June 10, 2022
By Amy Fulk
The North Carolina Partnership for Excellence in Applied Epidemiology is an applied public health research, educational and practice collaborative to promote best practices that improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians and the global community. Established in 2018, the partnership formalized a longstanding collaboration between the Communicable Disease Branch at the N.C. Division of Public Health (DPH) and UNC-Chapel Hill’s school of medicine and the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology.
Since 2018, the partnership has placed 21 Gillings master’s and doctoral students in practicum opportunities at the branch, with topics that include sexually transmitted infections and HIV in adolescents, urban and rural analysis of HIV outcomes, estimation of Hepatitis C (HCV) prevalence in N.C., Hepatitis C cascade of care, and COVID-19 related issues.
“The accomplishments of these students, who are paired with our DPH, epidemiology and communicable disease public health team leads, are impressive and we have appreciated the genuine interest shown by these students to make a positive difference in the world, share fresh ideas and problem solving,” says Communicable Disease Branch head Evelyn Foust, who worked with Andy Olshan, PhD, the Babrara Sorenson Hulka Distinguished Professor in epidemiology and interim associate dean for research, to create the partnership four years ago during his time as chair of the epidemiology department. “The student projects planned for this next cycle again reflect mutual interest and excitement to work on just-in-time projects that will immediately contribute to advancing our understanding of current public health issues in N.C.”
In addition to providing these enhanced training opportunities for Gillings students, the partnership allows DPH staff to receive continuing education sessions, technical assistance on projects, and updates on the latest in epidemiologic methods and approaches from UNC researchers. The partnership also organizes an annual “research to practice” symposium which promotes the exchange of knowledge and approaches to effective applied epidemiology at the state and local level, as well as translation into practice.
“Most of the partnership’s projects or activities are planned in advance, but the public health response to COVID-19 was a different story,” says Lorraine Alexander, DrPH, associate professor in epidemiology and partnership coordinator. “Through the partnership, Master of Public Health students from the epidemiology department were quickly engaged to provide surge support to the state health department to transcribe voicemails received relating to COVID-19 from providers, nurses and the general public. Students also worked with the surveillance team to support the entry of paper-based COVID-19 labs into N.C. Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NC EDSS), and an epidemiology doctoral student supported the Communicable Disease Branch with analyses, reports and data requests involving COVID-19.”
Learn more about the North Carolina Partnership for Excellence in Applied Epidemiology.
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at email@example.com.