Student contact tracers reflect on job’s challenges, rewards

Public health students integral to slowing spread of COVID-19

January 13, 2021

Once the pandemic began, many Ohio State students found themselves taking on contact tracing roles within their communities and at the university.

Some of those students were also enrolled in the highly relevant epidemiology course “Outbreak Investigations” (PUBHEPI 5411), taught by Professor and Senior Associate Dean of Research Bill Miller.

Miller asked students in current or previous contact tracing roles to discuss their experiences and any key lessons learned during their work with Ohio State, Columbus Public Health and Warren County Health District. The student contact tracers shared similar challenges, payoffs and stories of professional growth.

“While contact tracing is always happening for other diseases, the need for COVID-19 is much greater. The opportunity to be contact tracers has given our students real, applied experiences in public health,” Miller said. 

From explaining the science behind disease spread, to recommending a best course of action based on limited knowledge, to spending a whole morning calming down someone stressed by the news of a positive test, there’s been no shortage of work — or adapting and learning on the spot.

“It’s been a way to apply what they’ve learned so far, learn even more through the experience and contribute to their community," Miller said.

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College's divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 24th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and also includes the top 7-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation Studies (HOPES) and Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP).