Celebrating National Nursing Week: TWU Public Health Lead Taryne Lepp guides the university's COVID-19 response
“Ultimately, from student to ‘COVID lady,’ being a nurse for me has been an active example of loving God and loving others. I am constantly challenged to see people the way Jesus does, (as) precious, and I’m motivated to prevent and alleviate suffering through justice and kindness, something I was taught to embody during my time at TWU.”
— Taryne Lepp, RN, MPH, TWU Public Health Lead
Since June 2020, Taryne Lepp, TWU Public Health Lead, has played a crucial role in helping the University navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and safeguard the health and safety of students, staff, faculty and community members.
Lepp comes to Trinity Western after twelve years working at Fraser Health Authority – including five years as a communicable disease specialist. A graduate of TWU’s School of Nursing, Lepp has also been on staff at TWU as a nursing researcher, clinical supervisor and course instructor for nurses in training. In February 2010, Lepp was part of a team supporting athletes and athlete-families at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. She holds a Master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University.
Listen to Taryne Lepp's CHVN radio interview —'An active example of loving God and loving others':
TWU on CHVN Radio
The current pandemic is not Taryne’s first experience with a public health emergency. In September 2010, she spent four months helping to save Cholera patients in Haiti, through humanitarian aid work with Samaritan’s Purse.
It was her time in Haiti that focused Taryne’s attention onto public health.
“Looking back I can see the urgency I learned to live with then. The pressure, (it) certainly served me well this past year facing COVID,” Taryne said.
“Those months taught me fortitude, gave me experience at managing a pervasive disease, and showed me I could make incredibly difficult choices,” she said. “Haiti changed how I saw the world, how I saw myself and altered the trajectory of my career away from acute hospital care toward public health.”
Managing campus public health and COVID safety
A decade after helping to fight the Cholera epidemic in Haiti, Taryne now brings a greater knowledge base and clinical expertise to help a university community of 5,000 students, plus 800 faculty and staff, navigate a pandemic.
As TWU’s Public Health Lead, Taryne manages the University’s COVID-19 response. She draws on her previous experiences in public health nursing.
“I was already used to working remotely—a building block of community nursing where your patient ratio is usually in the hundreds to thousands. You do a lot by phone and email—providing individual and population recommendations, working with health care professionals and community leaders, all while balancing preventative care with acute follow up needs,” she said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is a new challenge, Lepp's experience in community healthcare has prepared her well. “I had never done this exact role. I had never responded to a pandemic in a place where people live, work, learn and play, but I have been immersed in the interplay between social determinants of health and disease for a long time.”
When it comes to what she enjoys most about her current role at TWU, Lepp says, “Hands down, it’s the people and the opportunities I’ve been given here. Being part of the TWU community, I get to work alongside so many interesting, wonderful and supportive colleagues.”
She appreciates the strong culture of teamwork at TWU. “I’ve served in major hospitals, in the community, at summer camp and in developing countries, and here at TWU, I have had the most sustained opportunities to use the full breadth of my skills, knowledge and abilities—something I attribute to the value of team here.”
Choosing nursing as career and life calling
Lepp decided to become a nurse while attending summer camp the week prior to entering Grade 12. An encounter with the camp nurse inspired her. Then, a chance conversation that Lepp’s mother had with a friend about TWU’s nursing program led Lepp to choose the same university. “I never looked back,” she said.
Now, Lepp sees nursing as her natural calling. “Becoming a nurse in the end felt kind of like breathing, something I did almost without thinking, and yet is foundational in my life.”
During this past year, she has been reminded that “being a nurse is a profession you are never quite finished training for.”
Many students have come to know Lepp as the campus “COVID lady.” She has provided healthcare information and recommendations to many students, staff and families throughout the pandemic. In times of health crisis or concern, she counselled groups by video conferencing and supported individuals one-on-one by phone. She coordinated with Fraser Health Authority to support case management and contact tracing on campus. She helped determine the University’s health and safety response in the midst of changing circumstances.
She reflected, “Ultimately, from student to ‘COVID lady,’ being a nurse for me has been an active example of loving God and loving others. I am constantly challenged to see people the way Jesus does, (as) precious, and I’m motivated to prevent and alleviate suffering through justice and kindness (Micah 6:8), something I was taught to embody during my time at TWU.”
See this story in Prince George Daily.
See also—‘We did it!’: 774 TWU graduates mark their milestone through a virtual ceremony:
About Trinity Western University
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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