Two fourth-year students at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine have aided the effort to monitor coronavirus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rinki Goswami, of Beavercreek, and Vishal Dasari, of Chennai, India, are working in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) set up to track the spread of the illness.
The flu-like sickness has symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. The EOC was set up to help authorities stay up to date on developments and manage public health concerns. Emergency Operations Centers are commonly deployed to help the CDC track the spread of troublesome diseases and have in the past been used to track polio outbreaks, Ebola in the Congo, and lung injuries associated with electronic cigarettes.
“The CDC is working with the international community to contain the coronavirus, as well as state and local officials to monitor people entering the U.S. in 20 different U.S. airports,” Goswami said. “The goal is to minimize the impact of the virus by getting those who may be infected tested quickly.”
Emergency Operations Centers help staff from the entire CDC to work on a response. They use a centralized command system that assigns roles, as well as a physical location for all responders so that they can collaborate with each other and stay in touch with a central headquarters. Centralizing resources and physical space optimizes information sharing, response planning and decision making.
Goswami and Dasari were both deployed by the CDC in response to the Novel Coronavirus (NCoV 2019) outbreak. Their efforts have helped with surveillance, testing, management and prevention.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the national coordination effort, and I’m learning a lot about managing high-volume, high-priority emergencies logistically,” Dasari said. “The CDC is managing cases and conducting surveillance nationally and has teams deployed to high-risk areas to manage prevention efforts. They are in touch with other countries’ health ministries and the World Health Organization to coordinate the international response more efficiently.”
Goswami and Dasari are completing rotations at the CDC through the Epidemiology Elective Program (EEP). The program offers up to eight-week rotations at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. It is popular with medical and veterinary students who wish to gain hands-on experience through applied epidemiology, public health and global health efforts, and also mentorship by subject matter experts at the CDC. The Boonshoft School of Medicine is the only medical school represented in the program by more than one student.
Goswami learned about the rotation opportunity while working at the Association of Public Health Laboratories prior to attending medical school. The EEP is a very selective program that helps participants to learn about epidemiology out in the field. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to integrate her public health experience with the new knowledge she has gained as a medical student at Wright State University.
Dasari’s past experiences working in public health also led him to the CDC rotation. “I’ve been interested in working in public health for a while, earning my M.P.H. at George Washington University between second and third year of medical school, and interning at the World Health Organization after my first year,” Dasari said. “The CDC elective was a great opportunity for more real-world experience.”
The two medical students are halfway through an eight-week rotation. Dasari is assigned to the One Health Office in the Office of the Director at the National Center for Emerging Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. His rotation duties include helping other countries prioritize resources toward fighting locally immediate infectious disease concerns. Goswami’s rotation is in the Division of Blood Disorders working on a project with hemophilias and other rare blood disorders.
Because of the experiences they have had, both are considering working in public health in the future, possibly at the CDC.
“Our medical training gives us great experience on how to handle the patient in front of us at the bedside, but this rotation at the CDC lets us see how our knowledge and expertise can save or affect the lives of thousands of people at once,” Goswami said. “It also gives a very realistic experience of what that looks like.”