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Department of Public Health Sponsors Applied Epidemiology Training

On Friday, January 27, The Public Health Undergraduate-Graduate Associated Students (PHUGAS) sponsored Western Kentucky University’s first ever Kentucky Public Health Assistance and Support Team (K-PHAST) training. The training, which focused on applied methods in epidemiology and emergency rapid response, was provided by the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) with support from the Barren River District Health Department. Among those receiving the training were 22 students from various disciplines within the Department of Public Health, three Public Health faculty members, and a recent alumnus of the Masters of Public Health program who currently serves as the regional epidemiologist for the Pennyrile District.

K-PHAST is a team of student and faculty volunteers trained to effectively assist state and local agencies with response to disasters, outbreaks and other public health emergencies. For example, the University of Kentucky’s K-PHAST trained students were recently deployed to investigate arsenic contamination of soil in a residential area of Montgomery County, Kentucky. Now WKU has students who are prepared to assist in similar emergencies.

K-PHAST volunteers are taught the role of the KDPH in outbreak and disaster investigations; the use of the incident command system in public health emergencies; the steps in investigating an outbreak; public health interviewing techniques; and the role of the local health department during outbreaks and disasters.

Bethany Bertram, MS- EOHS student, thought the entire training was necessary and informative for those interested in applying epidemiological principles in real life. She states “this training allowed me to broaden my experience in emergency preparedness and make myself a resource for the community.”

Srihari Seshadri, regional epidemiologist for the Barren River District, sees a lot of potential for WKU’s K-PHAST team. He explains, “Having trained K-PHAST faculty and students at WKU is going to be beneficial to Barren River District Health Department, and other health departments in the Western part of KY, as these are trained individuals who can assist us during public health emergencies or with special projects.”

The Department of Public Health and PHUGAS would like to thank all who participated as well as the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Barren River District Health Department for providing our students with this opportunity.

 ***

Contact:  Zona Ascensio, PHUGAS president,  zona.ascensio146@topper.wku.edu

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