On the front lines of the coronavirus with Sharon Goda, BS’13 (Metro)
Interview by Rebecca Maxon
April 23, 2020
FDU: Are you located in the epicenter of the New York City COVID-19 outbreak?
Sharon Goda: Yes, I am. New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan has the largest number of COVID-19 positive patients in New York.
FDU: As a clinical laboratory scientist and a supervisor for laboratory quality assurance, what do your day-to-day duties normally entail?
SG: My duties as a clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) have not changed, although the volume of testing has tripled since the COVID-19 outbreak. Doctors have become familiar with ordering specific tests when they suspect a patient of being positive for COVID-19. I perform maintenance on the instrument I am assigned, perform quality control and verify patient results.
As a quality–assurance supervisor, I typically conduct audits, investigate nonconforming events and inform in-service staff of new protocols. Since the outbreak has happened, my duties have shifted. My focus now is to make sure our laboratory staff is following safety protocols when handling COVID-19 specimens and to follow-up with COVID-19 results. I am the designee that informs infection control and the New York Department of Health every time a new patient is positive for COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines are our information source on how to handle, process and contain the virus.
FDU: Can you give us a brief explanation of how the testing works?
SG: Our laboratory was sending COVID-19 tests to Quest Diagnostics, but the turnaround time (TAT) was not suited to our needs. Before The NYP Brooklyn Hospital Center decided to bring the test in-house to help decrease TAT to less than a day. The methodology we are using is polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It basically breaks down the virus into small DNA fragments and multiplies them. The results are either positive or negative.
FDU: How has your BS in medical technology prepared you for the current pandemic?
SG: My degree has prepared me to anticipate pandemics based on history. The bird flu, swine flu and Spanish flu were unexpected.
FDU: How do you protect yourself and your family outside of work?
SG: I take a shower before I go to work. I wear a surgical mask at all times when I am outside of my apartment. I sanitize my hands whenever I change locations, such as transferring to another subway line. When I get home from work, I take off my shoes, remove my scrubs and jump in the shower before I do anything else around my apartment. I Facetime my parents once a week so there’s no physical contact.