional support.
  4. Let's be obedient and follow the instructions - social distancing!
  5. Now that we are isolated, we can feel that we are closer than ever because of these meetings to support and perhaps help all the CHWs that are still involved in their communities.