Category Archives: #WeAreEmoryEPI

Emory EPI Responds: Hall County Outbreak Response Team

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

The Emory EPI Outbreak Response Team, led by Department Vice Chair Dr. Jodie Guest, has been working diligently this summer to support Hall County’s COVID-19 response through a variety of initiatives. Their efforts have centered around bringing free COVID-19 testing to communities at higher risk of transmission, including Hispanic & Latino poultry plant workers in northeast Georgia and Black communities in rural parts of the state.


Earlier this summer, Dr. Guest wrote a PROspective article in which she explained how relationship-building, actively listening to community members, and intentionally soliciting feedback have been essential strategies throughout her career to successfully engage in community partnerships. Despite having no prior connections to Hall County, when the call for assistance came in, she was able to build a successful partnership based on her work in similar communities by finding a shared goal. They are striving to, “change the course of the COVID-19 epidemic in a hard-hit community that already was struggling with generations of disparities and inequities.”


Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Guest on WABE about the ‘generational Inequities’ the pandemic has exposed across rural Georgia.


The Outbreak Response Team also includes eight EPI MPH students. They have spent this summer assisting with testing events at poultry plants in Hall County, doing community outreach to increase COVID-19 awareness, and providing support for families who are struggling during this time. Testing events involve a consenting process; conducting lab tests like nasal swabs, blood spots, and blood draws; and providing educational resources to participants. In May and June their team also worked with the Gainesville City School District to deliver meals and masks to children from lower income families. While delivering meals they also distributed educational flyers and activities for parents and children to learn more ways to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic.


Outbreak Response Team
Top Row
(left to right): Dr. Guest, Alicia Jaramillo-Underwood, Kyle Lester, Molly McAlvaney, Saarav Patel; Bottom Row: Zoe Schneider, Nellie Garlow, Danny Milan, Lisa Chung


Despite the challenges of working and communicating with participants in full PPE outside in the hot Georgia summer, this group of students has thoughtfully considered ways to engage with the community and use their public health skills to effectively teach people about prevention strategies. For example, in the last few months many of them have gained a new appreciation for the importance of eye contact and body language when trying to connect with participants while wearing masks.


This week we spoke with two members of the outbreak response team about their experiences working at the front line of the pandemic and what they have learned about community-engaged public health work. 


Alicia Jaramillo-Underwood

Alicia graduated from Georgetown University in 2010 with a psychology major and Spanish minor. After undergrad, she worked a variety of office jobs in Washington DC and Denver before coming to Rollins.


“I’ve been most involved with Spanish interpretation at our testing events, which has been an amazing way to keep in touch with my Colombian heritage. I have also been providing the team with weekly updates on COVID-19 case counts in specific counties of interest around Georgia, giving me basic insights into presenting epidemiologic data.”

“My biggest takeaway about doing community-engaged public health work is how humbling it is. There is a big difference between being in the classroom learning about bias, SAS, and risk ratios and being in the field interacting with people who rely on us for our public health knowledge and skills. It’s a responsibility I never took lightly, but this has brought it to a whole new level.”


As the summer is concluding, Alicia is looking forward to diving into her second year EPI courses and applying what she will be learning about epidemiologic modeling to COVID-19. She is excited to learn about how models are made so that she can better educate her family and friends about the changing trends and predictions surrounding the pandemic.



Saarav Patel

Saarav received his Pre-Med Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Global Public Health, with a minor in Spanish, from New York University in 2019.


“Conducting participant-based, in-person research is one of my passions because of how it allows me to directly connect with the communities we are aiming to help. Participants are able to see me as a friendly face, and I can see them as a human rather than just a row in a spreadsheet. Seeing children excited to pick out a mask in their favorite color or watching friends learn how to properly social distance is what validates our hard work at the end of the day.”

“Working long hours in full PPE on extremely hot days does get difficult, but the impact of our work keeps morale high. I am always excited for another testing day because of how well our team works together, even in the face of the pandemic. This work has solidified my intentions to continue working in community-based research.”


In his second year at Rollins, Saarav is looking forward to starting work on his Capstone and beginning the job search process. In the future, he is hoping to combine the skills he has gained through the field-work this summer with his experience working with urban LGBT populations in sexually transmitted infection prevention.




Thank you for reading this week’s edition of Emory EPI responds, stay tuned for another feature on members of the Emory EPI Outbreak Response Team later on in this series, and for more highlights of the incredible work our students have been doing this summer to put their epidemiology skills to use responding to the pandemic and supporting the most severely affected communities.


InsideAPE: Jacob Pluznik and HIV Testing in Incarcerated Populations

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

On this week’s #InsideAPE, we are talking to rising second-year Epi MPH student Jacob Pluznik. Jacob is working with Dr. Anne Spaulding to study HIV linkages to care in the Washington DC Department of Corrections. Read below to learn more!

Tell us about your APE project

For my APE I am working on a study with Dr. Anne Spaulding in the DC Department of Corrections (DOC). We are examining linkages to care for HIV for incarcerated persons and how different testing methods influence these linkages to care after release.


How did you find your APE?

I found out about my APE opportunity from a friend (Epi Rep Tony Mufarreh) who knew I was interested in finding an APE surrounding HIV and spoke with Dr. Spaulding about the opportunity at an EPI bagel breakfast. He then forwarded the information onto me so I could reach out and pursue it!


How has your experience been so far? Has it been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and if so, how are you adapting to those changes?

My experience has been good so far, and I have really enjoyed being able to work on an interprofessional team with so many awesome people who are so passionate about and good at what they do. It started off slowly but has begun to pick up greatly in the past couple of weeks! Originally, the study was put on hold due to the DOC being closed to outside workers due to the pandemic but is starting to open back up for us to go in, collect, and work with our data.


How did you survive lockdown and what’s the first thing you can’t wait to do once it’s safe again?

I survived the lockdown by trying to stay active and exercising and eating well. I also started experimenting with cooking new and exciting meals for myself to have something to look forward to at the end of my days. Once it’s safe again, I hope I can host some of my friends over for a dinner party to show off what I’ve learned.


Thanks to Jacob for his time and for telling us more about his summer APE! Tune in next week for another #InsideAPE spotlight!

Emory EPI Responds: Student Group Distributing PPE at Black Lives Matter Protests

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge throughout the United States with the number of reported cases and case fatalities rising at alarming rates,1 a concurrent public health crisis has reentered the national discourse. Thousands of people have taken to the streets across the US in recent months to protest the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black Americans and raise their voices to demand action against systemic racism.  

At the forefront of this national conversation is the rampant police brutality faced by Black Americans.2 As stated by the American Public Health Association, “racism is an ongoing public health crisis,” that demands the attention and commitment of public health professionals across all disciplines.3 Amongst public health circles, the intersection of prevalent racism and the ongoing COVID pandemic has also shed a new light on existing racial health inequities,4 which have been exacerbated by the disproportionate effect of COVID on Black communities.5


Protests and rallies began earlier during the pandemic not long after the CDC updated their guidance to recommend masks be worn by everyone in public. During this time a greater degree of uncertainty around the seriousness of COVID in the US remained amongst the general public, and thus compliance with mask recommendations varied widely,6 and continues to vary widely, throughout the US.7 Understanding the potential need for additional supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and seeing an opportunity to use their privilege as Emory students to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement, a group of Emory EPI students came together with the goal of helping make protests and rallies in Atlanta safer for those in attendance.


Rising second year EPI students Lisa Chung and Zoe Schneider spearheaded this effort to gather Rollins students in support of the BLM movement. After reaching out to friends and colleagues in the department to help make this idea a reality, they came together and created a proposal explaining the need for PPE and asking for financial support from the school, which they then submitted to RSPH Dean Dr. James Curran. Department Vice Chair Dr. Jodie Guest, Dr. Allison Chamberlain, Shannon Vassell, and Joanne Williams were also instrumental in helping their group draft a budget and prepare their proposal. The proposal was approved by the Rollins administration within 24 hours, and by the next day Dr. Guest had ordered and received 8,000 surgical masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves for them to begin distributing. After securing the supplies, they put out calls for volunteers to assist in the PPE distribution amongst EPI students and other departments at Rollins.



This week we spoke with three of the student leaders, Zoe Schneider, Brandon Shih and Izzy Kates, that have been involved in the efforts to support BLM protests and rallies through PPE distribution.


Zoe, Brandon and Izzy described how, at many of the protests they attended within the Atlanta perimeter, they found mask adherence to be relatively high. Witnessing such a high proportion of protestors wearing masks was a great success in their view as they felt the best case scenario at each new event was that their efforts would be largely unneeded. They also expressed that the need for PPE distribution has gone down over time as public awareness of the importance of wearing masks, especially in public and amongst crowds, has increased.


Prior to each protest they would reach out to the event’s organizers to collaborate on a plan and discuss possible locations where they could distribute PPE. At each demonstration each of their members would approach people to offer masks and hand sanitizer, then try to educate them about how to properly wear masks, how to fit masks to younger children, and general tips for protecting themselves against COVID while protesting. While they encountered some individuals who were not receptive to their efforts, they stated that the vast majority of people they encountered were supportive and appreciative of their work to ensure that sufficient PPE was available.


Q: What have been your biggest takeaways, as both a student and a future public health professional, from participating in the protests?


Zoe: Especially during this pandemic, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done. Escaping from my computer screen and working with a team of fellow students reminds me that every little thing we can do to make the world a better place is important. 


Brandon: As a student and future public health professional, the biggest takeaway from this effort has been seeing how important community engagement is. Before every protest, we reached out to the protest organizers to let them know our plan. We asked them if there was a preference of where they wanted us to make their event go smoothly. Most of the time, we were intermingling with the protesters but it was important for us to communicate and show that we were open to their suggestions. We are stronger when we stand united and work together.


Izzy: The best part of every protest for me [was] the marching. Trying to lend our collective voice in support of the protests. Definitely my biggest takeaway from participating in the protests was the importance of centering black voices. And hope. The number of people who showed out was truly inspiring and uplifting. I do believe that there is definitely potential right now for us to re-think some policy decisions that have been made, that disproportionately impact communities of color.


Q: How do you think we as Rollins and Emory EPI students can continue to take action to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement?


Zoe: Be prepared to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the long run. There is no single action that can fix the legacy of slavery and racism in our country. As public health professionals, it is our obligation to continue to educate ourselves and fight against inequity and racism in our research and interventions. 


Brandon: Unfortunately, we have started to see fewer BLM protests coordinated throughout Atlanta and it has been hard to find protests to show up to recently. However, that does not mean we should give up – this is a movement, not a moment. Personally, I have been trying to unlearn my own biases and start reading books that address institutional racism such as The Racial Contract and How To Be An Antiracist. I want to challenge each and every Rollins student, not just EPI students, to engage in similar activities. Regarding what Rollins can do to show support for the BLM movement: we stand behind The Association of Black Public Health Students, Students for Social Justice, and Rollins Student Government Association and their demands one hundred percent. The letter sent to the Dean and other RSPH administration staff back on June 4th details 14 actionable items that Rollins can do now.

*Editorial Update* Dean Curran responded to the letter in a school-wide email with commitments to address many of the needs surrounding these demands in early July and the Dean’s Office continues to work with the above-mentioned student organizations to implement those changes.


Izzy: Of course, we can continue attending protests, posting on social media, calling our representatives. But I think it’s even more important to focus on what is happening internally at Emory – whether we’ve succeeded in providing a welcoming space for our fellow students and faculty from communities of color and whether we are advocating for them to our administration. Showing up is so important. I know I haven’t always managed to do that to the extent of my abilities.


Click this tweet to a watch local news interview with Emory EPI student Lisa Chung about their group’s efforts to distribute PPE.


Thank you for reading this week’s edition of Emory EPI responds, and thank you to all of these amazing students who have been working to empower others to get involved in the BLM movement and make protesting safer for those advocating for racial justice in Atlanta. Please stay tuned for the next article in this series as we continue to highlight the ways in which Emory EPI students are contributing to public health work on the ground and supporting communities throughout COVID-19.




1 Published July 20, 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.

2 Edwards F, Lee H, Esposito M. Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2019;116(34):16793-16798. doi:10.1073/pnas.1821204116

3 Dr. Georges Benjamin. Racism is an ongoing public health crisis that needs our attention now. American Public Health Association. Accessed July 23, 2020.

4 Bassett MT, Graves JD. Uprooting Institutionalized Racism as Public Health Practice. Am J Public Health. 2018;108(4):457-458. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304314

5 Millett GA, Jones AT, Benkeser D, et al. Assessing differential impacts of COVID-19 on black communities. Ann Epidemiol. 2020;47:37-44. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.05.003

6 CDC Now Recommends Americans Consider Wearing Cloth Face Coverings In Public. Accessed July 23, 2020.

7 Katz J, Sanger-Katz M, Quealy K. A Detailed Map of Who Is Wearing a Mask in the U.S. The New York Times. Published July 17, 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.

Image Sources: Zoe Schneider, Brandon Shih, Izzy Kates

InsideAPE: Simone Wien & Gentrification’s Impact on Nutrition in New York City

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

Simone Wien is a rising second-year Epidemiology MPH candidate who is spending her summer studying how gentrification in New York City has impacted children’s nutrition. She found her project through the city’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene’s Epidemiology Scholar program. Read on to learn more!


Tell us about your APE project


I’m currently working on a data analysis project as an Epi Scholar with the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) in the Division of Epidemiology, Bureau of Epidemiology Services. The goal of the analysis is to assess the relationship between gentrification in New York City and malnutrition in children under 5 years of age.


How did you find your APE?


A friend had participated in another NYC DOHMH program (HRTP) and loved it, and both programs were easily found on Handshake and The Confounder. I decided to apply to the Epi Scholars program because of its data analysis and methods focus. Both programs are offered every year!


How has your experience been so far? Has it been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and if so, how are you adapting to those changes?


I’m currently in the third week of the program, and it has been phenomenal. My goal was to hone methods that we learned this past year, and that I get to learn from staff at NYC DOHMH has been a dream, even remotely. The program is typically in New York, so program staff and mentors communicate openly to facilitate as much online face-to-face time and training as possible, even as many of them are deployed for COVID-19 related duties. As participants, we keep in touch with each other via GroupMe and Zoom hangouts.


How did you survive lockdown and what’s the first thing you can’t wait to do once it’s safe again?       


Emotionally, making the shift from anticipating an “end” date to focusing on what I need to do now to ensure the well-being of myself and those around me keeps me grounded in the present. Once it’s safe to do, I would love to cook for friends and see my family.

Thanks to Simone for taking the time to talk to us, and check back for more about our students’ APE experiences!


Emory EPI Responds: Students at the Fulton County Board of Health

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

As usual, Emory EPI students have been hard at work this summer applying many of the lessons learned from their epidemiology methods courses and honing their analytical skill sets in action. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the precipitous rise in cases throughout the United States, many students have seized the opportunity to immerse themselves in frontline public health work. Our students are leveraging their knowledge and experience, and utilizing them to contribute to real-time COVID response and monitoring, in many different capacities and with numerous organizations.

The Department of Epidemiology and the Confounder team are excited to showcase the exceptional work students are doing locally to respond to COVID and support communities during this time in a new #WeAreEmoryEPI series. Throughout this series we will be highlighting groups of students contributing to these efforts in unique ways, including: students working with the Fulton County Board of Health’s COVID pandemic response on teams led by Emory faculty, Drs. Neel Gandhi, Sarita Shah, and Allison Chamberlain; the outbreak response team conducting COVID testing and education activities in Hall County led by Dr. Jodie Guest; a student group that has organized personal protective equipment distribution at Black Lives Matter rallies and protests in Atlanta; a student led COVID journal club; and more to come.



For our first feature in this series, we spoke with three of the Emory EPI students working with the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) COVID response efforts. These students are directly engaged in front line epidemiology work, employing analytic and communication strategies to understand COVID’s impact on the local community and put together reports for the public. The students’ work has been greatly appreciated by faculty and the FCBOH team, and their work has received some much deserved recognition from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who recently tweeted several graphs produced by current EPI students and Emory EPI alumni in a recent Fulton Epi report.



This week we spoke with Carol Liu, Maret Maliniak and Dallas Rohraff about their experiences working with FCBOH.


This summer Carol, Maret, and Dallas have played impactful roles supporting response teams of diverse public health actors, FCBOH epidemiologists, research staff, and Emory faculty and students. This has given them the opportunity to work in a fast paced environment, applying epidemiological methods in real-time analyses to respond to the ever-changing needs and challenges that arise in pandemic response. While many of their efforts have revolved around data collection, analytics, and surveillance activities, their work with FCBOH has underscored the importance of community engagement and the need for public health professionals to ground their work in the perspectives and experiences of the communities they seek to serve.

Q: Tell us about the team you have been working with this summer and what your role has been in the Fulton County’s response efforts.


Carol: About half of my work is dedicated to conducting case investigations. The other half is dedicated to producing analytics for Fulton County that describes trends in epidemiology of COVID-19 and key data-generating processes within the surveillance system. Recently, key information we’ve presented to the county is the changing age, race and geographical distributions among positive cases, somewhat parallel to national shifts. While information on the epidemiology of COVID-19 has received widespread scientific and media attention, information on the data-generating process itself can answer questions such as “what is the time delay between symptom-onset and the state receiving a case notification”, and is often important and valuable for the public health response.

Maret: I have had the pleasure of working with a group of highly motivated and driven students and staff from Emory and the Fulton County Board of Health led by Drs. Neel Gandhi, Sarita Shah, and Allison Chamberlain. I have had a small but important role conducting case investigations for those who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Fulton County.

Dallas: I have been fortunate to be able to work remotely on a revised version of my APE, which originally included traveling to South Africa to conduct monitoring and evaluation of a TB transmission research study. I now split my time between this project and working with the FCBOH on their COVID-19 response. I conduct case investigations for the county and have recently joined the Emory and Fulton County Board of Health Data Analysis and Visualization Team. Both of these projects are comprised of many individuals from different areas in public health. Working on this diverse team has allowed me to strengthen my skills and explore many facets of epidemiological work in a professional setting.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the work you’re doing?


Carol: One of my favorite parts of the work is calling potential case contact, or persons under investigation (PUIs). It’s rare that I get to interact directly with the individuals served by our public health systems. Calling PUIs and speaking to individuals who have been personally affected by the epidemic has placed a face and humanity to the numbers I’m often tasked to crunch.

Maret: While COVID-19 has been devastating for so many and the case interviews can be difficult at times, I really enjoy doing them and being part of this process. They give you an insight into people’s experiences that you just can’t get from looking at data alone.

Dallas: Calling patients has been very grounding for me and provided me with the unique chance to better understand the public’s perspective on COVID-19. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the FCBOH this summer. It not only has allowed me to build upon my skills in a professional setting, but also provided me with an opportunity to directly contribute to the public health efforts related to the pandemic.

Q: What have been some of the most interesting or challenging moments that you’ve experienced working on the response efforts?


Carol: Having worked extensively in global health, it’s certainly a change to be involved in a frontline so close to home. The opportunity to learn first-hand about the pieces that form the local-level response to a pandemic in the US has been invaluable for me. At the beginning, one of the challenges was understanding the needs of FCBOH to ensure our work would be synergistic with existing work and capacity at FCBOH.

Maret: I learn something interesting and have challenges every day I do calls, so it is hard to narrow it down. I have heard heartbreaking stories of how this disease can spread among multiple family members with some recovering quickly and others being hospitalized and fighting for their lives on a ventilator. I have also had people express their frustration at the response and demand that more be done. And then of course there are many who do not answer the phone or hang up when they hear why I’m calling, so we’re always facing challenges of incomplete data and how we can better reach people to get these important data.

Dallas: Working on the local response with FCBOH has taught me that one of the biggest challenges we face is the rapidity at which the response efforts must adapt. As the pandemic progresses and we learn more, we need to ask new research questions, adjust to different policies and procedures, maintain thorough data collection in light of new information, and more. We are constantly faced with new challenges that cause us to adjust our work to provide help where FCBOH needs it the most. I have learned the significance of being flexible, adaptable, and inquisitive as a public health student and future professional.



Stay tuned for our next feature in this series as we continue to showcase the exceptional work our students are doing putting their skills to use on the frontlines of today’s public health challenges. 

InsideAPE: Mumta Kadir and Diabetes-Preventing Lifestyle-Change Programs

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

Mumta Kadir (rising 2nd year EPI MPH) started working on lifestyle change for diabetes prevention during her undergraduate training. Since then, she has discovered much more about the inner workings of diabetes prevention through a REAL position last year and her current APE. Read her full story below!



Tell us about your APE project


I’m a research assistant for a CDC funded project related to the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) focused on improving the quality of lifestyle coaches and organizations implementing the lifestyle change program. 

The NDPP is a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program created to address the rising cases of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes in the US. Lifestyle coaches are peer educators, health promoters, community health workers, or diabetes care, and education specialists trained in the CDC’s PreventT2 curriculum to provide effective guidance and support for program participants. 

For this project, I am responsible for various tasks including data cleaning, management, collection, and analysis (both quantitative and qualitative). 



How did you find your APE?


My APE is a continuation of my REAL job. I was hired in the fall during the beginning stages of the research project because of my research experience with the DPP at the University of Michigan.



How has your experience been so far? Has the pandemic changed the scope of your project?


My experience has been great so far! I’ve been able to learn about the different sides of research projects like the administrative side which includes obtaining IRB approval to the data side which includes data collection and analysis. I’m also gaining qualitative data analysis experience, something that isn’t as common with traditional EPI work. 

Because of the pandemic, the program is now completely virtual. We recently began our primary data collection by sending out surveys to over 12,000 people who are leading or have led the NDPP to some capacity. The survey aims to receive qualitative and quantitative data that could help to improve the quality of the program, and questions related to the effects of COVID-19 were added to understand how the pandemic is affecting the program and program participants nationally. 



How did you survive lockdown and what’s the first thing you can’t wait to do once it’s safe again?


I’m surviving lockdown by being with my family and keeping up with my friends regularly. I also have been reading a lot more and ended up joining a book club! Once it’s safe to go out again, I can’t wait to go to local coffee shops again and meet up with friends! 



As always, thanks to Mumta for her time and tune in next week for another InsideAPE feature!


Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

When the Confounder began almost 2 years ago, the editorial team decided from the beginning that we wanted to create a space to showcase what our amazing students, faculty, and staff were accomplishing both in their careers and in their lives outside of EPI. It is no wonder, then, that #IamEmoryEPI quickly became our most-read section of the Confounder – our community is an inspiring, innovative, and hard-working bunch, which makes for some exceptionally engaging reading.


Fast forward 2 years, and we have an update that, though mostly symbolic, is meant to place a special emphasis on our greatest quality: our community.


This week, our editorial team unanimously voted to re-brand #IamEmoryEPI as #WeAreEmoryEPI. This segment will continue to highlight students, faculty, and staff in the same way as it has in the past, but from now on will represent our shared journey and accomplishments in EPI as opposed to the individuals themselves whose stories we share. This also exemplifies our dedication at the Confounder to inclusion and diversity – our community includes epidemiologists and investigators of every color, nationality, and background. That diversity is our greatest strength and we look forward to sharing more stories that represent the true diversity of our community.

Thanks to our readers!

Editorial Team, The Confounder

If you are interested in being featured on #WeAreEmoryEPI, please complete the form below to be added to our highlight list!


InsideAPE: Ajilé Owens and Sanitation Behavior in India

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

For this week’s #InsideAPE feature, we are talking to Ajilé Owens about her project this summer!


Tell us about your APE project

I am currently working with Dr. Clasen’s research group on their child feces management (CFM) study in Odisha, India. The overall goal of the project is to design and implement a behavior change randomized controlled trial to encourage safe CFM. My role on the project is primarily data analysis.


How did you find your APE?

One afternoon, I sat and made a list of all the professors that I might be interested in working with. I reached out to all of them, met with most of them, and decided to follow up with Dr. Clasen. He was super helpful in pointing me in the direction of the different project leads who then gave me so much information about the team’s available projects!


How has the pandemic changed the scope of your project?

The pandemic has completely shifted the focus of the project but in the best way! I was originally planning to travel to India to conduct a process evaluation. While I’m sad I didn’t get to go to India, I now get to work on a COVID-19 sub-study, researching how a pandemic might impact sanitation behaviors. This work is so important right now and my team is so supportive and collaborative that I could not be happier.


How did you survive lockdown and what’s the first thing you can’t wait to do once it’s safe again?

During this lockdown, I’ve really prioritized taking care of myself, unlike during this semester. I started taking running more seriously and I now spend more time focusing on my health and nutrition. I also get so much more sleep! But, once it’s safe again, I would seriously love to make a whole evening of going to the movies. My living room is pretty much a dine-in theater, but it’s definitely not the same!

Thanks to Ajilé for her time, and stay tuned to next week’s Confounder for our next #InsideAPE feature!



InsideAPE: Teresa Smith and COVID-19 in Georgia Jails

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

Today I caught up with Epi Master’s student Teresa Smith regarding her APE project this summer!

Tell us about your APE project

I am working with Dr. Spaulding and the Center for Health of Incarcerated Persons to surveil the status of COVID-19 in jails across the state of Georgia. We are working with stakeholders at the jails and the Department of Health to ensure that cases are getting properly reported. We are also providing support to jails on best practices for infection control. Incarcerated people make up a vulnerable population in this epidemic both because they are more likely to have co-morbidities that could lead to more severe manifestations of COVID-19 and because it is difficult to practice effective social distancing measures while living in the jails.


How did you find your APE?

I initially signed up to be a volunteer caller for the project but when I found out there may be APE opportunities I reached out to Dr. Spaulding and she took me on!


How has your experience been so far?

It has been great! Most of what I do is coordinate the volunteer caller efforts to the jails. It has been incredible to see the passion that all of the Rollins students as well as nursing and medical students that care deeply about the cause and volunteer an hour or two every week to help us collect good data. One of the many reasons to love the Emory community!


How did you survive lockdown and what’s the first thing you can’t wait to do once it’s safe again?

Thus far, my roommate and I keep our sanity with daily neighborhood walks, weekly banana bread baking, and lots of zoom calls/happy hours with friends! We also bought some porch furniture which was a game-changer. The first thing I’ll do once it’s safe again is probably have a reunion with my undergraduate friends (we had one scheduled in early April).


If you would like to become a volunteer caller on the project, please contact Teresa at teresa [dot] carolina [dot] smith [at] emory [dot] edu!


Stay tuned for the next week’s edition of the Confounder for another #InsideAPE feature!



Manasvi Sundar and Allie Tuttle: Winners of the COVID19 Hackathon

Category : #WeAreEmoryEPI

Today we’re talking to Manasvi Sundar and Allie Tuttle, rising-second year EPI MPH students who won the COVID19 Hackathon!


What were you doing before attending Rollins?

Manasvi:  ​I completed my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering in India before joining Rollins.

Allie: I was working as a data analyst at a biotech startup called Tempus before coming to Rollins.


Can you tell us more about your past and current research and academic interests?

M: My research interest involves improving diagnostic and testing practices, and their availability for infectious and non-communicable diseases. 

A: I’m interested in genetic and molecular epidemiology, specifically in the context of cancer and other chronic diseases. I’m also interested in issues surrounding vaccine hesitancy, and am especially intrigued about how vaccine uptake will be affected by this pandemic. On a broader scale, I’m interested in leveraging big data to inform treatment decisions and guidelines across multiple diseases.


For those who missed it, can you explain the details of the hackathon and what your project entailed?

M + A: The hackathon provided an opportunity to come up with any solution that will prove to be useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our project idea was a method for businesses to track their building occupancy and communicate it along with wait-time (if applicable) real-time with their customers via an app. This will help customers make informed and health conscious decisions and promote social distancing in public places. 


When did you hear of the hackathon and how long were you working on CAPACIT leading up to the competition?

M: I heard of the hackathon through the email from EGHI (Emory Global Health Institute) and found my team through Allie. We had a week to work on the project idea for round 1 and another week to fine-tune our pitch for the finals.

A: I first heard about the hackathon in an email from the Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) and happened to be sitting with my sister, who’s an undergrad at Georgia Tech, when I read it. She had a team from GT that was interested in participating and they needed team members from Emory. Manasvi and I had just worked together on our final project for Epi 535, so I was thrilled when she joined the team. We had a week to come up with the initial problem solution, and once we were chosen as finalists we spent another week fine-tuning our idea and pitch.

What is the plan for the app’s development moving forward, and what is your vision for its implementation?

M: ​We are now a part of the CreateX start up launch program and we hope to tackle the technological hurdles and come up with a business plan during this summer so that we can launch the app as soon as possible. 

A: We hope to make CAPACIT available sooner rather than later as parts of the country begin to reopen. We believe people want to be socially responsible in the midst of this pandemic, but may not always have the means to do so. Our vision for CAPACIT is as a tool that can be used by both businesses and consumers to make informed decisions that protect the public health.

How did your experiences during your first year at Rollins help you with the CAPACIT project?

M: My experience at Rollins and participating in the case competition organized by EGHI helped me in shaping the idea and thinking critically to identify weak points in our proposal. 

A: My experiences at Rollins have taught me how to examine an issue through multiple lenses and to be aware of perspectives that are missing in a working group. This was helpful in developing our project idea as it allowed us to identify areas we didn’t understand fully and needed to seek out additional information for.

How are you passing spare time while social distancing this summer? Are there any tips you can share?

M: ​I have 2 jobs during this summer and I’m also actively working to implement the CAPACIT app – so my time is pretty much divided among these. Other than that, I sing, read, cook and  workout. These activities have been great stress busters! My tip is to attempt to mimic the structure someone else might have. Find out what works for you! And also, don’t succumb to the pressure to “be productive during the lockdown.”

A: For better or worse, I actually haven’t had much spare time this summer- in addition to the work we’ll continue doing on CAPACIT, I’m finishing up one of my APE deliverables, just started working part-time as a contact tracer, and will be starting another job soon. Keeping busy has been really helpful for me mentally during this lockdown, but I’d echo Manasvi’s sentiments that you shouldn’t feel pressured to be productive 24/7. Working from home can be difficult because it feels like there’s always more to be done, so I’ve found that setting an end time for your work each day is extremely beneficial to maintaining a semblance of work/life balance.