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Future Spartan MD Sophia Tessema helps create new online COVID-19 screening tool

April 13, 2020

Using information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Sophia Tessema and a group of community advocates developed a web-based questionnaire to self-screen for COVID-19.

While the results aren’t meant to provide a diagnosis or medical advice, Tessema says the tool provides a means to gain knowledge and resources in a timely fashion. If concerning symptoms are reported, the tool will guide those patients to local health organizations.

“This can help to minimize fear and anxiety by allowing people to screen themselves from their home,” she said.

Launched in March, the tool has already screened thousands of people for COVID-19.

“It’s the start of a tangible public health impact in our communities,” said Tessema. “We’re reducing the traffic to overcrowded health care facilities to preserve the limited resources for people most in need.”

Tessema, a fourth-year Flint campus student, felt compelled to help after her friend Omar Hashwi became quarantined in Switzerland and was unable to return to the US. Hashwi, a web developer, rallied others including Tessema and Dr. Rayan El-Zein, resident physician at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, for the project.

“Contributing to a service that can help alleviate anxiety and provide resources is one way I can use my skills I have garnered through years of medical training and public health education,” said Tessema.

“This experience has given me the opportunity to be innovative and responsive in an unprecedented time. Flexibility and creativity are needed to combat the health challenges we are facing as a result of this public health crisis.”

The group will continue to improve the tool as more information about the virus is made available from the CDC and WHO. Tessema has translated the screening questionnaire into Amharic, one of the major languages of Ethiopia. Nine other translations are available, with others in progress.

The site provides other valuable resources, including a platform to connect health care facilities with personal protective equipment. Additionally, employers can use the Employee Risk Assessment as a way for their employees to report symptoms before reporting to work.

To learn more, visit

Team members (left to right): Omar Hashwi, research analyst and web designer; Sophia Tessema MPH, fourth-year MSU College of Human Medicine student; Dr. Rayan EL-Zein, resident physician, internal medicine, OhioHealth Doctors Hospital