CASPER Cropped (2)

Pictured (L to R) are Lauren Branch, Kate Siegrist, Emily Eddy, Joe Klass, Megan Stabler, Vanessa McGann 

Recently, six MPH and PhD students from the West Virginia University School of Public Health (SPH) travelled to southern West Virginia to assist the Bureau for Public Health with data collection in the region most affected by the recent chemical leak.

The students received a day-long Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) training conducted by the CDC.  They then assisted the Bureau for Public Health in collecting household survey data throughout areas near the Elk River.

“We are very pleased that our students were able to provide this valuable service to the citizens of West Virginia, while also gaining valuable first-hand experience in public health crisis management and response,” said Jeffrey Coben, MD, Interim Dean.   “Since this activity occurred during the school semester, the Office of Student Services coordinated activities with students, their advisors, and course instructors.  This represents just one example of our ongoing commitment to serving the public health needs of the state.”

WVU student Lauren Branch, MPH candidate in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, participated in the training and administering of surveys. 

“It was a good experience for us, as students, to receive the overview of the methodology and to understand how they [CDC] will assess the data.”

Lauren went on to say that the residents she encountered were very cooperative and willing to share their stories and answer the survey questions. “The information we collected will help in the planning for communication efforts and supply distribution for any type of future crisis.” 

As a student whose areas of emphasis include threat preparedness and community resilience, Lauren said the experience “has only strengthened my commitment to my field. There is such a need for more people to do this kind of work.”

“The hardest part of the trip,” Lauren said “was leaving the residents who still had many questions of their own.” 

The CDC is now compiling the data which will indicate community factors to be taken into consideration for future emergency response and management.