Pacific Rises to Meet Pandemic

Savannah Tran PA '22 wears a mask while studying at the Hillsboro CampusWhen Savannah Tran PA ‘22 started her studies in Pacific University’s physician assistant program back in May, it was under unusual circumstances, to say the least.

In mid-March, the university had quickly moved all courses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For most of Pacific’s students, that meant about six weeks of online courses to finish up the academic year. 

But some of Pacific’s graduate programs run year-round — and brand new PA students were set to begin their program in May, just as other students were wrapping up for the summer.

“Our cohort started all online back in May, so we have not been able to physically meet each other or be in the same classroom together since starting our program,” Tran said.

Gradually over the summer, some health professions programs resumed limited in-person activities — specifically those clinical skills that students must learn in a hands-on setting to become healthcare providers. 

Now, Pacific’s campuses are opening back up more, though still with lots of modifications. Classes that can be delivered effectively remotely remain online, but there are courses meeting on Pacific’s campuses — in modified spaces with lots of cleaning, physical distancing and other precautions.

“Being on campus has definitely been a unique experience,” Tran said. “The students are spaced six feet apart from each other in the classroom, and there are arrows on the floor throughout the building to direct foot traffic into, around, and out of the building. Once we have completed our classes for the day, we use the provided cleaning supplies to wipe down our workspaces and follow the taped arrows to exit the classroom and building.”

And yet, the vast majority of students have chosen to return to school in person, eager to face the modifications in order to keep moving forward toward their goals — which for Tran means preparing to help fight the disease that has so changed her world.

“Continuing my education during this time means that I am one step closer to being able to join the community of healthcare providers currently working hard to care for those who need them most during this pandemic.”

This story appears in the Fall 2020 issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit

Monday, Aug. 31, 2020