TEPHINET and GOARN Collaborate to Expand the Global Pool of FETP Emergency Responders

This week, GOARN (the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network) and TEPHINET co-hosted “Orientation to International Outbreak Response,” a two-day virtual GOARN Tier 1.5 workshop to train Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) residents and alumni on the realities and challenges of working with GOARN in the field on an outbreak response mission.

Thirty-three FETP residents and alumni from around the world had the opportunity to hear firsthand from faculty and former GOARN deployees and to self-reflect upon their suitability and interest in volunteering to deploy with GOARN internationally.

“Tier 1.5 is part of a wider GOARN training program designed to strengthen the capacities of field responders from all walks of public health to be better sensitized and trained to be in the field and deliver life-saving interventions in a timely manner,” says Renee Christensen, who serves as the lead for capacity building and training at GOARN.

Through personal stories, group discussions, and scenario-based training highlighting real-world situations, the workshop provided participants with the necessary information to apply for deployment as well as further knowledge to enhance their readiness and pre-deployment skills. Workshop faculty consisted of experts from GOARN, TEPHINET, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Norwegian Red Cross.

Topics covered included the priority tasks of a deployed field epidemiologist, adapting interventions to local communities, mission challenges, and the mental and physical well-being of deployees.

“The best you can contribute is one piece of the puzzle,” advised Dr. Amrish Baidjoe of the Norwegian Red Cross while describing the highly collaborative and interdependent nature of global response efforts.

“As epidemiologists, it is important that we are strong technically, but it is even more important to have strong humanitarian diplomacy skills. Adopt the attitude that you’re there to assist, and quickly dismantle any conflicts.”

The workshop is part of an ongoing partnership between GOARN and TEPHINET to expand the pool of FETP alumni qualified for emergency response. Globally, FETP alumni form a critical part of the public health workforce needed to ensure effective public health interventions in the face of an outbreak or emergency.

“This training and collaboration with GOARN demonstrates the symbiosis between the global network of FETP alumni and the community of deployees to health emergencies,” said Dr. Kip Baggett in opening remarks on day two of the workshop. Dr. Baggett is the Chief of the Workforce and Institute Development Branch of the Division of Global Health Protection within the CDC’s Center for Global Health.

TEPHINET Director Dr. Carl Reddy also welcomed participants on the second day. “FETP alumni are ambassadors of field epidemiology and now, more than at any other point in recent history, that is of the greatest importance in the wake of COVID-19,” said Dr. Reddy. “Our hope is that your commitment to lifelong learning will continue and that, having experienced the power of partnerships that brought this course to fruition, you will forge your own relationships and partnerships to take field epidemiology forward.”

This workshop is part of a series. The next workshop will be held in February 2021. TEPHINET invites FETP alumni who are interested in this and similar opportunities to register for TEPHIConnect, TEPHINET’s online FETP alumni network, at tephiconnect.org.

For more information on GOARN, please visit extranet.who.int/goarn.