As the only school of public health in Washington, DC, Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University is uniquely positioned to help the city during the coronavirus pandemic by providing its public health expertise. To do so, faculty at Milken Institute SPH have organized the GW Health Volunteer Response Task Force, mobilizing those with various health-related skills to make a difference in the local community.
Gene Migliaccio, DrPH, associate dean of applied public health; Alan Greenberg, MD, MPH, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology; and Amita Vyas, PhD, associate professor of prevention and community health; lead the multidisciplinary team of faculty and staff who make up the GW Health Volunteer Response Task Force.
The task force is a collaboration between Milken Institute SPH, GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), and GW School of Nursing. The task force works with health care systems and community-serving organizations across the D.C. metro area to identify shortcomings in care that volunteers can fill. Milken Institute SPH faculty serve as primary points of contact and provide consultation for the organizations, create learning opportunities, and coordinate logistics for the volunteers.
The volunteers are providing clinical, public health and administrative support, both on-site and remotely. They help to triage patients who seek health care; interview those who test positive for COVID-19; conduct contact tracing; manage call handling and registration at COVID-19 testing sites; and assist with data management, among other tasks.
“The GW health volunteers are making a tremendous impact to the communities they serve and the people they support,” Migliaccio said. “Our faculty leaders are also providing each student volunteer an important learning environment where they are able to apply their public health knowledge and skills to create safer communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
More than 550 members of the GW community, including students, faculty and staff, have signed up to volunteer. The task force is working with the D.C. Department of Health (DOH), the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the DOHs in Maryland’s Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, Virginia’s Loudon County DOH, United Medical Center, and GW Medical Faculty Associates to assign volunteers to complete tasks that are needed the most. Volunteers are deployed with adherence to public health guidelines, wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing to share their time and talent without contributing to the community spread of the novel coronavirus.
As an example of work underway, in Prince George’s County, volunteers are working at two COVID-19 testing sites, analyzing data, and supporting two quarantine and isolation shelters for first responders, those who are homeless, and the general public. Volunteers are stationed at the front desk 24/7 to provide support.
"Public health is truly a call to service, and we are witnessing and experiencing exactly that during this public health emergency,” Vyas said. “We have numerous GW faculty, staff, and students who are volunteering and serving our local communities as frontline public health workers. There are many challenges ahead of us and the GW community will continue to serve and do its part through this pandemic.”
Anyone who is interested in volunteering with the task force can begin by filling out a short survey.