Bianca Pate '22 poses in PPE outside a room at the Latrobe Hospital ICU.

W&J neuroscience major joins the front lines in fight against COVID-19

Created: November 6, 2020  |  Last Updated: December 9, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 6, 2020)— At the beginning of 2020, Bianca Pate ’22 made plans to study abroad to add travel to her experiential learning opportunities at the College. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic altered her plans as it has for many others across the globe, but it inspired the Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) neuroscience and Spanish major to do something else: give back.

Already armed with experience as a hospital volunteer and EMT, Bianca found herself wanting to do something to help her local community as COVID cases grew. Since August, she has been working with patients in the ICU at Latrobe Hospital—including those diagnosed with COVID—to provide care and comfort as a patient care technician.

Her choice has come with a sacrifice of staying off campus during her junior year of college, and made her even more vigilant in the fight against COVID.

“I know some people might say this is fake, or ‘it doesn’t affect people my age,’ but I can tell you it’s very real and a lot worse than a lot of us are thinking it is, especially for the elderly population,” Bianca said. “A lot of our patients are on a ventilator. For me personally, it’s very scary seeing individuals in that situation, but I think my position has been so rewarding in what I’m able to do for our patients and the comfort I am able to bring them.”

Bianca is putting time management skills she developed at W&J to work, sometimes taking 12-hour overnight shifts at the hospital on weekends while still balancing a full course load of online classes through W&J’s remote learning option. She’s also applying the lessons she’s learning this semester in courses like psychology to her own experience as she helps families cope with the illness of their loved ones in the ICU.

It’s been an emotional few months for Bianca, but this time is prepping her in ways she didn’t expect for her career goal of being a physician.

“I think anyone who wants to pursue any career in medicine should start off as a technical partner and see what it’s like,” Bianca said. “You get a deeper appreciation for what is going on at the hospital and how each person plays a vital role in providing the best care for our patients.”

This position is just one way Bianca has helped those struggling with illness this year; she also serves as the philanthropy chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma at W&J and is currently running the second Tik Tok fundraising competition of the year to raise money for the research and treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The competition wraps on Nov. 7 and winners will receive prizes donated by a dozen W&J clubs and organizations. Learn more here.

About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.