When medical agencies set up a drive-thru COVID-19 test site in Spokane, they needed volunteers, and Lee Roy Esposo was one of several WSU pharmacy students to answer the call.

Esposo joined his fellow third-year Doctor of Pharmacy students Michelle Baek and Jennifer Tu to volunteer at the Spokane County Interstate Fairgrounds where he has helped with initial intakes as well as onboarding and training new volunteers.

A variety of people have crossed Esposo’s path: parents with children, people who had orders from their physicians or thought they might be at risk. They all had a lot of questions.

“People were understandably scared,” Esposo said. “Some were upset and in tears, concerned that they had the disease. I did my best to comfort them and communicate the testing process to ease their anxiety.”

Many people expressed gratitude to the volunteers and health care workers who were willing to be on the frontlines of the crisis to help them. Esposo had no illusions about the personal risk he was taking, but it didn’t stop him from helping out.

“When I signed up to be a volunteer, I knew what I was getting into and that I could potentially be exposed to COVID-19,” Esposo said. “I got into health care because I wanted to help people, not just as a pharmacist, but as a person who wants to protect the health of his community. I have the ability to positively impact a lot of lives because of my training and studies. If anything, it’s given me more drive and reason to be the best clinician I can be.”

Students wearing medicla masks pose in parking lot of drive-thru testing site
Lee Roy Esposo poses with fellow WSU student volunteers at the drive-thru testing site at the Spokane County Interstate Fairgrounds.

At the Fairgrounds, individuals who are concerned that they may have contracted the virus are able to drive down and be evaluated by medical personnel who come from area healthcare systems including Spokane Regional Health, Providence and CHAS Health.

Esposo said the screening process moves fairly quickly. After the initial intake, medical professionals evaluate individuals to determine whether a test is appropriate. Then, nasopharyngeal samples are taken and sent to the lab.

The test itself can be uncomfortable, Esposo said. Although he did not administer the test himself, as a pharmacy student, he has trained in these type of point-of-care tests, like the one used in the COVID-19 testing.

While the concern of contracting COVID-19 was always present, Esposo placed trust in his personal protective equipment or PPE. He also valued the opportunity to serve.

“I know that I’m not invincible. We understand the risks, but we do it because this is what we signed up to do,” he said. “As a healthcare provider, it’s a sacred duty to help others. Whether it’s directing traffic, helping someone fill out an intake form or even offering kind words of support. Small contributions like this can have the biggest impact in someone’s life.”

He was also bolstered by his interactions with the people he tested and with other health care providers.

“Seeing the community come together during this crisis gives me the faith to believe that we will come out of this stronger,” Esposo said. “The interprofessional collaboration from all those who were volunteering shows that, together, we can and will overcome this trying period in our lives.”

For more information about testing at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, visit the COVID-19 Drive-Through Screening information page hosted by the Spokane Regional Health District.

For Pullman residents, visit information page for Pullman Regional Hospital’s COVID-19 Triage & Testing Center.