FAMU faculty and students recruited by FHD to help fight Virus

By Alyssa Camacho/ BNC Digital Contributor

Nearly a week ago, the Florida Department of Health reached out to multiple public health organizations offering assistance throughout the Sunshine state during the coronavirus pandemic.Eight public health professors and students from Florida A&M University were recruited by the Florida DOH to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, named ’FAMU 8 Strike COVID-19 Team’ , consist of four faculty members and four students. One person assigned to South Florida area and the remaining seven to the Tallahassee DOH.

The group is responsible for data input,analysis and health messaging. They are also assisting with fielding questions and calls from assisted living facilities regarding residents and patients.

Following a guideline, they will also be triaging calls and if deemed necessary, contacting the county epidemiologists for a follow-up with the county health department and the Agency for Health Care Administration personnel.

Team members will work 12-hour shift – 8a.m. to 8 p.m. for two consecutive days. Team members will be in direct contact with patients.

Perry Brown, Ph.D

“They are trained and prepared for this moment – this time,” said C. Perry Brown, DrPH., team leader and epidemiologist at FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Institute of Public Health.

FAMU’s administration joined in with their counterparts on a conference call that included the Florida Secretary of Health and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, MD and Deputy Health Secretary Shamarial Roberson, DrPH, who is also a FAMU Institute of Public Health graduate.

According to Cynthia M. Harris, Ph.D., associate dean for Public Health and director of the Institute of Public Health, the purpose of the phone call was to identify and hire students and faculty epidemiologist and health educators to assist the county health departments.

Cynthia M. Harris, Ph.D

“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…this is consistent with the mission of the program, college and university,” said Harris of the team’s preparedness.

They are ready and I am very proud of them.

The team consist of FAMU COPPS faculty members – Gebre-Egziabher Kiros, Ph.D., a biostatistician, Alan Becker, Ph.D., and environmental epidemiologist trained in disaster preparedness and Torhonda Lee, Ph.D., a health educator with a focus on health equity.

Kiros, Becker, Brown are tasked with the job of taking phone 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 epidemiologist to follow up. Lee is working with incoming community calls to the health department.

As for student team members, Stephanie Colter and Justin Williams are both doctoral epidemiology students, Kamaria Jacobs and Reginald Turner are both pursing master’s degrees in public health with a focus in epidemiology and environmental epidemiology.

According to Harris all students except for Williams are stationed in Tallahassee, Florida. Williams has been assigned to the Miami-Dade Health Department where he is to help their 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.

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