We reached out to our alumni community to hear their stories of working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. From New York City to California and Florida, these graduates are bringing their training to bear across the country, battling the pandemic and working to protect the health of vulnerable populations.
Alison Cohen, AB ’09 I’m an epidemiologist and so my pandemic experience has been collecting and analyzing lots of data. This has included creating a cohort study of college students around the country (first article is in the Journal of Adolescent Health and there are more in progress, including with other Brown alumni and students as co-authors!) and working with community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to do participatory research on health inequities.
Kelsey Collins, M.D., ScM ’14 I’ve been in New York City since it was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic back in the spring. I’m currently in my 3rd year of psychiatry residency at NYU, so from a psychiatric perspective,
it was incredibly challenging managing patients safely in the psychiatric emergency room and on our inpatient psychiatric units (our locked inpatient units functioned epidemiologically like “mini cruise ships” with passengers who could not reliably wear masks, socially distance, or practice hand hygiene!). I also spent a couple months providing psychiatric consultations to COVID-19 patients admitted to the inpatient medical services—during the month of April, our service saw a threefold increase in consult requests due to the various neuropsychiatric manifestations of COVID-19. We treated innumerable patients with COVID-related delirium, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, and provided significant support to patients, their families, and our medical colleagues experiencing a great deal of trauma. Now, I am providing outpatient psychiatric care and therapy primarily via telemedicine and witnessing the pandemic’s ongoing and profound impact on mental health.
Tiffany R. Glynn, ScM ’16 I am currently a clinical health psychology doctoral candidate in my 5th year at the University of Miami. I received an R36 grant from NIDA that aims to empirically characterize the biopsychosocial syndemic driving HIV acquisition and transmission risk among transgender women in Miami, a city with an uncontrolled HIV epidemic. Given the current pandemic, the study’s secondary aim is to get an estimate of the SARS-CoV-2 positivity rate among transgender women and examine how the pandemic has exacerbated the syndemic of HIV among this community (i.e., how the pandemic has furthered disparities). As part of this work, I am providing COVID-19 testing for transgender women in Miami.
Kelvin Moore, Jr., AB ’19 This is an especially interesting time given that, amid COVID-19, we are also experiencing racially charged unrest. Generally speaking, the past few months have been increasingly difficult as I’m not only witnessing our health care system being decimated by COVID-19, but also processing the weight (now more than ever) that is being Black in America. In these trying times, it has been difficult not to feel anything but immense sadness and anxiety over current social events, especially recognizing that worsening COVID-19 outcomes and police brutality are inextricably linked to anti-Black racism. That said, these times give me perspective on my role as a frontline health care provider. The epidemiology of COVID-19 and the epigenetic trauma of anti-Black racism have further strengthened my desire to provide care, first and foremost, for my community. Blackness is the fulcrum, meaning that the liberation of Black people will uplift and liberate all communities as our society, and thus our health care system, is predicated on anti-Blackness. My work will necessitate rectifying health disparities primarily affecting Black people as that will be the catalyst for establishing true health equity. As a future health care provider committed to the health and wellbeing of my patients, I am also committed to doing my part in dismantling the systems that determine one’s state of health.
Drew Hawkinson, AB ’19 I work for a national public health consulting firm and one of our main clients is the Delaware Division of Public Health. When COVID hit, the State called in a small team of us to help develop and coordinate their contact tracing, so from May through August, I worked as one of the interim managers of Delaware’s COVID-19 contact tracing program. We helped coordinate with state epidemiologists and US Public Health Service members to train and manage 40 field contact tracers and over 200 telephonic contact tracers, provide daily updates on the state of COVID in Delaware, and create a more robust infrastructure for data collection and reporting. One of the biggest shifts was a transition to using Salesforce as our main contact tracing platform (pioneered by Rhode Island!). It has been an incredibly thrilling, firsthand experience and further enhanced my passion for public health.
Kayla McAvoy, MPH ’19 I’ve had the unique pleasure of managing leadership development programs for leading health system C-suite executives and physicians. Now, more than ever, they appreciate learning leadership skillsets that help them manage teams during times of crises. It is humbling to play a small role in strengthening the morale of those working on the frontlines during the COVID pandemic.
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