School of Public Health Students Rise to the Occasion

Makensy Jabbour sits at a desk wearing a mask and gloves. She is on the phone as a part of her COVID-19 response work with the local health department.

Albany, N.Y. (April 21, 2020) – School of Public Health students are already putting their education to good use this semester to help with the COVID-19 crisis. More than two dozen undergraduate and graduate students have adapted their spring plans to help with the current public health crisis, and many acknowledge the educational value of watching a global public health crisis of this magnitude unfold right before their eyes:

  • Monroe Marshall and Makensy Jabbour, MPH students, are working with the epidemiology team at the Albany County Department of Health. When a person’s test comes back positive, they are part of the team that notifies them and works to trace contacts who may have been exposed. “It’s so interesting to experience a health department during a pandemic,” said Marshall, who is also completing a certificate in public health preparedness and surveillance. “It’s intense.” Jabbour echoes that sentiment, saying “Outbreak investigation and response is what I want to do with my career, so this has been an amazing experience that I couldn’t have gotten in the classroom.”
  • Tristan Nowak, a PhD student in the Biomedical Science program, is tracking new case intakes, conducting wellness calls to COVID-19 positive individuals and helping with database management at the Schenectady County Department of Health. “The work is very rewarding, we are happy to be here supporting public health in their time of need,” said Nowak.
  • MPH student Dustin Moore is interning at the Community Health Care Association of New York State and sums it up simply: “It’s been incredibly exciting, and concerning, seeing public health in action.”
  • MPH student Kathryn Simpson works for the New York State Association of County Health Officials, a state membership organization serving as a liaison between local health departments and the New York State Department of Health and the Governor's office. In her role, Simpson is cross referencing resources for local health departments, helping assess their funding needs for COVID-19 response and is drafting a letter to congressional leaders about what local health departments are doing locally and why public health funding is vitally important.
  • Collin O’Connor, working towards his Master of Epidemiology, is doing contact tracing and data management for COVID-19 as well as creating and disseminating case distribution maps for the state. “An outbreak like this is why people choose epidemiology as a career,” he said.
  • Ariela Zamchek, completing a Fellowship of Applied Public Health, is working with the communicable disease division of the New York State Department of Health, helping with advisories, guidelines and a guide for officers that advises them of the latest guidance and protocols. She also has been active in the City of Troy’s response, and led a webinar for community members. “This experience has been very eye-opening. Skills I’ve learned in public health communication and translating evidence based medicine into real practice has been the most helpful,” she said.

Many more students are engaged in COVID-19 response with their communities, and as the need for public health expertise is ongoing, we have included a call for volunteers on our current student webpage.