Since 2009, the South Caucasus Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (SC-FELTP) has trained epidemiologists, clinicians, laboratory technicians, and veterinarians from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine. The SC-FELTP is valued and considered a cornerstone of health diplomacy not only by the participant countries’ governments and ministries of health and agriculture, but also the U.S. Mission, bilateral and multilateral partners, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) subject matter experts.
Over 130 public health specialists have graduated from eight cohorts of the two-year Advanced SC-FELTP and 18 field epidemiologists of one Frontline FETP-Georgia programs. The Frontline FETP-Georgia transitioned to the Georgian Public Health Institution in 2019. CDC is continuing to work with the government for the successful transition of the Advanced FELTP.
SC-FELTP residents and graduates form a critical public health workforce that implements quality programs which produce impact.
SC-FELTP graduates play a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic response; leading surveillance activities and conducting contact tracing, clinical sample collection, and laboratory testing across the countries of the region.
Advanced SC-FELTP graduates became mentors and trainers for the Frontline FETP-Georgia. This close collaboration with the district epidemiologists has significantly improved communication among all levels of the public health system in-country. This has resulted in coordinated responses to all public health events, including zoonotic and non-zoonotic diseases outbreaks, a hepatitis C elimination program, vaccination campaigns, etc.
Success of the FELTP has prompted the countries in the region and the U.S. CDC to establish the new, nine-month Intermediate FELTP program for middle-level public health managers. The first cohort of the Intermediate SC-FELTP will be selected in 2021. The plan is to share Georgia’s experience of Frontline FETP with public health authorities of neighboring countries and launch similar programs in 2021-2022.
A regional FELTP Alumni Association has been established, and members have been actively involved in routine public health activities. FELTP graduates and members of the Alumni Association have been playing an important role in COVID-19 response, with leading roles in the Emergency Operations Center and in Rapid Response Team development. Many of the graduates have received promotions after being recognized for the hard work, experience and knowledge that they received during their training at FELTP.
Within TEPHINET’s Small Grant Program, four successful project proposals by SC-FELTP alumni were selected for 2019. In 2020, a new cycle of small grants have been announced, and 31 projects proposed by SC-FELTP have been submitted for review.