College of Health Sciences Faculty and Staff Play Key Role in University COVID Testing Strategies

MU Health Sciences
2 min readMay 21, 2021

Not long after the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, Marquette University mobilized its health and medical faculty and staff to provide help and insights into the emerging disease.

Dr. Erik Munson

Testing was a key component of the university’s strategy, and it was a massive undertaking. While new tests were being developed to detect the virus, institutions had to figure out how to administer the tests and how to get the results as quickly as possible. That’s where a team from the College of Health Sciences, led by Dr. Erik Munson, assistant professor of Clinical Laboratory Sciences; Dr. Carolyn Smith, clinical assistant professor of Exercise Science; and others stepped in to help.

A testing center was established in the Helfaer Rec Center, and symptomatic students were directed to make testing appointments as soon as possible. Later, the university would add additional testing, often called “surveillance testing” for non-symptomatic students. The tests were then processed through the Munson lab on campus in the College of Health Sciences.

Testing signage used across campus at Marquette.

“It was really an ‘it takes a village’ type of story,” Munson says. “Carolyn Smith spearheaded the Helfaer effort, and Michelle Raclawski (director of academic business affairs) was extremely pivotal in the initial purchase of equipment and reagents.”

Munson named many others who helped, including staff and faculty from across campus and Clinical Laboratory Sciences students Giovanna Lazzerini, Javeriya Choudry and Maia Villaflor, who helped on a weekly basis at the test collection center.

He also drew on colleagues from the clinical laboratory science community, including his wife, Kimber.

“When I sought out to find people who could help us with testing, I contacted my current and past colleagues in clinical settings,” he says. “My wife works in a clinical microbiology setting, and I contacted Maureen Napierala, a Clinical Laboratory Sciences alumna and retired med tech whom I have known for 20 years. Both were happy to help, and they deserve all the credit — they’ve been mainstays throughout the entire process.”

Marquette was one of the first universities in the country to have a public-facing dashboard that tracked COVID-19 infections and aiding the medical team in contact tracing. Thanks to its swift response and to the efforts of the Marquette community, the university was able to successfully reinstate in-person classes in both the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.



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