BBI’s Husky Coronavirus Testing (HCT) Team has been selected for the UW’s 2023 Distinguished Staff Award for Innovation. The honor recognizes outstanding employees “who contribute to the richness and diversity of our University community.”
The 20 individuals, representatives of a larger 200-plus member team, will be recognized at a ceremony on June 8 hosted by University President Dr. Ana Mari Cauce.
“The HCT Team exemplifies the University’s reputation for innovation,” said BBI’s Dr. Helen Chu, who co-led the initiative that was integral to the UW’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan. “I am proud of each team member’s ‘can do’ approach to one of the most complex challenges BBI and the University have faced. These staff members – committed to public health, scientific innovation and, most importantly, to saving lives – created a program providing rapid and reliable testing to students, staff, and faculty at all three UW campuses, as well as delivered data essential to studying how the virus is transmitted.”
One of the team’s priorities has been accessibility to testing, such as the delivery of kits to households of participants unable to come to campus due to illness or mobility restrictions. These accommodations demanded innovation and collaboration across HCT Team management, operations, and administrative staff, and making revisions to procedures, thereby ensuring all members of the UW community have access to rapid and reliable testing.
“The HCT Team devised an innovative testing method to enable us to avoid supply chain problems and test large numbers of UW campus samples, the topic of just one of several peer review articles related to this program,” said Dr. Lea Starita, assistant professor of Genome Sciences. “Our BBI lab played an essential role in testing samples, as well as created operating systems using sample collection kiosks, drop boxes, and courier-delivered swab kits to acquire samples for testing. This also enabled the acquisition of crucial sequencing data for tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants. Analyses of these data, in turn, informed local and state health policy experts on the evolution of the virus.”
'It was all hands-on deck to ensure no one seeking the test was turned away. I am incredibly proud of this team’s dedication and integrity.' Assistant Professor Dr. Ana Weil of the UW Medicine Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
A major obstacle the HCT Team overcame was the extreme demand for testing on campus during the Omicron surge of early 2022, when testing volumes tripled over just a few weeks. During January and February of that year, clinical, laboratory, technical, appropriately trained administrative, and others were mobilized to work at UW testing kiosks and the BBI laboratory to ensure that the UW community had access to rapid and reliable testing.
"The demand for testing increased from around 800 tests per day to 1300-1800 tests per day,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Ana Weil of the UW Medicine Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “This demand was met by the team’s creative problem solving, ramping up operations, and working tirelessly. It was all hands-on deck to ensure no one seeking the test was turned away. I am incredibly proud of this team’s dedication and integrity.”
Many of the 200-plus team members received experience for their future studies and careers in a wide range of professions, including public health, epidemiology, communications, supply chain management, computational science, and other fields.
While this testing and research project will conclude at the end of the academic year, BBI will continue its flu and virus-related work through a variety of projects, including the CASCADIA Study led by Chu in collaboration with UW Medicine and Kaiser Permanente to study how well vaccines protect against community infection.
While the nomination form accommodated only 20 of the 200-plus HCT Team members, here is a more complete list:
Zack Acker, Kathryn Barker , Julia Bennett, Sabrina Best, Ben Capodanno, Ruben Crew, Maanasee Deshmukh, Jasmine Duong, Brenna Ehmen, Abi Elerding, Chris Frazar, Luis Gamboa, Danielle Giroux, Rochella Gomes, Katherine Gomeztagle-Johann, Peter Han, Alex Harteloo, Sarah Heidl, Lauren Huynh, Kristina Hyman, Natalie K. Lo, Anahita Kiavand, Nola Klemfuss, Mai Le, Peggie Lee, Kyle Luiten , Kathryn McCaffrey, Evan McDermot, Devon McDonald, Amanda Morgan Casto, Jordan Opsahl, Dean Owen, Ben Pelle, Brian Pfau, Mason Post, Robin Prentice, Lani Regelbrugge, David Reinhart, Leslie Rodriguez-Salas , Gwen Roote, Erica Ryke , Obsa Seid, Nahum Smith, Sanjay Srivatsan , Jeremy Stone, Machiko Threlkeld, Melissa Truong, Sadie van den Bogaerde, Katrina van Raay, Cameron Wenman, Caitlin Wolf, Tessa Wright, William Zhong, Anisa Abdi, Brandon Apostol, LolaRose Aselin, Ana Asuncion, Elizaveta Bell, Kara Celestine, Kailey Chiu, Dream Dasgupta, Hannah Diaz, Hadar Dolev, Lindsay Engelbert, Annabelle Fryer, Mandy Gao, Nicole Green, Abigail Hu, Isaac James Nelson, Luke Johnson, Emma Kaivo-Houlton, Natalia Kariotis, Jasleen Kaur Sidhu, Mackenzie Komeshak, Ann Krappman, Ankita Kundu, Caitlyn Kwong, Tharu Lansakaranayake, Kevin Lau, Trevor Leung, Hsien-Jui Lin, Lilian Liu, Katherine Lochner, Michael Ly, Liem Nguyen, McKenzi Norris, Shiuli Pemmaraju, Cayden Phan, Hana Phan, Dylan Renard, Ashleigh Rumbaoa, Monique Samodien, Eloise Santa Cruz, Clarissa Seaholm, Daanya Siddiqui, Kirsten Strous, Ashley Subijanto, Sidney Sun, Brooke Szurgot, Emily Ta, Loveleen Tripathi, Wayne Van Ong, Kino Watanabe, Rino Watanabe, Willa Widmann, Elizabeth Williams, Naomi Yoo