GLASSBORO — We may all be experiencing "COVID fatigue," but at Rowan University, the next generation of healthcare professionals is eagerly diving into the science behind the novel coronavirus.

They are seniors in a topics seminar taught by adjunct professor Elliott Karetny, who has devoted his entire lesson plan for the fall semester to the emergence and mutations of COVID-19.

"I decided to not really teach them but for us to all explore the origin of this coronavirus," Karetny said. "We talk about treatments, we've gotten more into the epidemiology, just because about a third of the students actually work in healthcare already, so they're able to report what they're seeing on the ground, what they're hearing in their settings."

Karetny is also a science teacher at Timber Creek Regional High School in Gloucester Township and said his students there were coming to him in January with all the original theories: that COVID-19 was created in a lab, devised deliberately by the Chinese government, invented to control the population.

And while all of those viewpoints have been debunked through scientific literature, Karetny said, there is still much confusion about where the new coronavirus did come from and how we got to the point we are at right now.

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For Karetny, whose background is in evolution and paleontology — "I would have loved to have taught about dinosaurs" this fall, he said — getting a chance to experience "science in action" was too important to pass up.

"This is so extremely relevant that we're looking up research, we're looking up headlines as they're happening during class," Karetny said.

Part of the course is a comparison and contrast with other coronaviruses, such as a strain of the common cold, and the response to the H1N1, or "swine flu," pandemic of 2009-10.

Through that lens, Karetny hopes he and his students will be able to better understand just what has made COVID-19 the perfect storm that has ground the world to a halt.

The class has not been meeting in person and Karetny does not have a position at Rowan for the spring semester but he hopes his current group's studies will continue.

"I hope things are better in the spring, and I hope I would be able to teach it, but I can see teaching this way ongoing," he said.

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