Student Stories: Rachel Buck, OOMPH Spring 2019

My name is Rachel Buck. I am located in Geneva, IL and work as a Clinical Quality Leader in Quality and Patient Safety for Northwestern Medicine. My primary work includes the Stroke service line, hospital revisits, and opioid use disorder treatment in the Emergency Department. Since COVID-19 first hit Kane County in early March, I have seen my work change several times. At first, I participated in the Infection Prevention epidemiological response to COVID-19. In partnership with Infection Prevention and Corporate Health, I conducted interviews with employees, physicians, and patients to screen for exposure and identified any persons of interest. My coursework in epidemiology was immensely helpful.

After a sustainable process was put in place, I moved on to helping collect, analyze, and share data related to the number of tested patients with COVID-19 or Rule-Out COVID-19. Part of this work included cleaning up the non-discrete data so future reporting could include testing sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) labs in the weeks before Northwestern Medicine was able to conduct PCR tests in house. My coursework in statistics aided in developing a strong knowledge of why it is important to have accurate public health data sources.

Following the development of an accurate data source, I began partnering with health system leaders to develop a report that would drive conversations around staffing for a patient surge. My healthcare finance course as well as health policy and management course helped aid my response to addressing the needs of 10 hospitals staffing models, requirements, and gaps.

Simultaneously I was introduced to a potential research project looking at resource allocation. It was a theoretical look and critical care resource allocation should Illinois be faced with similar surges as Italy. The project’s high level plan was to identify if there could be an objective and blinded allocation of resources if necessary. My job as an abstractor was to look through the patient charts identifying comorbidities and offering guidance to the project liasons on gaps. All of my courses, but especially Health and Social Behavior provided me the tools to ask questions such as how inequality may be the reason the patient in front of me is here today. After initial data collection, the project was disbanded as the committee of physicians did not find a single patient, no matter how sick, who didn’t deserve the resources that fit their goals of care. My most recent work has been some of the most sobering as I participate in a mortality review of COVID-19 patients. Through this work we hope to identify areas of best practice for our patients so that all COVID-19 patients receive the right care at the right time and that we identify where our own practices cause additional inequality or fail to take into account patients’ values.

Each course in the OOMPH program has prepared me to be a voice for strong ethics and social justice. It has offered me the tools to be successful when working with health system leaders to develop a prepared response to staffing concerns. Finally, my OOMPH experience has granted me the confidence to be a well rounded leader and a teacher to my colleagues who have looked to me for guidance on approaching this pandemic.

— Rachel Buck, Online MPH 2019


To learn more about Berkeley Public Health’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the COVID-19 Resource Page.

To learn more about online academic programs at Berkeley Public Health, visit the Public Health Online program page.