Academic lessons applied in local ER

A public health student sees his coursework play out on the job during the pandemic.

When UMD public health student Taylor Kropp signed up to take an epidemiology course during spring semester, he had no idea how relevant the class was about to become.


Taylor Kropp

Kropp started working at Essentia Health as an emergency room technician in December. As the coronavirus pandemic began to unfold, his "Principles of Epidemiology" class became particularly applicable to his work.

"Obviously, this is all a huge tragedy but it was a cool time to take the course because we're literally living through a pandemic right now," he says.

As an ER tech, Kropp uses his EMT training to help out in the emergency room. "You're basically an extra pair of hands for whatever doctors or nurses need," he says, noting that the duties of the job vary and include tasks like sterilizing rooms, stocking supplies, and helping treat patients.

At the beginning of the semester, the virus outbreak in China was a talking point in the class taught by Assistant Professor Jessica Hanson. As the pandemic spread, the course focused more on tracking COVID-19's evolution and students got to learn about its real-world impact.

Hanson adeptly adapted the course even as in-person classes were canceled, according to Kropp, providing the most relevant and up-to-date research on the topic. "She's brilliant. She's a fantastic professor," he says.

Kropp recognizes this was a very unique learning experience. "I was getting a lot of information from both sides. In the epi course, I learned about what was happening nationwide and the widespread impact of COVID-19," he says. "In the ER I learned about what's going on more locally."

At work, Kropp says he's seen his fair share of COVID-19 cases. "I know what it looks like and how dangerous and how serious it is." He urges people to continue to be careful and practice social distancing. "We still need to be cautious but that's the price we have to pay in a pandemic. We have to stick through this together."

Kropp chose to study public health because he was considering becoming an occupational therapist. But working in the ER amidst the pandemic has solidified his desire to work in an emergency setting. "I'm thinking I'd like to get my paramedic certification or become a firefighter," he says.