2017-2018 Applications

Interested in joining SORT?

We’ll be tabling at the Rollins Student Resource Fair on August 21st from 12pm to 3pm. Come by and talk to us!

Also, be sure to come to a SORT Information Session on August 29th or August 30th from 12pm to 1pm in CNR 3001. We’ll go over the application process and tell you more about the opportunities as a SORT member.

Applications will be available on August 31st and due on September 8th! Check our website and Facebook page for updates. If you have any questions, please email sort-info@listserv.cc.emory.edu.

 

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Happy National Public Health Week!

SORT members and other Rollins students had a great time celebrating National Public Health Week at today’s Lunch ‘n Learn. A big thanks to Thomas Paige of the DeKalb Emergency Management Agency for speaking with us. The topic of community emergency response couldn’t have been more appropriate given today’s weather!

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SORT Member Practicum Spotlight: Laura de Mondesert

As part of their Rollins School of Public Health requirements, many SORT members engage in full-time practicum experiences both domestically and abroad.

In our ongoing series, we hope to highlight some of the amazing things our members are doing in the field of outbreak and response. First up, a recap of second-year SORT member Laura’s field experience in Brazil!

From May to July 2016, Laura worked as a research assistant in Minas Gerais, Brazil, piloting a mixed case-control study. Her study aimed to delineate the role of parasitic co-infections and micronutrient deficiencies on the onset and progression of Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. In piloting the study, she translated study documents, worked to gain study approval by the Brazilian IRB, trained collaborators on the study protocol, assisted community health professionals with contact tracing, and managed active patient recruitment in rural communities surrounding the city of Governador Valadares. During her time in Brazil, her team screened close to 120 patients for leprosy in the community of Limeira de Mantena. In a second component of this project, Laura collaborated with local health departments to obtain geospatial data on cases of leprosy, schistosomiasis, and leishmaniosis in the past five years. Using the Brazilian national notifiable disease surveillance system, SINAN, she conducted a preliminary spatial analysis of Schistosoma mansoni and Mycobacterium leprae infections in the micro-region of Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil, and surrounding areas, reported over the last five years. The goal of this study is to determine whether spatial and temporal associations of these two infections exist in this area of Brazil. As one of Laura’s deliverables to the project, she created maps of the study area using geocoding techniques learned in Brazil, and presented these maps to the Board of Directors at the collaborating medical school in Vespasiano, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The success of this presentation led to the study being awarded continued financial support!

Stay tuned for more updates from the field! 

An Unexpected E-MERS-ency

My name is Kevin Weiss, and I spent my summer as a graduate intern at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Thailand Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) Collaboration (TUC) office in Bangkok, Thailand. I was working as an intern for the HIV/STI Research Program (HSRP) in the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP). Acronyms upon acronyms!

My initial project focused on completing a spatial analysis of an HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) dataset from a CDC-backed clinic intended to serve men who have sex with other men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW). This was a fruitful analysis as well, with fresh abstracts to be submitted for an HIV conference.

My summer took an unexpected SORT-like turn when my supervisor asked if I could set aside my practicum for a week to assist in a MERS response. I agreed!

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A peek into the EOC room at the Thai Ministry of Public Health

The TUC office was located on the campus of the MOPH, which facilitates collaboration and cooperative work. As such, when an Omani tourist who had traveled to Bangkok for medical reasons tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), we noticed an uptick in activity around campus. I and a few other CDC-ers actually made it into one news channel’s broadcast of a joint World Health Organization-Ministry press conference.

I was asked to serve by the MOPH, with an initial focus on contact tracing for the individuals who had contact with the individual who was isolated at a government infectious disease hospital. Including medical personnel and airplane passengers, this number was estimated at over 175 people. Although I didn’t get involved too much on that end, some of the concepts and ideas used to trace contacts included use of social media platforms. The job of an outbreak-responder or epidemiologist includes thinking outside the box in manners such as these.

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Thai and English versions of the Health Advisory

As part of a MERS working group, I spearheaded the creation of a rapid respiratory infection control questionnaire for a rapid capacity assessment for 70+ regional and provincial hospitals in Thailand. I drafted an initial list of questions in English using resources from the World Health Organization, CDC, and other previous investigations. After a number of revisions, the assessment was translated into Thai and piloted among infection control nurses at a few Bangkok hospitals as a trial.

Unfortunately this was when my practicum ended. The results of the survey are intended to be used to evaluate response capacity for severe respiratory conditions country-wide and identify areas for improvement or targeting of resources.

On the whole my practicum was an excellent experience, and the MERS experience exposed me to outbreak and response in a professional capacity. Two weeks had passed and no more cases were reported, so while my survey was not used during this summer response, it can serve as a base for future response efforts.

This experience was unparalleled, providing a gratifying and meaningful time for an aspiring student. I am deeply grateful to all who allowed this to happen and for me to participate, and I hope to take these lessons and experiences and apply them in the future.

Turikumwe, Rwanda  [We are together, Rwanda], By Tiffany Lemon

Project San Francisco

Project San Francisco

The culture of Rwanda is rooted in togetherness.  Sharing in life.  Sharing in progress.  Sharing in health.

This summer I worked with the Rwanda-Zambia HIV Research Group (RZHRG) at Project San Francisco in Kigali, Rwanda. RZHRG is a globally renowned force in HIV/AIDS prevention, specifically through Couples Voluntary Counseling and Testing (CVCT).  Couples get tested – together. Couples get counseled – together. Couples commit to pursuing better health – together. The results are greater empowerment and greater commitment among couples, both of which have contributed to Rwanda’s decreasing HIV incidence.  Due to the success of CVCT, this method of prevention has been adopted by the Ministry of Health and continues to be a healthcare norm across Rwanda.

CVCT also allows researchers to observe HIV transmission events.  About 80% of all Rwandan couples have been jointly counseled and tested, and more than 40,000 discordant couples (only one partner has HIV) have been identified since 1988.  Although unfortunate, transmission does occur; however, these events can help us better understand contributing factors and the serological aftermath of infection.  This is where I come in.

Tiffany in the Molecular Epi Lab

Tiffany in the Molecular Epi Lab

This summer I returned to my natural habitat.  As a biochemistry major in undergrad, I spent nearly all my free time in the lab.  For three months, my love for laboratory science mingled with epidemiology on the global stage.  Let’s just say I will never be the same!

Using the tools of molecular epidemiology, I amplified and sequenced the DNA of seroconverted couples and determined linkage.  When HIV infects someone, the DNA integrates into the host genome.  Not only does the HIV-specific DNA confirm infection, but it also confirms the source of the infection.  If the virus was acquired from the positive partner, the couple is linked; however, if the virus was acquired from an outside source, the couple is unlinked.  I look forward to sharing the results of my analyses so that we will better understand factors associated with increased risk of transmission in CVCT enrolled couples.

Practicum is about Public Health... and Fun

Practicum is about Public Health… and Fun

All this is possible because of the Rwandan sense of togetherness.  In Kinyarwanda, the word for this is turikumwe.  Not only did I witness this in research but also in my daily life.  When I stepped into the research lab, I was part of an active force. Turikumwe.  Traveling to places like Lake Kivu, Nyungwe Park, and Volcanoes Park, I connected with people that saved me from jungle mudslides while simultaneously conversing about family life.  Turikumwe.  After visiting the Genocide Memorial, I debriefed with people who have experienced the worst pain imaginable but have become acquainted with the freedom of forgiveness. Turikumwe.

This summer experience has shown me that public health on the global stage works best when we work together—when we commit ourselves to understanding a culture, when we become partners not stakeholders, and when we open our eyes to learning from our partners.

International Emergency Preparedness: An Un-Belize-able Experience

Greetings from Belize!

Meet SORT member Caroline Quinn who is completing her practicum in Belize with another SORT accomplice, Emily Szwiec.

Meet SORT member Caroline Quinn who is completing her practicum in Belize with another SORT accomplice, Emily Szwiec.

My name is Caroline Quinn and I am spending my practicum here in Belmopan, the capital of Belize, working with the Ministry of Health through the CDC’s International Emergency Preparedness Team (IEPT). IEPT is part of the CDC’s Global Health Security agenda. Currently, only about 16% of the world is prepared for a disaster. By working with various countries all over the world, the IEPT is hoping to raise that percentage.

Last summer, SORT alumna Dasha Klebaner spent her practicum developing the Belize Ministry of Health’s first all-hazards plan, meaning a plan that can be adapted to any type of disaster. This summer, fellow SORT member Emily Szwiec and I are tailoring the all-hazards plan to each of the six different districts in Belize. Because different districts have different potential hazards, different staff, and different resources, they each need a plan that works for them. For instance, one district is more at risk for hurricane damage while another is more prone to outbreaks of vector-borne disease. In order to do this, we’ve had the chance to travel to four cities so far and work with health services staff in each to develop their plan. So far we’ve been to the San Ignacio in the west near Guatemala, Belize City on the Caribbean coastline, Corozal in the north of the country near Mexico, and Punta Gorda at the southern-most point of the country. Belize has a tiny population (about 350,000) but is a mix of many different cultures (Caribbean, Latin, Mayan, American, British, etc.) so it has been great to get to see all the different sides of the country.

We have also worked with the main public hospitals in each district on their Hospital Safety Improvement plans, based on guidelines from PAHO. To be able to function before, during, and after a disaster, for example, some hospitals needed to install fire alarms and fire extinguishers while others needed to move their generator so it would not be underwater in a hurricane.

Last week we also had the chance to help members of the IEPT facilitate a country-wide Incident Command System training with 36 individuals from the six different districts. Hopefully, if each district knows their role in a disaster and how to communicate with one another, everyone will be able to work together in a disaster.

Working with Belize City on their all hazards plan

Working with Belize City on their all hazards plan

It’s been amazing to get to work inside a foreign ministry of health, meet all the public health staff in the different districts, and learn more about disaster preparedness. On the weekends, we’ve also had the chance to explore Belize, from hiking Mayan ruins to snorkeling with sharks and rays to trying (key word here) to learn some Kriol to making traditional Mayan chocolate drinks.

My favorite adventure so far was seeing crocodiles up close on the boat ride to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai (which actually means “submerged crocodile”).

Emily and I at Cahal Pech Ruins

Emily and I at Cahal Pech Ruins

Caving in Actun Tunichil Muchnal to see the thousand-year-old skeletons that first confirmed the practice of Mayan human sacrifice was pretty amazing too. You could say it was un-Belize-able.

*SORT Leadership would like to thank Caroline for penning an awesome account of her summer experience! Thank you so very much!