Courtney Dezendorf, MEd, serves as the Director of the Office of Practice and Learning with the Texas Department of State Health Services. At the beginning of the pandemic, it became clear that statewide contact tracing will be needed. The Texas DSHS partnered with the UTHealth School of Public Health to help staff the statewide Contact Tracing Program, with Courtney leading the charge.
The Statewide Contact Tracing Program was the first of its kind in Texas. UTHealth School of Public Health students across the state served as epidemiology leads, case investigators, and contact tracers as Texas battled the fight against COVID-19. As this initiative was being built and staffed, it was being constantly refined to offer the best services and care. Students not only were able to assist in the contact tracing, they were also able to offer suggestions for improvement. Students were able to develop many deliverables that have benefitted the statewide contact tracing efforts. Students ask many questions which fosters a natural learning environment and bring a re-energizing spirit that can really benefit a team.
As the community preceptor or supervisor, it does take time to create and thoughtfully develop a project, but it is well-worth the work for all involved. Practicum students can be an asset for current staff as they can help build management and supervisory skills within the current staff. For those students conducting their practicum with the DSHS, Courtney loves it when they ask to sit in on meetings and workgroups, even those outside the program area and network with staff from around the organization. If the opportunity arises for students to present the project, do it! It can be done in a formal or informal manner, but it is a great way to practice public speaking and provides a clear work product that can be used in future interviews. The Texas DSHS has hired multiple practicum students as full-time employees.
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