University of California, Davis MPH Program

Davis, CA

Some of the first COVID-19 cases in the U.S. were detected in Northern California and were treated at the University of California, Davis MPH Program. Says Chairman and Distinguished Professor Brad Pollock, “One of my friends and colleagues is a pulmonologist and took care of the first infected patient in our ICU. This happened in February 2020, and with the rumors about contagion spreading to other parts of the globe, I realized that we might be looking at a significant epidemic. My thinking was to let my university leaders know that we were available to step in to help.” 

When multiple cases started appearing in the hospital and occupying ICU beds, Professor Pollock looked for some models to help estimate the number of expected new cases over time. “I also called six other large academic medical centers and spoke with the person or persons in charge of modeling bed capacity to determine what they were using as models to estimate increasing cases that were being admitted. In mid-March, I participated in a call with public health, infectious disease and disaster preparedness experts within the University of California (UC) to discuss the best advice for making the UC campuses as safe as possible. Later that evening, I decided to accept an invitation to chair a new UC Systemwide COVID-19 Work Group. This Work Group was charged with developing guidance for each of the 10 campuses of the UC System and operated for over two years.” 

But there were challenges, he says, such as, “Scrambling to move our entire education program from in-person to remote in a matter of a few weeks. Keeping our students and faculty moving forward in the face of a complete change in lifestyle and threat of becoming ill or dying. Recruiting in faculty and staff in the middle of a pandemic.” 

He points to lessons learned: “A key to our success in reducing the occurrence of COVID-19 in the Davis, California, community was the various public-public and public-private partnerships that were either strengthened or newly established. Providing the technical components such as universal PCR testing distribution of PPE and free vaccines was insufficient. Combining these epidemiologic infectious disease control measures with health behavior change interventions was key to our program’s success.” 

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