August 5, 2022

MAP leader makes the difference at Mac Court test site

Not so long ago, McArthur Court shook, trembled and rumbled as boisterous Duck fans stomped on the rafters, rooting for their hoops heroes.

Today, there isn’t much action on the legendary floor. And while there are no fans around to cheer, the acts taking place in the building are equally heroic.

Five days a week, student employees set up stations in Mac Court’s ticket counters and hallways to administer COVID-19 tests, helping to keep the UO community and Lane County residents aware, healthy and safe. And like legendary ball coaches of old, Hannah Tavalire, director of operations for the OU’s monitoring and assessment program, known as MAP, gets the most out of the team.

“I’m especially proud of our team on campus,” said Tavalire, who coordinates the work of 65 students as they don protective gear and follow strict protocols. “They really rose to the challenge when the Omicron surge came. We were serving over 6,000 people a week at Mac Court which we hadn’t even come close to. As a team they understood that they were an integral part of a public health response and did what needed to be done.

Tavalire got the response from the UO in the early days of the pandemic, although like many others involved, it was not work she had planned.

After earning her Ph.D. in biology from Oregon State University, she cold-called researchers whose work interested her and latched onto the labs of OU scientists Bill Cresko and Leslie Leve, eventually landing a job. early-career scientist with Leve’s group in the prevention department. Institute of Science. When the pandemic broke out, Tavalire came forward.

“I’m an infectious disease biologist, I want to help,” she said.

She started as MAP’s scientific coordinator, first acquiring samples from positive cases to help secure laboratory validation. Then he thought about the logistics of large-scale collection efforts for college residence halls, matching proposed plans with emerging and ever-changing advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and researching less invasive alternatives to swabbing. deep nasal.

As the program found its rhythm, Tavalire was able to return to his research projects and consider his next move. (She admits she talks about working at the CDC “for 10 years.”)

But when she was asked to return as COO – part-time at first, but recently full-time – the decision was easy.

“I thought I really liked the administrative operations stuff,” she said. “It suits me perfectly and I can really help make a difference.”

“Hannah has been passionate about public health research since the day she started at UO,” said Leve, Lorry Lokey Professor at the College of Education. “It is rare to find a researcher as well versed as her in the dual discipline of biology and prevention sciences. This unique combination of skills and training has not only positioned her to excel in her research career, but also to be the ideal leader of the operational activities of the COVID-19 MAP project.

To date, the monitoring and assessment program has administered more than 211,000 tests to Oregonians, including on-campus OU students, members of the Latino and Hispanic communities, and students from the K-12 from local and southern regions of the state.

Even with the high demand, there is room for more community residents to take advantage of testing, Tavalire said. It is free and available to community members as a public service, operated in cooperation with Lane County Public Health.

All of these tests helped people take precautions and prevent an even more serious spread of infection. And there are even more benefits.

“We’ve had the brightest minds in the world thinking about how to solve this specific problem over the past two years, so we’ve had this rapid acceleration in diagnostic progress,” Tavalire said. “Is this going to be part of normal life for the next five to ten years? No one can say, but I think we’re in a very good position to be successful if we’re going to continue to deal with COVID, long term. »

By George Evano, University Communications