Perspectives

Public Health Doctors Play a Major Role in Coronavirus Battle at Grassroots


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While most of the focus, during this time of crisis, has been on our major metropolitan areas and big-city hospitals, state public health officials and local county health commissioners have been working overtime to make sure we are as safe as possible.

State Public Health doctors, like Dr. Amy Acton in Ohio and others have led the way in advising governors and assuring the public of up-to-date information and warnings, says Dr. Kenneth Johnson, executive dean of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and medical affairs officer at Ohio University.

Public Health professionals have been the leaders in social distancing and other mitigation steps that have helped to blunt the curve of new COVID-19 cases.

Normally, public health doctors seldom gain any notoriety, but this health crisis has put many into the spotlight.

We have been able to see a system working that is mostly invisible to us in normal times, Dr. Johnson says. This includes the local county health commissioner who do the bulk of the “contact tracing” of infectious diseases.

If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, the local health department must trace all people the infected person has come in contact with over a designated period of time. That potentially infected person is alerted and isolated to help dampen the spread of the disease.

Dr. Johnson announced that this week approximately 250 Heritage College third-year medical students will deploy to local health agencies where they will gain valuable clinical experience as they assist in containing the outbreak and supporting the hardworking public health teams that are directly addressing the pandemic. They also will help with contact tracing at local levels.

Dr. Johnson also is the chairperson of the Ohio Council of Medical School Deans and discusses in this edition of Spectrum how various medical schools are attempting to help the public health forces around the country battle this pandemic.