Students are front and center, helping lead GVSU's COVID-19 surveillance testing program

A student helping in the GVSU surveillance testing program.
A student collects a patient's self-administered COVID-19 test at GVSU's surveillance testing program.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Since the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, Grand Valley has given more than 27,000 on-campus COVID-19 tests through the university’s surveillance testing program. That amounts to more than 2,000 tests per week.  

The testing program, for those without symptoms or a known exposure to COVID, is a partnership between Grand Valley and Trident Labs in Holland. 

Linda Chamberlain, director of GVSU’s Technology and Commercialization Office, said student involvement has been an important part of the testing process from the very beginning.

“It is critical to test a lot of people in order to keep COVID-19 infection rates under control,” said Chamberlain. “We designed the process to be quick, easy and student-led.”

Chamberlain said for many students, working in the testing program gives them experiences that align with their careers. “We recognize students need jobs and this was a real opportunity to develop positions and meaningful jobs that could be tied to their career aspirations.”

The testing process was designed to take about five minutes, with test results coming back in 24-48 hours.

A students hands a patient a testing consent form.
Amanda Pitts
Students helping patients check in for COVID-19 testing.
Amanda Pitts
A student prepares a sample for the testing lab.
Amanda Pitts

Shamonica Miller, a junior majoring in allied health sciences, said she jumped at the chance to be a part of the testing program. Miller helps assemble COVID testing kits and works as a courier delivering samples to Trident Labs.

“It’s exciting to experience the testing process and the lab setting,” said Miller. “This opportunity brings the classroom to life and brings together current events and science.”

Nick Sheremet, a sophomore majoring in business management, has been working in the testing program for the past two months. He helps with the intake process — checking for a green heart on a patient’s GVSU Lakers Together self-assessment, and printing consent forms. He also observes the self-administered test — counting while patients swab their noses and making sure samples are sealed and ready to go to the lab.

“It’s been incredible to get an inside look at the whole process — how it’s run, how to decide how many tests to order and how to manage people when it gets busy,” said Sheremet. “I wasn’t sure which business route to take, but working in the testing program helped me decide to take the management track.”

About 35 GVSU students are currently working in the testing program. Chamberlain said changes have been made to refine the testing process, with most of the improvement ideas coming from students.

“I have been a part of design thinking long enough to know that what students are learning by doing is so much more important than anything we come up with,” she said. “So, we incorporate their changes all the time, and the process just gets better and better.”

Chamberlain said GVSU has established a good relationship and smooth testing process with Trident Labs. Kim Collison, president of Trident Labs, said the partnership has been an efficient and effective way to perform COVID testing.

“Our efforts reflect a strong partnership utilizing GVSU student workers and Trident Laboratory's expertise to provide COVID testing to the GVSU population,” said Collison. “Our combined efforts have allowed us to provide many results within 24 hours, which aids in the time-sensitive follow-up on positive results.”

Students serve as couriers, delivering test samples to Trident Labs in Holland, Michigan.
Students serve as couriers, delivering test samples to Trident Labs in Holland, Michigan.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts