Blaine DINKIN '13, Administrative Fellow

Blaine DINKIN ’13 was in her first rotation as an administrative fellow at Forbes Hospital when COVID-19 hit. As a member of Allegheny Health Network’s fellowship program, Blaine is exploring the operational, clinical, and strategic side of the healthcare system after receiving her master’s degree in health care policy and management. When the pandemic began in March, Blaine’s role changed and she put all of her energy into producing and assembling test kits. To date, Blaine and her team have assembled close to 150,000 COVID-19 testing kits for Pittsburghers—and they’re not slowing down anytime soon.

Graduation Year:
B.S., Indiana University; MS-HCPM, Carnegie Mellon University
Administrative Fellow at Allegheny Health Network (AHN)

What does a typical work week look like for you?
Being in a rotational program, every week looks different than the last. The majority of what I do is help manage projects for the current rotation while also getting opportunities to lead my own work. In addition, I have many chances to shadow executives throughout their week so I can better under the complexities of the healthcare field.

How has that changed since the beginning of COVID-19?
When COVID-19 started, I had just begun a rotation at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville. Due to the hospital limiting the number of non-clinical personnel, I began working from home in mid-March. Around the same time, there was a large testing shortage due to the lack of nasopharyngeal swabs, which most of the world got from the same manufacturer in Italy.  Allegheny Health Network (AHN) was able to obtain enough swabs through a variety of different means to stock up their own production facility and, having extra capacity with my own work, I was put on the team which would manage production of these kits. 

Throughout the day, we were responsible for teaching our volunteers how to make the kits, troubleshooting when issues arose, working with the supply chain to ensure we had everything we needed, and making sure the kits were properly created. After our volunteers left for the day, we would then prepare for the next day of kit making! About halfway through our production, Nike and Dicks Sporting Goods, generously donated 15,000 fanny packs for our front-line staff. These fanny packs, which we referred to as Personal Protective Packs, would be stuffed with items such as hand sanitizer and face masks, so our front-line staff would have everything they needed throughout their shift.

For the second half of our production, we were creating both COVID-19 testing kits and personal protective packs. Throughout our two and a half months we were able to produce close to 150,000 COVID-19 testing kits and provide 15,000 front line staff with Personal Protective Packs.

What is something you'd like the greater community to know? 
I was able to gain such a unique perspective about our essential clinical workers. They are essential for a reason, because without them it's hard to imagine what our community would look like. I am truly amazed with their perseverance, willingness to contribute and their courage day in and day out. 

Do you have any advice for people during this time? 
Be grateful for the little things! I was so fortunate to be able to have this extra time with my family. In a “normal world” we would probably have just had a few meals a week together. However, during quarantine, we were able to spend quality time together where no one was in a rush or absent. On the weekends we would walk, watch movies, and cook together. I can not tell you the last time we were all together like that. As sad as what is going on, this has been a stark reminder of what really is important, of which I am grateful for. 

How have you been recharging after your work day? 
I think I’ve watched every new show on every streaming service. In addition, I try to stay active by going on runs, doing virtual workouts, and reading a lot. 

How did your time at Ellis prepare you for this?
I think Ellis gave me the platform to never be scared to ask when something does not make sense. This became super useful when I was dealing with new processes and people. Supply chain and laboratory work was a foreign concept for me. Had I not made sure I fully understood what their teams were doing on the back end, I don’t think I would have been as good of a team member or leader.