Back in her San Marino home due to COVID-19, Serena Wang was tired of sitting around doing the proverbial “nothing” once her online classes were over for the day.
A 2017 graduate of San Marino High School and junior at Johns Hopkins University, Wang responded to a challenge, literally, to assist during the pandemic. Her father, a healthcare worker, was struggling in the early days of the crisis to find sufficient personal protection equipment and Wang wanted to get moving.
“I and a team of Johns Hopkins and Stanford students created a texting service called CovidSMS to spread local information and updates about coronavirus for our communities,” she said. “We identified a need for streamlined local communication, a simple and accessible method for community members to stay up-to-date with county case numbers, statistics and information from the city directly. I am a public health major so I wanted to make sure the service is reliable.”
Wang reached out to her fellow SMHS alumna Britney Yip, an economics major at the University of California, Berkeley, who handled the marketing end of the application, set up all of the necessary social media platforms and “put our name out there,” according to Wang.
The platform allows for access to the most up-to-date information available by linking to resources across the nation to retrieve case number statistics. San Marino residents, for example, can simply text 888-414-5539 and enter for the latest data.
The application has been a winner with users as well as judges at Johns Hopkins, who issued the call for projects related to COVID-19.
“We were one of seven finalists out of 250 teams and won the challenge,” said Wang.
CovidSMS has more than 1,000 users in 40 of the 50 states, including San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda and Mayor Gretchen Shepherd Romey. The platform allows for the City Council to send messages to the community.
Wang and Yip have enjoyed previous successes as four-year members of the SMHS Speech and Debate team, where both served as captains. Wang was a finalist at the 2016 National Speech and Debate tournament, and Yip a quarterfinalist. Wang was a four-year member of the Lady Titan swim team, serving as captain in 2016 and 2017. She hopes to some day work at the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization.
Yip was also a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA, while at SMHS, serving as president her senior year. She completed a project that placed ninth in the Healthcare Administration category at the 2016 FBLA regional conference.
For Wang, the COVID-19 crisis seems to have provided a sense of inspiration.
“I entered Johns Hopkins as a public health major,” said Wang. “I didn’t know how important it was at the time, but now I do. I want to be more than just a physician.”