Dean's Message: Responding to COVID-19
Find SPH COViD-19 resources and updates at sph.umd.edu/covid19-resources
Greetings UMD School of Public Health community,
So much has changed in the past month since we hosted a public health symposium (Feb. 20) for the university community on the novel coronavirus outbreak. I want to share some updates about the work of our School of Public Health related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but most importantly, I want to let you know that wherever you are, I hope that this note finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.
I want to thank all of our students, faculty, staff and alumni for adjusting to the challenges of this rapidly evolving and uncertain time and for rising to the moment as members of a community dedicated to promoting, protecting and prolonging health. Acting from a deep recognition of our interconnectedness as a community and planet, and from our scientific understanding of how to protect public health has never been more important.
Supporting the Health of the University and Community
I have established an Incident Response Team (IRT) command structure for the School of Public Health as one way to enable us to rapidly respond to the growing demand for guidance from a wide range of stakeholders. For example, we have organized technical assistance teams to respond to and address university and community needs for several areas: risk communication and health literacy principles; guidance to families and caregivers, including support for mental health and stress managment; epidemiology and surveillance; and assessment of health and economic impact. Over the past two weeks, we have been working directly with county health departments, including the Prince George’s County Department of Health, on the preparation of fact sheets for the public.
We also are working to address university needs, and have provided senior campus leaders with guidance on risk communication and health literacy principles to follow in their communications to faculty, staff, students and beyond. Please visit the umd.edu/virusinfo website as well as the Residence Life website: http://reslife.umd.edu/housingcovid19/ for the latest information on university policies and resources.
We have also facilitated the donation of unneeded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies available from our research faculty to our local hospital systems.
Engaging Community Partners
Additionally, the school is in the process of mobilizing its extensive community partners composed of the faith community, regional non-profit organizations, the Maryland Community Research Advisory Board, the Legacy Leadership Institute for Public Policy, the SPH Community Advisory Committee, the Maryland Health in All Policies Workgroup and a network of African American and Latino barbershops and salons participating in the Health Advocates In-Reach and Research (HAIR) campaign. Through this COVID-19 community engagement process, we aim to listen and learn from these community partners to ensure public health guidelines are understood and implemented and to identify and facilitate volunteer opportunities and connect our students with alternative activities that may meet internship and practicum requirements.
Sharing SPH Expertise in the News
At a time when public health is so visible, I and many others in the School of Public Health have been busy doing interviews with the news media and sharing critical information that helps people understand the crisis we are facing, sort out misinformation from fact and stay safe. Visit our page with details of the latest news coverage: sph.umd.edu/covid19news
Connecting with Students on Social Media
On Wednesday, March 25 at noon, I will be live on Instagram with one of the University of Maryland Student Government Association leaders, Kelly Sherman, who is a public health science major. We will talk about how we are coping and answer questions people have about the pandemic and hope you will follow along. We’re hoping that this is the first in a series of live chats that will give our community another way to connect while we are physically distant. Please join us at: www.instagram.com/umdpublichealth
Boris D. Lushniak. MD, MPH
Dean and Professor
University of Maryland, School of Public Health