Public Health Emergency Management Fellowship
Established in 2013, CDC’s Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) Fellowship is conducted twice year at CDC in Atlanta, Georgia. The fellowship builds PHEM capacity among members of the international public health community through standardized training, mentorship, and technical assistance. It targets mid-career professionals who work in public health preparedness and response in countries who have signed on to International Health Regulations.
During their four months in Atlanta, fellows receive specialized training in public health emergency management functions and operations, participate in site visits, take part in public health exercises and responses, and receive guidance from federal, state, and local emergency management specialists.
Trained experts who know what to do are critical to building a functioning EOC; more valuable than state-of-the art equipment or supplies is the knowledge emergency management experts can bring to the table. When every second counts, understanding how to coordinate an effective response can save lives.
Monitoring and responding to public health events through an Emergency Operations Center is a cornerstone of both the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). These two international agreements are key to the world’s effort to better prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats. Having an Emergency Operations Center that can respond within two hours of an emergency is one of the stated goals of the GHSA.
The goals of the Public Health Emergency Management Fellowship Program are to:
- Provide in-depth exposure to public health emergency management frameworks, functions, staff, and program elements.
- Provide in-depth exposure to the functioning of a Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC).
By the end of the fellowship, Fellows will understand public health emergency management principles and gain a working knowledge of the functioning of an emergency operations center. Furthermore, they will be able to demonstrate the following skills:
- Collect, analyze, and disseminate critical public health information
- Manage an emergency situation effectively
- Have an understanding of emergency operation centers operations, organizational structure, staffing, and schedules
- Interact with staff responsible for carrying out emergency management
- Train relevant professional staff members in their home country
Since the 2013 inaugural class, CDC has graduated 69 Emergency Management Specialists from 28 different countries. Fellows come from diverse cultural and career backgrounds. Fellows must be willing to commit to the four-month program, demonstrate English proficiency, and achieve the necessary CDC security clearance.
PHEM Fellows usually:
- Hold a Master’s degree, doctorate or equivalent in public health, epidemiology or a related field
- Have a level of responsibility within their Ministry of Health that reflects leadership of a public health emergency management function and requires coordination with other emergency management functions
- Have a position, or are expected to have a position, that will support their training or influence others upon return to the home country
In 2017, CDC hosted 30 fellows that represented 17 countries. This was the first time Fellows from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia participated in the program. Fellows come from various positions within Ministries of Health. Roles fellows have held prior to joining the Fellowship include:
- Emergency Preparedness and Response
- Medicine / Community Health
- Infectious Disease Preparedness
- Information Management and Technology
Upon completion of PHEM Fellowship, Fellows are asked to apply their learning to develop a personal toolkit: a series of papers, recommendations or projects that can be shared with colleagues in their countries on their return. Alumni of PHEM Fellowship have participated in 13 exercises and 29 real-world public health emergency responses, serving in a variety of roles, including response incident manager, outbreak investigation team lead, operations coordinator, and liaison officer.
Fellows facilitate the expansion of public health emergency management within their countries and have returned to their home countries to assume key roles in public health. Examples of roles fellows have taken on after their training include:
- Director of the Public Health Emergency Center in the China CDC
- Director of the Disaster Risk Management Unit in the Kenya Ministry of Health
- Strategic Health Operations Centre Officer-in-Charge in India’s National Centre for Disease Control
- EOC Manager in the Thailand Ministry of Public Health Department of Disease Control
In late September 2017, the northeastern region of Louga in Senegal had 70 confirmed cases of dengue. The Ministry of Health activated the incident management system (IMS) in its Public Health Emergency Operations Center on October 31, 2017. An alumnus of the PHEM Fellowship served as the Incident Manager.
In Nigeria, an alumnus of the PHEM Fellowship piloted the delivery of CDCs Public Health Emergency Operations Center Management and Operations course to leaders with integral roles in public health emergency response. Over 45 personnel from national and state level Ministry of Health and partner organizations received trained.