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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

South Florida Public Health Students Prepare for Disasters

Undergraduate students enrolled in the Community Engagement in Public Health Preparedness course, offered by the USF College of Public Health, met face-to-face with public health preparedness leaders across Tampa Bay and engaged with the community in prevention efforts to keep the public safe.

Undergrads Disaster Course 1

Public health undergraduate students show their USF Bull pride outside the Public Health Preparedness office at the Florida Department of Health-Pinellas County. Pictured (from left): Jasmine Wood, Wilfredo Bautista, Duane Steiner, Elizabeth Dunn, Ana Urueta, Nebeha Shaer, Jennifer Koselak, Melanie Cruz and Robbie Fenton. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dunn).

“Students were able to gain an understanding of preparedness by focusing on prevention, protection, and mitigation measures through participating in programs that engage with diverse members of the population and help to build resilience in our community,” said Elizabeth Dunn, adjunct instructor in the Department of Global Health responsible for teaching the course.

The two-week summer course included two to three site visits per day.

From the City of Tampa Emergency Operations Center to the Refugee Youth Resettlement program, students heard first-hand from a total of 20 sites on how community agencies react in times of adversity and crisis.

Undergrad Disaster Course 2

Students meet with the City of Tampa Office of Emergency Management’s John Antapasis. Students pictured (from left): Nabeha Shaer, Wilfredo Bautista, Matt Allman and Robbie Fenton. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dunn)

“The students have the opportunity to tour locations that are high risk—Tampa General Hospital, Port of Tampa Bay, Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Department of Transportation, City of Tampa Emergency Operations Center, etcetera—to help them understand the importance of planning and hardening our infrastructure to reduce mortality and morbidity in the case of a natural or man-made disaster,” Dunn said.

Students practiced their skills in networking, public affairs training, and leadership, in addition to understanding how to deliver messages to the community to improve upon response measures, according to Dunn.

Undergrad Disaster Course 3

Students practice their public affairs training skills in how to respond to a disaster scenario at the American Red Cross. Students pictured (from left): Craig Cuatt, Robbie Fenton, Jasmine Wood, Matt Allman and Delaney Troop. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dunn)

Site visits also included engaging with diverse and vulnerable populations, including refugees, victims of sexual violence, children, individuals with families and limited English speaking households.

Student Matthew Allman, graduating in fall 2017, said he decided to enroll in the course because of the opportunity to learn more about the public health impact organizations can have on health and safety.

One particular activity that stood out to Allman was when the students went into a primarily only Spanish-speaking community to install smoke alarms with the American Red Cross.

Allman said many of the homes he visited did not have smoke alarms or the ones they had were not working properly.

Undergrads Disaster Course 4

Students Wilfredo Bautista and Nabeha Shaer educate a family on fire safety and hurricane preparedness as part of the Home Fire Campaign with the American Red Cross and also assisted with installing smoke alarms in the neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dunn).

“It was a really good, hands-on experience,” he said. “Our group would educate the group on the smoke alarms and ways to reduce fire. Fire is a real risk for a lot of people and smoke alarms save lives.”

Allman said the class was informative and eye-opening.

“It really opened my eyes to the Tampa area. It was an incredible experience, we learned so much and even with the short amount of time that the class lasted, it was an experience,” he said.

Jennifer Koselak, a registered nurse and undergraduate graduating fall 2017, has been working with Syrian refugees and said the course sounded interesting to her because of the hands-on nature of it.

She said she particularly valued the Tampa General Hospital site visit, as she gained more insight into how disasters are managed in a hospital setting.

Undergrads Disaster Course 5

Students made a stop at Tampa General Hospital to learn about emergency preparedness in the hospital setting. Students pictured (from left): Wilfredo Bautista, Nabeha Shaer, Erinn Skiba, Jasmine Wood, Jennifer Koselak, Melanie Cruz, Matt Allman, Robbie Fenton. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dunn)

“If people are interested in the community and being made more aware of the opportunities out there to serve and even make some connections for future job possibilities, I highly recommend it,” she said.

The course will be offered again to students for the summer 2017 semester. For more information, contact Elizabeth Dunn at

To learn more about the COPH’s preparedness courses, as well as certificates in disaster management and humanitarian assistance visit the Department of Global Health.