Work Transformed: Caroline Bass ’19 at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

 

Caroline Bass ’19, is a health writer and communications specialist for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). At Carolina, where her mother Jennifer was a 1986 graduate, Bass majored in media and journalism and political science with a minor in chemistry. She dived deeply into all things Carolina: joining student government; studying abroad in Greece, China, Japan and Israel; and serving as both a UNC Hussman student ambassador and senior class marshal in her senior year. Bass took time to answer a few questions recently about being a communicator on the front lines of the pandemic.

Q: How are you communicating differently?

I'm an extroverted only child so while I enjoy alone time to recharge, I rely heavily on quality time with my people to feel energized, supported and in the loop. This pandemic has changed everything from the way we communicate to our ability to rest and stay calm. Now, recharging looks extremely different than it did a year ago. Without knowing an end date to this public health crisis, my peers and I can’t “plan” on anything. Instead, we are relying on phone calls, daily morning or evening text messages and video calls. 

“I feel privileged to have this opportunity to help, to bring truth to light and to be of service — all lessons instilled in me through UNC Hussman.”—Caroline Bass ’2019

Q: What are you doing in the context of your own work in relation to COVID-19? 

Although I can’t see my people on a regular basis right now, I still feel supported. This is one of the pros of modern technology. I definitely didn’t expect to be on a team running North Carolina’s COVID-19 response when I took this job at DHHS. In truth, it works out that I can’t see people regularly because my new normal is being a part of a team that works 24/7 on press conferences, briefings and interviews as well as public health guidance and research to make sure the public knows what to do and how to take care of themselves, updating our state-level response as this pandemic is constantly evolving. My office is now a press room with Gov. Roy Cooper, Secretary Mandy Cohen and Dr. Betsey Tilson at the State Emergency Operations Center, where I get to learn every single day how we can help others in a time of crisis. I never took crisis communications, but I feel like I’m in a crash course right now. 

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper introduces Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen at a COVID-19 press conference.

This is a scary, unprecedented time because we don’t know when daily life will resume and go back to “normal.” It's difficult to be in this position where so much good can take place and then see people not following these public health mandates that were put in place to protect us all. I feel privileged to have this opportunity to help, to bring truth to light and to be of service — all lessons instilled in me through UNC Hussman. 

We will get through this. The sun will rise again. Until then, we stay at home. We listen to public health professionals. We pick up the phone and check on each other. And we get one day closer to being pandemic-free. 

Get updates from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services by texting COVID to 898211. 

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Stay tuned for more Work Transformed stories on how UNC Hussman alumni are adapting to this unprecedented time.

Alumnus Jamie Williams ’10, executive communications manager at UNC Health, is inspired by the patience and support provided by the communications team at UNC Health.