The Campus Health Ambassador Team (CHAT), which includes students and staff members, has been a key part of the University’s response to COVID-19, and they are continuing to remain vigilant, helping to ensure the campus remains safe.
March 29, 2022
As a physician in his home country of Brazil, Gabriel Caldato Barsotti ’23 MHA worked on the frontlines of the pandemic. He spent more than a year working in emergency rooms and intensive care units, facing what he says were “daunting” situations.
Now a candidate in the University of New Haven’s Master of Healthcare Administration program, he is a co-coordinator for the University’s Campus Health Ambassador Team (CHAT). A crucial part of the University’s ongoing response to the pandemic, CHAT assists with the University’s on-campus COVID-19 testing and compliance with student directives.
Barsotti says he is proud of the work he and his fellow ambassadors have been doing to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff, and he is able to draw on what he learned from his challenging yet important work in Brazil.
“On multiple occasions in Brazil, I felt utterly helpless and burnt out,” he said. “Looking back on this period, however, I feel proud of my work back home. Being a member of CHAT has allowed me to continue fighting this catastrophic pandemic by assisting the University in implementing essential COVID policies and testing.”
CHAT supervises the University’s asymptomatic COVID testing center, and ambassadors ensure the University’s COVID policies are followed. They check CoVerified and make sure Chargers are wearing the proper face coverings. (The University currently has an optional face covering policy, but face coverings are required in University COVID-19 testing and vaccine clinics, in Health Services, and on University transportation.)
“I feel proud to ensure the safety of students and employees of the University,” said Barsotti. “As an MHA candidate and a member of CHAT, I can see in real-time how healthcare management is essential to dealing with crises. So far, the burden of the pandemic has exceeded what was predicted, and this requires us to rapidly learn and adapt in terms of healthcare policies and management.”
‘They have been so essential for the University community’
The ambassadors have played an important role in making sure the University has been able to remain open since students returned to campus in the Fall of 2020. In addition to ensuring the health and safety of members of the University community at events, they have encouraged Chargers to get vaccinated, sharing information and ensuring that everyone is aware of policies and safety measures.
“Our CHAT student staff members play an essential role in keeping the campus community safe,” said Ric Baker, senior associate dean of students who oversees CHAT. “They provide critical support for major events and demonstrate incredible resilience and flexibility in dealing with the pandemic. I am incredibly fortunate to work with them.”
Baker oversees the ambassadors with Diane Polo ’21 MPH, the University’s new health center COVID-19 administrator. Polo, who has nearly a decade of experience working as a clinical medical assistant in primary care as well as experience in a long-term care facility as an infection control practitioner, is proud of the impact the ambassadors continue to make on campus safety.
“The CHAT ambassadors have been great to work with,” she said. “I truly applaud their hard work and commitment to keeping everyone safe throughout the pandemic. They have been so essential for the University community and are always willing to step in and help when they are needed. I believe my work experience and my education from the University have given me the skills and confidence I needed to dive into my new role.”
‘Our job is still not over’
Dhaani Dhaani ’23 MPH, Barsotti’s CHAT co-coordinator, helps oversee the ambassadors. She, too, is a physician in her home country – India – where she worked in rural areas of New Delhi promoting sex education. She is passionate about bringing compassion and kindness to keeping Chargers safe during the pandemic – and beyond.
As a candidate in the University’s Master of Public Health program, Dhaani says the hands-on experience she has gained from her work with CHAT has been invaluable.
“This opportunity enabled me to stay connected with the campus community and provide my services during the pandemic,” she said. “It also gave me the confidence to talk freely and always be ready with a plan B. Moreover, it gave me hands-on experience working with the University community, a vital element of public health practice. I gained leadership qualities and a better understanding of how to work in stressful conditions.”
As they continue their work during the second half of the Spring semester, the ambassadors are committed to protecting the University community. While COVID cases have remained low at the University, the team will remain committed to the COVID safety measures that are in place and keeping their fellow Chargers safe.
“I always say, ‘We did it, we are doing it, and we shall continue doing it,’” said Dhaani. “But our job is still not over. We need to be cognizant to keep our campus community safe and healthy by continuing to follow the protocols and policies.”