Student outbreak response teams: lessons learned from a decade of collaboration

Kristen M Pogreba-Brown, J. Weiss, G. Briggs, A. Taylor, M. Schumacher, B. England, Robin B Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives Student response teams within colleges of public health effectively address important concerns for two stakeholders. For universities, students learn the fundamentals of field epidemiology and provide popular training and networking opportunities. For health departments, students serve as surge capacity as trained workforce available during outbreak investigations and potentially for routine tasks. Study design This paper describes the interaction between a student response team and several health departments utilizing specific examples to demonstrate the various roles and activities students can fulfill. Lessons learned from both University team leaders and the various health departments are also included. Methods The program evolved over time, beginning with a needs assessment of local health departments and a determination of student training needs, collection, and confidential transmission of data, and interviewing techniques. Over the last decade students have worked on outbreak investigations, case-control studies, program evaluations, and in-field responses. Results Since 2005, over 200 public health graduate students have contributed more than 1800 h investigating 62 separate disease outbreaks in Arizona. In addition, over the past four years students also worked an additional 2500 h to assist county health departments in routine enteric investigations, specifically for Campylobacter and Salmonella. Best practices and lessons learned found that communication, preplanning and a willingness to collaborate increased the learning opportunities for students and ability for health departments to increase their capacity both during an emergency and for routine work. Conclusions Establishment of a student response team (1) trains students in field experiences; (2) creates trained surge capacity for health departments; (3) increases collaboration between schools of public health and state/local health departments; (4) establishes a way to share funding with a local health department; and (5) increases the number of students being placed in health departments for projects, internships, and jobs following graduation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-64
Number of pages5
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Graduate student education
  • Infectious disease
  • Outbreak investigations
  • Surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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