These days Ashley Trommelen dresses for work a little differently. She stands outside in personal protective equipment at the coronavirus drive-thru testing site for the Atlantic Health System in Morristown, New Jersey. A health educator for AHS, she is situated adjacent to a security guard and holds up two signs – one requesting all car windows remain up until instructed by a nurse and the other with a phone number for the registration tent. It is a testing site for patients who have a prescription from an Atlantic Medical Group provider. Trommelen, an adjunct faculty member in Caldwell’s bachelor’s of public health education program, confirms each patient’s identification via his or her license held up to the window and writes each person’s initials with soap on the window before the car may advance to the next step. Often she will say, “Feel better” through the window and patients will respond, “Thank you.” Trommelen is grateful to be one of the many health care workers who are addressing the COVID-19 needs. “I’m proud to work for the system, to be able to make a little positive impact.” In the fall, Trommelen will be teaching Epidemiology and plans to incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic as much as possible. “I never thought I would witness a pandemic so early in my career but plan to teach my students about the crucial roles public health workers played in this situation.”
Samantha Areson ’19 feels she was prepared for the possibility of a pandemic and that she would play a role in it as a health care worker. Her professors in the bachelor’s in public health education at Caldwell readied the students to be “at the forefront” of a pandemic or epidemic, says Areson, who is working in telemedicine at Overlook Medical Center in Summit. Normally a health educator in community health in Union County, in response to COVID-19, Areson was recently redeployed to create the structure for virtual visits with doctors and the follow-up app. “We are playing a big part in easing patients’ minds that they can see a doctor and not come to the office. And we are keeping the office staff and the other patients healthy.” Even though this is her first job out of college, Areson says she was not nervous about adjusting to her new duties so rapidly. “A lot of people are coming together…my bosses prepared me well for the reassignment…and I also have support from Caldwell because I know I can email my past professors at any time for guidance!”
Public health education adjunct faculty member Beatrice Turenne is seeing “the hunger” build in her students to learn more about their profession’s vital work during the coronavirus pandemic. “Everything we talk about is real and in your face,” says Turenne, who teaches Intro to Public Health, Theories of Health Behavior and Epidemiology. Long before the coronavirus outbreak, Turenne asked students in her Theories of Health Behavior class to create a public service announcement “Handwashing Campaign” aimed at different populations including kindergartners, elderly nurses, commuters and college athletes. They were instructed to think of ways to communicate with people on their terms respecting diverse cultures and environments. Now Turenne is pleased to see her students understand more clearly how their careers will play a vital role in public health. Since the outbreak, Turenne, a mental health professional who works at the NJ Mental Cares Call Center through the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, has also been working on its Disaster Mental Health Line which was activated as a response to the pandemic. They provide essential services to help people navigate through fear and anxiety. Turenne knows these are real-life experiences that are relatable for her students. “They are seeing how beneficial this field is at this moment. They are gaining information that will save lives.”
Emily Stabile ’18 is taking calls from the public these days concerning the coronavirus for the Fairfax County Health Department in Virginia. She says her team plays “a huge role” in providing guidance and getting information out to the community. That information includes everything from testing sites, to discussing symptoms to easing their worries. Stabile, a Caldwell University public health education graduate, is normally employed as a school health aide for the Fairfax County Health Department where she responds to emergencies, administers medications, conducts vision and hearing screenings, and handles other health-related tasks in an elementary school. The county follows a public health model and does not have nurses in school health rooms except for once a week to oversee everything. “It is a really great experience working with school-age children and giving them the care that they need,” says Stabile. She credits Caldwell’s Public Health Education faculty with giving her a strong foundation in areas such as research and group projects that apply to her job responsibilities today. Even though it is a challenging time, she is grateful to be able to work with her team and the Health Department and answer questions and help people feel a little safer.
“I’m thankful to be able to have that impact on the community.”
To learn more about Caldwell University’s Bachelor of Science in Public Health Education, go to https://www.caldwell.edu/academics/majors-minors/public-health-education-bsphe