South Caucasus Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program

Program overview

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 recently Ukraine, in a two-year residency program in interventional epidemiology. The SC-FELTP applies epidemiologic methods to detect health problems with surveillance, respond to these problems with appropriate investigations, and recommend interventions to improve the public health of the region. The SC-FELTP is valued and considered a cornerstone of health diplomacy by the governments and ministries of health and agriculture from not only Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, but also the U.S. Mission, bilateral and multilateral partners, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) subject matter experts.

The governments of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia are eager partners who value the contributions of the CDC and SC-FELTP. From 2009 to 2017, the program was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and in 2018, it will be transitioned to the Georgian government and Tbilisi State Medical University.

Achievements

SC-FELTP residents and graduates create a critical public health workforce that implements quality programs which produce impact. SC-FELTP residents and graduates are considered valuable resources by their colleagues, and their expertise, leadership, and quality work are sought for outbreak investigations, planned studies, and health priorities. Successful programs include:

  • regional anthrax collaboration and laboratory strengthening, detection, and control, which reduced anthrax significantly among humans and animals
  • evaluation of brucellosis vaccination throughout the region in relation to a control
  • nationwide immunization coverage surveys
  • identification and further epidemiological and ecological characterization of a novel orthopoxvirus in Georgia
  • identification of major epidemiological risk factors in increasing rabies incidence among ruminants and the identification of its origin through sequencing
  • provision of baseline prevalence estimates, identification of high risk groups for targeting hepatitis B/C, and measurement of the long-term effects of interventions

Additionally, residents and graduates have investigated over 50 outbreaks, published more than six articles in peer-reviewed journals, and given over 20 presentations at different international conferences.