Communications Chair Anna’s CDC Practicum

Anna Tate

Communications Chair 


CDC, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (OPHPR):​

For the last month, I’ve been working as a Fellow in CDC’s OPHPR under the Office of the Director.

The ongoing and unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa has triggered CDC to fully activate their Joint Information Center (JIC), a 24/7 emergency preparedness unit within OPHPR, and, more recently, to move its emergency operations center (EOC) to its highest activation level – level 1.  And THAT means that there is a wealth of people working diligently to help ameliorate the outbreak—both here in Atlanta and in the field in West Africa.

My job has been to update CDC’s official statistics on the number of cases and deaths in each of the affected countries. Whenever WHO publishes an update (which is typically every few days), we update our figures to be consistent with those of WHO. In addition to the number of cases and deaths, CDC also reports the affected districts and number of CDC staff members in each of the countries.

As part of my involvement in the response, I was able to attend one of the meetings in the EOC’s command center with leaders integral to the response (see picture below). Epidemiologists, logisticians, and communications experts, to name a few, were in attendance, and representatives from the Department of Defense (DoD) and WHO participated via teleconference. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the workings of an outbreak response with some of the world’s leading experts in the field.












I am excited to continue working on the outbreak response this year and am particularly looking forward to working closely with OPHPR’s communications experts, who are keeping very busy. In fact, my boss is currently in Nigeria working with partnering organizations to provide accurate information about Ebola to both the public and health care workers (you can read more about his experience here:


CDC, Division of Viral Hepatitis:

Earlier in the summer, I also worked for a bit in CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, which is in the Office of Global Health within the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (a mouth-full, I know). There, I helped draft country-specific guidelines and comprehensive plans of action related to viral hepatitis prevention methods and treatment options.


This summer has been exciting and rewarding, and I look forward to getting back into school mode and for another exciting year in SORT! Even though the Fall semester is still a week away, some of our members are already working on the first outbreak response of the year, assisting CDC by using OpenStreetMap to gather infrastructural spacial data in affected regions.


On a side note, I also got to see Sanjay Gupta report on the two Ebola patients residing at Emory’s hospital!


CNN’s Senior Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta reporting on the two Ebola patients at Emory University Hospital


Co-President Haylea’s Practicum in South Africa

Haylea Hannah


Hello everyone! I am Haylea, one of SORT’s current Co-Presidents. For the past 3 months, I have been living in Johannesburg, South Africa working in a medical male circumcision (MMC) clinic (the Winnie Mandela Male Sexual Health Clinic) in a township just outside of the city called Tembisa along with another 2nd year MPH student, Michelle. The Aurum Institute, a research and health programs institution in South Africa that focuses on HIV and TB programs, is responsible for running the MMC clinic. Let me tell you guys, this clinic is phenomenal. Even given the fact that the clinic is set up in an extremely low-resource setting, there have been over 27,000 men circumcised in the clinic since it was opened in 2012.   The clinic has the capacity to circumcise around 180 men a day. For a bit of background information, MMC reduces a man’s risk of contracting HIV by up to 60% according to a large scale study conducted in 2005. In countries with a high prevalence of HIV and a low prevalence of circumcision, MMC can be a really important public health intervention. We have learned so much about circumcision, both medical and traditional, in South Africa and its importance as an HIV intervention.   I won’t bore you all with that here, but if you’re interested, feel free to contact me!

Our primary goal this summer was to design and conduct a research study to determine how female partners felt about medical male circumcision, how they wanted to be involved in the procedure (if at all), and their current knowledge about the procedure. Within our first 3 days here, we put together a 25 page research protocol and submitted our study to ethics. However, Africa-time got a hold of us (we didn’t hear back from ethics until the end of July), and we just re-submitted our study to ethics on August 6th. There are some wonderful people at the Aurum Institute who have agreed to help us continue this research study once we receive ethical approval, so Michelle and I hope to have interesting results to share in the future! In the meantime, we have both been working on additional data analysis research projects for the institute. I have completed two projects, one was creating a database for and analyzing existing data from the Youth Psychosocial Program and the other was describing how the appointment system is used at the MMC Clinic. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to use the Epi skills I’ve been learning in class in a practical setting. This summer, I’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to research design, both prospective and retrospective, data analysis using SAS, creating a database using Epi Info, and developing recommendations for program improvement.

Aside from work, I have had the opportunity to explore a great deal of South Africa and learn so much about its history. It’s incredible to be here long enough to begin to feel the history of the Apartheid and the embedded racism that still exists. Alåthough South Africa has come a long way since the end of the Apartheid, there is still a great deal of inequality in this country, and I know there are wonderful people here who give the countråy a bright future.

Here are a few pictures to depict my favorite things that I’ve done:


Hiking in the Northern Drakensburg Mountains to the Tugula Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world. South Africa is incredibly dry in the wintertime, and the falls depend on rainwater to run, so unfortunately all we saw was a bit of ice and where the falls normally run!


Having a baby lion cub fall asleep on me at a lion sanctuary in the Northwest Province


Learning Zulu from a brilliant 10 year old in an orphanage in Soweto (a township near Joburg where Nelson Mandela lived before he was imprisoned for 27 years).


Going to bed to this view while staying on a nature reserve in Swaziland.


Becoming best friends with my favorite animal in the world in Cape Town.

I leave here in just 4 short days, and, honestly, even writing this I am getting emotional. I know that South Africa, the wonderful kindness I have experienced here, and the incredible people that I have met will always hold a special place in my heart.

Interested in joining SORT? Get a head start on the application!

Interested in joining SORT?

We are looking for RSPH students (first or second year) who are enthusiastic about outbreak response, disaster management, and emergency preparedness, and who are looking to gain real-world experience in the field.

We will have a table at the student organization fair on August 25 from 12-3 PM, so come find us for additional information! Additionally, we’ll be holding an info session some time during orientation week (TBD). You can also email us at

If you would like to get ahead on the application materials, you can complete the NIMS trainings required as part of the application process found below (please complete 700 before 100). When you pass the post examination, you will be emailed a PDF of the certificate which will show us you have completed the course. We will also accept a screen shot that is sent at the end of the post-test if there is not enough time for the certificate to be sent to your email address. We highly recommend completing these ahead of time, as they will take several hours to complete.

Thanks and good luck!

-Sort leadership team


p.s. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page!

Co-President Dasha’s Practicum in Belize

By: Dasha Klebaner, SORT co-President
Summer 2014

I’ve been lucky enough to spend this summer working with CDC’s International Emergency Preparedness Team in Belize for my practicum. During the spring semester, I participated in weekly training workshops on emergency preparedness, plan development, and Emergency Operations Center development with IEPT in order to prepare for the summer. CDC IEPT does amazing work focused on increasing preparedness and emergency response capacity throughout the world and this is the first time they’ve had someone on the ground for an extended period of time in Belize. It’s been an amazing experience building connections with the Ministry of Health here, and learning about public health preparedness.
 I was given the task of researching and writing the first draft of the Belizean Ministry of Health’s All-Hazards Emergency Action Plan under the guidance of my supervisor, Belize’s Disaster Focal Point. The point of writing a plan from an “all-hazards” approach is to standardize the way a governing health body responds to public health emergencies. The same basic steps are often taken in nearly all public health emergencies, whether it be an influenza epidemic or a hurricane, and ensuring that these steps are not only followed consistently, but executed in an efficient manner, is essential to a cohesive response.

Through a series of interviews with Ministry of Health officials, consultations with CDC, and extensive conversations with my supervisor (who probably got tired of answering my questions), I gathered basic information about what is usually done to respond to emergencies, and what could be done better in the future. I gradually honed this information into a series of steps, broken down into strategic areas and followed by standard operating procedures. I also worked with MOH staff to develop Belize’s Incident Command System structure to ensure that the plan could be executed in the most standardized, efficient manner possible. Throughout all this, CDC supported my work with supplementary materials and templates to ensure consistency in Belize’s approach to emergency response.

Earlier in the summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a conference in Belize City with emergency coordinators from all the other Central American countries; it was a valuable experience to be able to see how culture and government structure influence emergency response, and to improve my non-existent Spanish! When you literally only know 10 words of a language, there’s nowhere to go but up.

In addition to working, I have also had the opportunity to do fun things (see pictures below)! Belize is an amazing country with so much to offer, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the highlights, ranging from massive Mayan ruins to incredible scuba diving sights! I also went ziplining in Guatemala, which was equally awesome. I’ve tried my best to learn some Creole, the language most Belizeans speak, but have only been successful in learning “Mek a tek wah picha,” which either means “Can I take your picture?” or “Can you take my picture?” That, and “Dis da fiwi chikn,” which is on a bunch of billboards advertising a poultry distributor and means “This is our chicken.” Clearly the Creole learning is going well. FYI, I probably butchered the spelling of both of those.

While I will miss this incredible country and its amazingly friendly people, I’m very excited to be back in Atlanta (with 20 bottles of Marie Sharp’s Habanero hot sauce in tow, obviously). I can’t wait to get back to classes (weird, I know), SORT activities, and of course, to a new class of SORT members in the fall!



The National Emergency Management Organization, or NEMO. I found it. Get it?


The path I took to work everyday. Although Belmopan is the capital, it’s rather small and has under 10,000 inhabitants. Belize itself has a little over 300,000 people! That’s half the size of most US cities.


One of the many temples in Tikal Park, which is the largest Mayan site. It held close to 90,000 inhabitants at its peak, and spans an area of 23 square miles. It is GORGEOUS!


Me looking much more intense than I actually am.


My best friend in Belize


Belize is clearly a very ugly country


CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog Features SORT’s Involvement in Potential Rabies Virus Exposure

CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog Features SORT’s Involvement in Potential Rabies Virus

Check out the latest post on CDC’s Public Health Matters Blog, which details the response effort to the potential rabies virus exposure in a SC hospital that SORT assisted with! The post is authored by SORT member Jacquelyn Lickness.


SORT Members Assist CDC with Response to Potential Rabies Virus Exposure in SC Hospital

By: Anna Tate
MPH Candidate 2015 | Global Health
SORT Secretary & Communications Chair

We are excited to announce SORT’s participation in the first official outbreak response of the year!

Two weeks ago our members took advantage of an incredible opportunity to assist CDC with a response to a potential rabies virus exposure in a South Carolina hospital, where over fifty bats were reported to have been seen. Because bats are now the most common human source of rabies in the United States, a potential exposure of this magnitude – particularly one that included hundreds of vulnerable hospital patients – is a critical situation and requires a coordinated response. CDC was asked to lead the investigation (in collaboration with the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the hospital), and the team needed to be diligent and to act quickly.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system (causing acute encephalitis) of those infected and, if not treated with post-exposure prophylaxis before the onset of symptoms, is nearly always fatal. While rabies is rare, a potential exposure (from bats, for instance) necessitates diligent precautionary measures to ensure timely treatment for those who may have been exposed (typically via a bite).

Dr. Neil Vora, MD, an EIS officer in CDC’s Poxvirus and Rabies Branch, led the investigation and coordinated SORT’s involvement in the response. Working shifts over a span of several days, members worked in CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) entering data into Epi Info, conducting systematic data quality checks, and facilitating a centralized call center to interview both patients and staff at the hospital who were potentially exposed to rabies virus.

This hands-on and multifaceted experience at the EOC proved to be a very valuable and rewarding experience for SORT, as our members were able to gain practical experience in a real-time and critical investigation, learning about the various challenges and intricacies of such a response.

Here is what several of the participating SORT members had to say about their experiences:

“It was amazing how quickly those of us working on the response were able to coalesce as a team, even with our varied backgrounds, to work towards the common goal of notifying the public about their potential exposure to a deadly disease. Over the two shifts I was able to contribute to the response, I was personally in a group of two EIS officers and a medical student and a mix of fellow SORT members with very different interests. With one SORT orientation and the open leadership style of Dr. Neil Vora, we had the opportunity to make a real difference in an affected community and to do some good public health work at the same time–in our spare time! In short, a wonderful and unique opportunity to participate in a real, fast-paced and meaningful public health emergency response.”

-Grayson Mitchell Privette
MPH Candidate 2014 | Global Environmental Health


“During the rabies response recently, my role was mostly to conduct data quality checks by double-checking survey entries against what was recorded in an Epi Info database. It was emphasized to us, at multiple times during our shifts, that there was no room for error, so it was useful to be a stickler for correct data!

What I got out of the experience, mostly, was an increased appreciation for Epi Info (I had previously taken a class in it, but never really thought of how to use it in a “real-life” application). At any rate, the whole experience gave me a better sense for what it was like to work in disease response. It’s not just the flashy “go in and save the day” response that a lot of people expect from an outbreak response, but rather more of a methodical “let’s make sure we’ve traced everything” approach — which I really appreciated getting a practical introduction into!”

-Michelle Schmitz
MSPH Candidate 2015 | Global Epidemiology


To see more photos of the response, check out our Facebook page (a special thanks to Sunshine Lickness (SORT) and Mark Fletcher (CDC) for the photos!):

Additional information on the bat exposure:

Additional information on CDC’s EOC: