On the front line

Katie Doonan with personal protective equipment as EMT

Senior volunteers as an EMT and firefighter while attending school full-time during the COVID-19 crisis.

WSU senior Katie Doonan has been volunteering as an emergency medical technician and firefighter with the White Mountain Fire Department and works at Northern Inyo Hospital in her hometown of Bishop, California, during school breaks for the last three years.

A double major in sustainable agriculture and biology, she didn’t think twice about reprising these health care roles after WSU switched to distance learning in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s been a blessing to be home and help out with this,” Doonan said.

Doonan works 3-4 on-call shifts at the fire department and another 1-2 shifts at the hospital as an emergency room technician in addition to attending classes full-time. She also works as an undergraduate research assistant in the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

“We’re not hit very hard with the virus yet,” Doonan said. “But if we get any people that are sick, I’m kind of the next line of defense.”

While Doonan said she is concerned about contracting the virus, it’s not because she’s afraid for herself.

“I don’t want to get sick and not be able to help out the fire department and the hospital,” Doonan said.

Because of its small staff, Doonan said the hospital is taking extra precautions to ensure the health of the workers.

“If we do get workers that become sick, it’s going to be a problem for us, unlike in a bigger city,” Doonan said.

Though Doonan had considered studying medicine after graduation, she said she now hopes to study the connection between food production and human health at WSU.

“I’ve had such good professors at WSU,” Doonan said. “I’m trying to get back to Pullman once this is over.”

By Alysen Boston