May 5, 2022

Event Recap | Wolfle Memorial Lecture in Science & Policy 2022

The Dael L. Wolfle Memorial Lecture Series honors distinguished careers and contributions to the field of science and public affairs, and is made possible by the Dael L. Wolfle  Endowment for Excellence in Public Affairs. Established in 1986, its purpose is to bring distinguished scholars and practitioners in science and public policy to campus to share their ideas with the University community.   

Early in the pandemic, a team of University of Washington research scientists were the first to identify community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus in the United States. This critical discovery changed the course of U.S. public health policy responses to the pandemic and was attributable to the team science that led to the creation of the Seattle Flu Study in 2018 — a prototype early detection system created to improve pandemic response to influenza and other pathogens. 

Dr. Helen Chu discussed the origins of the Seattle Flu Study and her work with public health departments, policy makers, and community partners to develop strategies for COVID-19 testing, viral variant sequencing, and community spread mapping. Dr. Chu also shared how the Seattle Flu Study developed ways to measure immune response to the virus that aided in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. Much of this work informed public health responses within schools and universities statewide, as well as strategies to address vaccine hesitancy within Seattle’s most vulnerable communities. Reflecting on her work, Dr. Chu mapped a path forward and identified key public health policies that will allow us to be better prepared for the next pandemic. 

Dr. Helen Chu

Adjunct Associate Professor, Epidemiology
Associate Professor, Medicine – Allergy and Infectious Dis.
Adjunct Associate Professor, Global Health
University of Washington