OSU Health Care Heroes is a series highlighting those from the OSU-CHS community who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve their institution, community and state.
What is your role here at OSU-CHS and how long have you been here?
Kaul: Currently, I am a clinical professor and the program director for the master’s in global health within the School of Health Care Administration. Since September 2010, I have been directing the high complexity clinical diagnostic laboratory here at CHS and in March of this year I started directing the COVID-19 testing facility at OSU Stillwater and here in Tulsa. I have been at OSU-CHS since March 2007.
Foster: I’m the Lead Laboratory Technician. I started in 2009 so it’s been a little over 10 years.
What do you enjoy about working at OSU-CHS?
Kaul: CHS feels like a family and it is a pleasure to be able to contribute, in whatever capacity, toward the success of our programs and also in serving the people of Oklahoma.
Foster: One of the most enjoyable things about working at OSU-CHS for me is the people. There are really great people who want to make a positive impact on our community at OSU. Dr. Kaul is an amazing supervisor and we’ve worked really hard to make sure our lab, though small in size, showcases our commitment and dedication to our patients. We’ve also maintained a great relationship with the clinics and keep the line of communication open as much as possible.
In what ways has your role and responsibilities grown and changed due to COVID-19?
Kaul: On March 24, I volunteered to direct COVID-19 testing at OSU laboratory in Stillwater and within a week, we were able to get required approvals from regulatory agencies and started testing for COVID-19 on March 31. This meant that in addition to my teaching three courses in global health and directing the clinical laboratory here on CHS campus, I had to make almost daily trips to Stillwater, stay up late to finalize patient results and call providers and county health departments with positive results on their patients.
My biggest responsibility is to get all patient samples tested accurately and results sent out in a timely manner so that our lab can make an impact in limiting the spread of COVID-19. As of today, between the two labs, we have tested approximately 100,000 samples for COVID-19.
Foster: Because of the overwhelming total of samples that we get in one day, the overtime and weekend hours are the biggest change for me as I have two small children at home. We’ve hired a new employee to help in this regard and plan to continue to seek additional help in those areas.
How did you step up to meet these new challenges?
Kaul: It’s not a real challenge if it doesn’t feel too big and I knew it was a big challenge as I have been teaching emerging infections and pandemics for more than five years and knew the scale of this pandemic, but I knew that I had to step up. Personally, I feel that it is a privilege to be able to contribute and help during this pandemic. I think it is the support of everyone, including our administration, our teams in Stillwater and in Tulsa and of course my family, that has been instrumental in helping me step up and meet these challenges. Long daily commutes to Stillwater gave me an opportunity to talk to my parents and children regularly and their encouragement kept me motivated. During the past four months, I am able to devote all my time toward this challenge with full confidence because I have not worried on the home front because my wife, Rashmi, has also stepped up and has been a tremendous support.
Foster: There has been a lot of work and effort put into making sure we get COVID-19 results to our patients as soon as possible while also successfully maintaining our core testing for the clinics. In order to keep up with the number of samples coming in, we run during the daytime and prepare a separate run to process overnight. In the morning, we release the results from the overnight run and the process repeats itself.
What did you learn about yourself, your co-workers and your workplace, OSU-CHS, during this time?
Kaul: It has always been a very supportive community at OSU-CHS. During this current crisis, whenever there has been a slump in my motivation, what keeps me going is a CHS co-worker stopping me in the hallway or even stopping by my office to convey their appreciation. It means a lot when senior administrators offer dinner or lunch when our lab is working late at night or over the weekend. Finally, it is the team members that I am fortunate to work with who are the real heroes.
Foster: It’s not something that I’ve learned because I’ve known it for a while now, but it was definitely reiterated that the people working at OSU are willing to go above and beyond for our community.
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