Campus News

Humans of Health Corps: Debra Ross on Caring for Students in Isolation Housing

photo of Debra Ross in courtyard
Debra Ross helps student transition into isolation housing and makes sure they have everything they need. Pete Comparoni | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 11, 2021) — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Kentucky assembled UK Health Corps — a dedicated team of staff to support students. But what do they do, exactly? And who are they?

While many students and faculty/staff members may interact with Health Corps members on a regular basis, you may not know exactly what it is that they do each day, and the names of the people behind the phone calls and emails.

UK Health Corps works behind the scenes, serving as the support hub for accessing services, information and referrals related to COVID-19 for students, faculty and staff.

UKNow sat down with Debra Ross on the Health Corps facilities team to learn about who she is, what she does for UK Health Corps, and what she wants students to know.

UKNow: Describe your role in UK Health Corps?

Ross: I work on the facilities team for Health Corps. I assist with getting students to the isolation facility and getting meals to all students in isolation and quarantine on campus. Auxiliary Services employs five COVID-19 resident managers to manage the isolation housing and I am involved with their training and management. We are also responsible for maintaining the isolation housing facilities and have hired an outside vendor to assist with the COVID cleaning protocols. As both an Auxiliary Services staff member and a member of the Health Corps Team, I help resolve any issues that may arise. 

UKNow: What is a typical day like in your role? 

Ross: The primary responsibility is checking in Health Cloud for any open facilities tasks such as assisting students being released from on-campus isolation, helping students who arrive at on-campus isolation housing, managing meals for students in isolation or quarantine, getting student room common areas cleaned and disinfected, and coordinating student transportation as needed. I also review all new positive and exposure cases to identify those that live on campus and alert the contact tracers that these students will need assistance relocating from their former rooms.

UKNow: What do you want the community to understand about your role and Health Corps? 

Ross: Student health and safety is our priority. We try very hard to make the transition into COVID-positive housing as convenient as possible. I will call a student who has opted for on-campus isolation and explain where they are going, what is provided and what they need to pack. I arrange for transportation services to pick them up in a van at their residence hall. I also check to see if they need a meal upon arrival and whether they have any dietary restrictions or food allergies. If they have a roommate, I ask that they give the roommate a heads up that a cleaning crew will arrive after the positive student leaves to clean and disinfect their shared bathroom and common areas. That makes it safer for the roommate remaining in quarantine. Lastly, if the student has any additional concerns, such as a wellness or academic need, I create a task with the appropriate person in Health Corps for a follow-up.

UKNow: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the pandemic is over? 

Ross: Vacation, vacation, vacation!

UKNow: What would you like students to know about what you do? 

Ross: I am an advocate for student health and safety, as well as their overall well-being. I enjoy the challenges and rewards of working with students to provide the housing and/or meals they need to get through their isolation or quarantine both effectively and comfortably. I am definitely here for the student, as are our COVID resident managers and all our housing and dining staff.

UKNow:  What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about Health Corps? 

Ross: I think the biggest misconception people may have is that they view Health Corps as having a singular focus of COVID rule enforcement. That is important, but everything Health Corps does is for the health and safety of the student and campus community. Protocols are in place to help ensure the health and safety of the campus community, but the first priority is always the students’ overall well-being. 

 UKNow: If you could sum up into one sentence what Health Corps is, and what it does for campus, what would you say? 

Ross: Health Corps is here to help ensure the health and safety of the entire campus community by establishing, following and communicating protocols based on CDC and UK’s Start Team guidance.

The UK Health Corps is made up of more than 50 dedicated staff members working to keep campus healthy and safe by managing everything from contact tracing and academic coordination to transportation and communications. For more information on the schedule of activities or about UK Health Corps, please call 859-218-SAFE (7233) or email healthcorps@uky.edu.

As the University of Kentucky marks the end of the academic year, we’re reminded of our promise to the Commonwealth and each other.  Every corner of our campus — from UK HealthCare to Athletics, from our Emergency Operations Center to volunteers in our health colleges and across this university — has united for a common purpose in the battle against COVID-19. And, when members of our community come together with the heart to step up, there is almost no challenge too large, no obstacle too daunting, to overcome. Because of this community – its resilience, compassion and expertise – we have experienced — even in the face of a global pandemic — what is wildly possible.