Alumni Working On Front Lines

Alumni of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University have taken a leading role in organizing the global response to COVID-19. Below is some of the amazing work our alumni are conducting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic:

R. Nicholas Staab, a 2007 graduate of the master’s in Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious Diseases program, is the Medical Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology & Disease Control at the Arizona Department of Health Services. As a member of the senior command in the health emergency operations center, his organization triaged the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States.

“With one of the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States, we have been at the table since the beginning with federal and CSTE colleagues to plan for our statewide response,” Staab said. “While my clinical experience defines my position, it is my foundation in epidemiology and microbiology as a graduate of the Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious Diseases program at Milken Institute School of Public Health that has solidified my role in this response.”

One issue that has arisen due to the pandemic is the need to build out a payment infrastructure for tests and treatments for COVID-19. Todd Thoma, a 1986 graduate of the Master of Health Administration program is the director of contracting at The Polyclinic, a large multispecialty group practice located in Seattle, Washington, and has been working to build partnerships with payers to address this issue.

“We are attempting to rapidly expand our COVID-19 testing and treatment capabilities, as well as implementing ways to address the on-going needs of our patients for other healthcare services consistent with CDC guidelines,” Thoma said. “I have been responsible for our communications and interactions with our payer partners in assuring an adequate revenue stream to support these initiatives.”

Alison Teitelbaum, a 2009 graduate of the Master of Public Health program, is vice president of MCI USA and the executive director of the American Health Quality Association (AHQA). AHQA represents Quality Improvement Organizations, which are an established federal quality improvement infrastructure that provides education and technical assistance to Medicare providers and facilities free of charge.

“I’m currently working to coordinate information distribution, infection control support, and preparedness resources via quality improvement organizations in all 50 states, across the care continuum, with a primary focus on nursing homes,” Teitelbaum said. “We are continuing to broaden our partner reach on an almost daily basis to ensure that we are all protecting our precious resources. We hope to see resources for the QIOs expanded in the coming weeks so that they are able to assist providers and facilities in even more meaningful ways.”

Teitelbaum offered some words of action for the public health community during this time.

“Stay positive, stay social distant, stay connected as you can. And find a way to help – even if its small. There’s so much help needed right now and if you see a need, figure out a way to fill it,” she said. “Don’t wait for someone to come and ask you to. Take the initiative yourself.”

If you are an alumna or alumnus and would like to share your story regarding work related to COVID-19, please email gwsphalum@gwu.edu.