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Contact tracing

MSHA alum Zaid Ahmed talks about his COVID-19 contact tracing work

Students in the Master of Science in Health Administration program in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois have been asked by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Dept. to apply the skills they are learning as contact tracers. Periodically, we will speak with them about how they are doing in these roles. Today, we speak with Zaid Ahmed.

Q: Is the work you’re doing for CUPHD different than what you were trained for in the MSHA program?

A: I would say that the work I did for CUPHD wasn't really different from the MSHA, per se. Contact tracing is essentially just calling infected cases and close contacts to gather information on their symptoms, job status, family information etc. It isn't really like anything I learned in my MSHA program but I know that my role is a small part of the study of epidemiology. I'm not applying anything from my academics but I am just a part of the epidemiological system, if that makes sense.

Q: What field/industry were you hoping to work in upon graduation?

A: I was hoping to work in the data/technology/analytics side of healthcare upon graduation.

Q: What kinds of questions do you ask in the work you’re currently doing?

A: I ask people who they've come into contact with, if their family members have any chronic disease that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19, basic information like address and birthdays, and whether or not they've experienced any symptoms.

Q: Do you find people are willing to respond truthfully?

A: People have been pretty truthful with me.

Q: Any frustrations that people are not listening to the health guidelines?

A: There have been several people who were frustrated with their two-week quarantine and some people have admitted to breaking it by going out somewhere. It is frustrating, but I can't police them 24/7.

Q: Do people you know ask you for advice on dealing with COVID-19?

A: People have not asked me for COVID advice but they have asked where the cases are concentrated so they know to avoid those locations.

Q: What are you missing out on because of the pandemic, in terms of working face-to-face with people?

A: I'm missing out on the opportunity to see my fellow MSHA students and the ability to meet my professors in person.

Q: What ways has COVID-19 affected you? Have you traveled? Have you been able to go home, see family?

A: COVID made my dad lose his job although he's managed to find another job. I haven't been able to see my cousins in a long time. I have been spending these past few months at home with family so it hasn't been all bad.

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