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Q&A with COVID-19 Case Manager and Contact Tracer Ami Hanna

September 23, 2020

Ami (ah-mee) Hanna joined the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness this month as Lewis & Clark’s first case manager and contact tracer. 

“We feel it is important that following a Covid-19 presumptive case, we trace all known contacts right away,” Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan said last month. “Having someone on our staff responsible for this task will ensure that it happens confidentially, quickly, and efficiently.”

Read the comprehensive list of Health and Safety Expectations for All Community Members and see the current status of confirmed cases on the COVID-19 Confirmed Cases Status Report.

Ami Hanna invites the community to reach out to her directly at hannae@lclark.edu. Learn about her journey to Lewis & Clark and her plans for the year ahead in the following Q&A:  

Please tell us about your background and how it shaped your path to become a case manager and contact tracer at Lewis & Clark.

I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which the health of our communities shapes our social experiences, an interest that has remained constant during my eight years in the health promotion field.

After earning an undergraduate degree in Medical Anthropology from Western Washington University, I worked as a doula supporting medically underserved families as they navigated healthcare delivery systems during their pregnancies and births. It was this experience that motivated me to pursue my Master’s in Public Health in order to move “upstream” and work to make a wider-spread positive impact on our community’s health through policy and administration. As a graduate student at the University of Washington, I conducted qualitative research aimed at shedding light on the health experiences of marginalized communities. Prior to joining the staff at Lewis and Clark, I worked for a health care quality improvement nonprofit organization conducting community outreach projects that gave me real insight into the public health challenges facing Oregonians.

I feel an urgent moral and social responsibility to leverage my public health skills in service of protecting our community and combating the spread of COVID-19. I’m excited to bring my experience working directly with patients and my training in health promotion to the task of keeping Lewis & Clark healthy as a case manager and contact tracer.

How do contact tracers start a case investigation and what types of questions do they ask?

The purpose of contact tracing is to identify people who may have been exposed to a disease and give them the recommendations and resources they need to prevent exposing others. A case investigation will typically involve contacting a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; confirming their contact and demographic information; collecting information about how they were potentially exposed to the disease; documenting their symptoms and when they began, in order to determine the infectious period; helping them remember anyone that they have been in contact with during their infectious period; collecting information on how to communicate with these contacts; and helping them to understand isolation protocols and how to access medical care and support services they might need during their recovery period.

Can you give us a sense of the possible reactions tracers get when they contact people?

Living through a pandemic is scary and stressful; learning that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 adds to the emotional toll of this experience. Hearing from a contact tracer can elicit fear of getting the disease, anger that they are being disturbed, or worry about speaking with someone “official” – all of which are completely understandable reactions. It’s very important to me to ensure that the people I contact feel heard and can trust me to handle the information they provide with the utmost discretion. My goal as a contact tracer is to meet the specific needs of each person I talk to and encourage them to be an ally in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

In what ways do you offer support and guidance to someone you have just told to self-isolate or quarantine?

When speaking with someone who has been affected by COVID-19, my first priority is to listen to that person and respond to their specific concerns. A big part of my job is walking a contact through the steps of isolating or quarantining and making sure they have everything they need to complete those processes successfully. Whether it’s coordinating their care with the Health Services team on campus, connecting them with Counseling Services, or helping them arrange meal delivery to their room, we’re fortunate to have a wide array of resources available at Lewis & Clark that can help people get through a period of isolation or quarantine with as much support as possible.

What are your goals for your first year at Lewis & Clark?

In my role as the Case Manager and Contact Tracer, my main goal is to keep Lewis & Clark students, staff, and faculty healthy, safe, and supported through timely action and empathetic case management. We’re in an unprecedented moment, and I’m committed to doing my part behind the scenes and facilitating an on-campus experience with as few disruptions as possible.

As a newcomer to Lewis & Clark, my primary goal is to get to know the community better! I’m excited to connect with folks and hope that people will get in touch if they have questions, concerns, or just want to chat.

What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?

When I’m not working, you can find me growing veggies in my garden, combing vintage stores for 1970’s pottery, or planning my next camping trip. I’m also becoming somewhat of a protective face mask connoisseur – don’t hesitate to reach out if you want a recommendation for a comfortable and effective mask or have questions about mask-wearing protocols.

Is there anything you would like to add?

In my first weeks on campus, I was very impressed by the diligent mask wearing, social distancing, and overall respect for health and safety I observed among the students, staff, and faculty. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every person at Lewis & Clark for the sacrifices they are making to keep each other safe and well – I am excited and proud to be a part of this community and I look forward to working with you all to stop the spread of COVID-19.