During the day, 2019 MPH alumna Sonya Lawrence is a bailiff for Marshall Circuit Court in Marshall County, Indiana. Outside of the court, she serves in a different capacity, as a contact tracer at the Indiana State Department of Health. Her goal is to gain more public health experience.
“As a contract tracer, I call citizens who have tested positive for COVID-19, interview them in-depth, and notify their close contacts to tell them to quarantine for two weeks,” Lawrence said.
She has been a contact tracer for more than a month now, and hopes to continue helping communities in this capacity for as long as the need exists. What makes her so passionate about the position? Knowing she’s playing an integral part in the state’s response.
“The best part of the job is knowing that you are essential to alleviating the spread of this contagious virus,” she said. “The most challenging part can be gaining the trust of the citizen on behalf of the ISDH.”
Although challenging, Lawrence feels prepared for this new role. She believes the courses she took at the Fairbanks School of Public Health in social and behavioral health and ethics certainly apply to contact tracing.
“Social determinants of health – such as age, race, sex, occupation, and location – all have a bearing on an individual’s ability to slow the spread of the virus. And maintaining confidentially is key to any case.”
As soon as she began training, Lawrence said it didn’t take long to realize the number of collaborative efforts that have gone into this project. In many ways, being a contact tracer has opened her eyes to the possibilities within public health, and she sees the position as a great opportunity for recent public health graduates.
“Based on my experience, I would encourage students interested in public health to reach out to health departments and non-profit organizations to see how you can help make an impact on alleviating the spread of the virus,” Lawrence said.
“I would highly recommend anyone interested in public health to become a contact tracer as it provides entry level experience and shows initiative in the field.”
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