Eight Florida A&M University (FAMU) public health professors and students have been recruited by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to help fight the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The “FAMU 8 Strike COVID-19 Team” includes four faculty and four students. Seven of the FAMU team members are assigned to Tallahassee DOH and one in South Florida.
Their assignments include data input, data analysis, and health messaging. They also will be receiving calls and questions from assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities regarding patients and residents.
They will also be triaging calls following a rubric and, if necessary, contacting the county epidemiologists for follow-up with the county health department and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) personnel.
Team members will work 12-hour shifts – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for two consecutive days. Additional work may follow. Team members will not be interacting directly with patients.
“I am so proud of this team,” said C. Perry Brown, DrPH., team leader and epidemiologist in the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Institute of Public Health. “They are trained and prepared for this moment – this time.”
About a week ago, the Florida Department of Health reached out to public health epidemiology programs and schools of public health from across the state to provide support to state and local health departments in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
FAMU administrators then joined their counterparts on a conference call with Florida Secretary of Health and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, MD, and Deputy Health Secretary Shamarial Roberson, DrPH., a FAMU Institute of Public Health graduate.
The purpose of the call was to identify and hire faculty and student epidemiologists as well as some health educators to assist county health departments, said Cynthia M. Harris, Ph.D., associate dean for Public Health and director of the Institute of Public Health.
Among the FAMU COPPS Institute of Public Health faculty are Gebre-Egziabher Kiros, Ph.D., a biostatistician, Alan Becker, Ph.D., an environmental epidemiologist trained in disaster preparedness, and Torhonda Lee, Ph.D., a health educator with a focus on health equity.
Kiros, Becker, and Brown are taking calls from nursing homes and assisted living facilities from residents with positive tests or those who have become symptomatic. They then contact the local health department for their epidemiology follow-up. Lee is working with community calls coming into the Department of Health, Harris said.
Two team members – Stephanie Colter and Justin Williams – are doctoral epidemiology students. Kamaria Jacobs and Reginald Turner are pursuing master’s degrees in public health focusing on epidemiology and environmental epidemiology, respectively.
All of the team members, except Williams, are stationed in Tallahassee. He is detailed to the Miami-Dade Health Department, where his role is to help epidemiology staff in following up on suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases that have been reported from nursing homes, long-term care, and assisted living facilities, Harris said.
“Our public health faculty, students and alumni are trained and prepared for moments such as this. They are also culturally competent and have a passion for addressing the public health needs of the most vulnerable of populations,” Harris said. “This is consistent with the mission of the program, college and University. They are ready and I am very proud of them.”