COVID-19 Pandemic Confirms Graduate’s Future in Public Health

December 15, 2020 | COVID-19, Graduate News, News, UToday, Advancement, Alumni, Health and Human Services
By Cherie Spino

There isn’t a doubt in Victoria Simpson’s mind that she is where she is meant to be.

Simpson works for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. She received her master’s degree in public health from The University of Toledo on Dec. 6 and said she hopes to graduate in the spring with an additional master’s degree in occupational health-industrial hygiene.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who received their degrees during our Dec. 6 virtual commencement ceremony.

During the pandemic, Simpson has witnessed firsthand the toll that COVID-19 has taken on healthcare professionals. When the pandemic started, she was working as a health and safety specialist at The University of Toledo Medical Center.

She fit physicians and nurses with N95 masks and PPE, trained them how to don and doff the protective equipment and how to safely go into COVID rooms.

“I’ve been with nurses as they’re crying, scared to go into rooms,” she said. “I have a great appreciation for healthcare workers and what they’re doing.”

In June, Simpson began working at the health department as the COVID-19 coordinator. She manages all the contact tracers in the county, training them on how to interview and collect data.

“We have to be so flexible,” she said, “because as we get more cases, the contact tracing process changes every day.”

Throughout the chaos, Simpson says she’s never questioned that she’s in the right field.

“I wanted to help people,” she said. “I love the people I work with. It’s challenging when the public doesn’t see what we’re seeing and doesn’t understand the importance of what we’re asking them to do, but in the end, it’s worth it.”

Dr. Barbara Saltzman, assistant professor in the School of Population Health, said she enjoyed working with Simpson because of her enthusiasm.

“Victoria is quite driven and does not wait around to be told what to do,” Saltzman said. “Yet she always takes the time to ask questions when she is uncertain.”


Simpson graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2018 with a public health administration degree. When she was looking for a graduate epidemiology program, she received a call from Dr. April Ames, a UToledo assistant professor of public and occupational health.

Ames asked if Simpson would also be interested in the industrial hygiene program. Although Simpson said she’d never heard of industrial hygiene, she was sold on UToledo.

“It was a better outcome for me to get two good degrees rather than just one,” she said.

Ames, Dr. Joseph Dake and Dr. Michael Valigosky became her advocates. Ames helped her get the position at UTMC and helped her secure an internship with Marathon Petroleum. Simpson traveled the country doing industrial hygiene sampling.

“Faculty gave us the resources we needed to succeed in the actual workplace,” Simpson said.

Though Simpson knows she’s where she’s meant to be, she’s not certain of where she’ll end up. This year has taught her that plans can change in the blink of an eye.

“I’m dedicated to working in whatever area needs me the most,” she said. “As long as it’s community-based and serving people, I’ll be OK with it.”

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