Alumni News

Alumna Puts DVM, MPH to Work Addressing COVID Outbreak

Dr. Katharyn Kryda

Dr. Katharyn Kryda, a 2011 DVM graduate who completed her master’s in public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was recently featured by the Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health (ASPPH) among several MPH graduates currently working as ASPPH Fellows. She is assigned to the U.S. Department of Transportation in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS), Washington, D.C.

The coronavirus crisis has challenged the ASPPH Fellows to apply their strong academic backgrounds to a variety of response activities while gaining valuable skills and experience that will carry with them throughout their public health careers.

Below is Dr. Kryda’s account of how she has contributed to the COVID-19 response over the past few weeks.

She notes, “I’m the first veterinarian ASPPH has selected as a public health fellow, and I hope to raise awareness about this incredible opportunity for other veterinarians (and students!) in public health.”

As part of my ASPPH Fellowship, in January 2020, I began supporting the U.S. DOT’s COVID-19 response efforts in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation’s Office of Intelligence, Security, and Emergency Response, National Security Policy and Preparedness Division.  As a veterinarian and public health professional, I used my background in global health security and knowledge of emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential to provide input on preparedness and planning.

In March 2020, I helped to stand-up the FEMA/HHS COVID-19 Healthcare Resilience Task Force (HRTF) – Prehospital/EMS Team.  Working with federal partners and representatives from national stakeholder organizations, I led the development of several FEMA/HHS HRTF guidance documents for the EMS and 911 communities. Providing EMS personnel with an overview of epidemiology and current COVID-19 literature and research resources enables first responders to make evidence-based decisions in the field.

In addition, I am also supporting COVID-19 response efforts through data analysis and visualization.  Collaborating with colleagues at NHTSA and CDC, I planned a virtual training webinar held in April 2020 for CDC researchers to better understand the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) and facilitate use of national EMS data for analysis at CDC.  I’ve used my epidemiology background to advise the NEMSIS Technical Assistance Center on improved data visualization and user experience of their National Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Surveillance Dashboard, and I continue to provide analysis of EMS data to support FEMA/HHS HRTF efforts.

These interagency experiences have contributed to my policy development skills and overall knowledge of pandemic preparedness and response at the federal level.  Regular engagements with stakeholder organizations and partners throughout government have helped me to understand how each agency’s authority and mission dictate available options when making policy or deciding on a course of action.  Solutions to many public health problems lie outside of traditional public health, and increased engagement between public health experts and decision-makers in other fields will be necessary to strengthen health security.