Macalester Today Fall 2010

Disaster Dude

If an F3 tornado touches down in southwestern Minnesota, wiping out the region’s major hospital, are there enough beds nearby to handle the patients? Or must mobile medical units be dispatched? Who is responsible for deciding? Who coordinates disaster efforts?

Ethan Forsgren ’11 (Ames, Iowa) spent part of last summer contemplating just such disaster scenarios with Minnesota’s Office of Emergency Preparedness. Considering such possibilities ahead of time helps emergency responders prepare for events such as tornados and pandemics.

Forsgren (right) and his team constructed disaster exercises that forced participants to become flexible decision- makers who worked together well as a team. “But before that happened,” says Forsgren, “we had to get creative— inventing pitfalls and roadblocks to their success while still keeping the situation realistic.”

Forsgren’s internship was made possible by a Taylor Public Health Fellowship, which provided him with a stipend for 10 weeks of part-time summer work. Taylor fellows—Mac had six last summer—
work with their advisors to submit a proposal based on their public health interest area, says biology professor and Taylor program director Elizabeth Jansen. If they’re selected for a fellowship, students are responsible for setting up their own project experience with a mentor. A parallel program, the Taylor Healthcare Shadowing Fellowship, provides stipends for shadowing health care providers in clinical settings.

Taylor fellows relish the freedom to design their own experiences. Mollie Hudson ’12 (Berkeley, California), a certified HIV counselor, split her time between the Berkeley Public Health Clinic and a hospital in Tanzania, where she worked in the HIV/ maternal health department. Because she hopes to someday attend medical school, her goal was to learn about HIV transmission and prevention in two very different parts of the world.

Before this summer, she says, “I’d only scratched the surface of understanding HIV in the context of an individual’s life. I was able to do more in Tanzania—I actually got to assist with a couple births.” Hudson hopes to return to Tanzania next summer to start a radio show promoting sexual and reproductive health.

Masha Kuznetsova ’12 (above) used her fellowship to work in the Volgograd Plague Prevention Institute—equivalent to the Centers for Disease Control—in her Russian hometown. She worked with epidemiologic data and policy, particularly related to cholera and plague, and learned Russia’s strategies for responding to infectious disease epidemics. Says Kuznetsova, “I’d studied public health approaches to epidemics in medical geography class, but seeing how it works in real-life situations and taking part in it is a completely different experience.”

Taylor fellowships are open to students in many majors: Forsgren is majoring in biology, Hudson in history, and Kuznetsova in anthropology and psychology. All three are simultaneously pursuing concentrations in Community and Global Health. The other 2010 Taylor Public Health fellows were Mollie Mayfield ’10, Mina Tehrani ’11, and Meghan Wilson ’12.