Wesleyan alumna on the frontlines of COVID-19 infection protection

Buckhannon, WV—Many West Virginia Wesleyan College alumni have been on the frontlines in a variety of capacities in the fight against COVID-19.  Jill Horton Holdsworth ’04 continues to see first-hand the world of constantly changing protocols presented by the disease.

Holdsworth is the manager of the Infection Prevention Department for Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta.  She leads a team of four Infection Preventionists (IPS).  The team has a long list of duties that range from evaluating products, processes, protocols, policies, and operating procedures for all hospital staff members to performing surveillance on all positive lab reports, educating team members, visitors, and patients.  In addition, the team monitors the safety of construction and renovation projects as well as work alongside the Emory Infectious Disease Team.

“I love working in Infection Prevention because each day presents new challenges,” said Holdsworth.  “I can confidently say that I will never be bored in this field because there is always something to learn.  In this field, I believe I can make a difference in the lives of the patients we serve and in the safety of the providers and team members in the facility.  My favorite aspect of the job is to work directly with the teams on a clinical unit or department to solve a problem or redesign a workflow, and to see that idea succeed and improve their work.”

COVID-19 has presented Holdsworth and her team a number of new challenges.  “We have had to face the challenges of a constantly changing world of protocols with PPE, testing methods, and workflows,” she noted.  “We have an increased need for education and support for our clinical teams.  The hours are longer and the number of phone calls and questions have increased as has the need to be present in the hospital for our team members.”

“We are fiercely loyal to the hospital we serve and the team members who work there and our number one priority is to always keep everyone safe,” continued Holdsworth.  “As Infection Preventionists, we move through the hospital continuously to ensure isolation precautions are maintained, PPE is working and being used correctly, tests are ordered appropriately, and workflows are going as intended. “Though we work around the clock, it is rewarding to see our teammates feel comfortable and safe in the ever-changing world right now.” 

Holdsworth earned a bachelor of science in biology from Wesleyan and her master’s degree in exercise science from Marshall.  She worked as a graduate assistant in the human performance laboratory with cardiac patients in collaboration with Cabell Huntington Hospital. After graduating from Marshall, Holdsworth was an exercise physiologist in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department at St. Mary’s Medical Center and a personal trainer for the HIIT Center.

In 2009, Holdsworth moved to Washington, DC and began working as a patient safety officer at an acute rehab hospital which led to become the Infection Control Practitioner. The following year, she became a board certified Infection Control Practitioner and in 2012, a certified EMT, working at night as a volunteer in Bethesda, MD.

Holdsworth is grateful to Wesleyan for the College’s role in her career success. Not only did she earn her undergraduate degree at the school, she also met her future husband, Steve ’06, who is a Human Resource Director. The couple has two children.

“My time at Wesleyan taught me how to juggle multiple responsibilities and tasks, deal with the stress associated with biology classes, the track team, the jazz ensemble, and Alpha Delta Pi Sorority,” she remarked.  “I had to learn time management skills and how to prioritize tasks.”

“I reaped the benefit of gaining valuable insight from incredible faculty members such as Dr. Kathy Gregg and Dr. Carl Colson,” Holdsworth explained.  “They paved the way for my future in a science-based career and have supported me through the years. They never gave up on me and what I wanted to do and achieve.”

“My most impactful mentor at Wesleyan was Dr. David “Doc” Milburn, Director of the Jazz Ensemble,” she added. “Doc taught me to always push myself and to realize my true potential in everything I do.  He was more than a teacher to us, he was family.  I know that he would be proud of what I have accomplished.”

“I was also extremely fortunate to have met life-long friends at Wesleyan that I continually lean on today,” Holdsworth concluded.  “Being a part of the Wesleyan family is something only those within our circle will ever understand how special it truly is.”

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