School of Public Health

SEAL Team awarded Global Innovation Fund grant

UW Epi News
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Monday, December 18, 2017

The University of Washington Global Innovation Fund (GIF) has awarded the Department of Epidemiology’s SEAL Team program on Friday, December 15 with $15,000 to support the continuation and expansion of its international collaboration with the Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Program (Zim FETP). The award will be matched by funds from the Department of Epidemiology, totaling the award to $25,000.

The UW Global Innovation Fund supports start-up phase initiatives and programs that align with the University’s overall strategic goals and initiatives, such as the Population Health initiative. The fund provides up to $20,000 for qualifying programs and requires departments involved with the program to match at least 25% of the award.

“This award provides the much-needed resources for us to continue our collaboration with the Zim FETP,” said Janet Baseman, SEAL Team director and associate professor of epidemiology. “It is very validating to have a shared sense of importance within the University for this type of work.”

The Student Epidemic Action Leaders (SEAL) Team was founded in 2015 by Baseman to provide graduate students in the School of Public Health with hands-on field experiences in epidemiology through collaborations with public health agencies in Washington. Since its launch, 34 students have provided more than 1300 hours of service on field assignments across the Seattle-Tacoma area.

The Zim FETP is the oldest program in the African Field Epidemiology Network. Established in 1993 as a partnership between the University of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), the program has successfully graduated more than 200 MPH-level public health officers and has trained more than 90 percent of the current public health leadership in Zimbabwe.

The SEAL Team partnership with the Zim FETP began in March 2017 when UW School of Nursing faculty Danuta Kasprzyk and Daniel Montaño invited Baseman to visit Zimbabwe and meet the Zim FETP leadership. The visit sparked the idea for a pilot collaborative exchange between the Zim FETP program and the UW SEAL team for international field training opportunities in epidemiology.

Over the summer, Baseman sent two SEAL Team members to work with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care and Zim FETP faculty and staff for six weeks. During this time, the SEALs conducted an evaluation of the country’s malaria surveillance system in rural areas known to have challenges with malaria response.

In February 2018, the UW SEAL program in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health’s Communicable Disease branch will welcome two Zim FETP trainees to Seattle to gain applied epidemiology training experience in a more economically developed western country for six weeks. Each six week exchange aims to provide the students and trainees with in-the-field experiences that challenge them to think critically about their home country’s public health system and areas for improvement.

The money from the award will help Baseman and her team expand the partnership with the Zim FETP program and lay the groundwork for expansion of the program beyond Zimbabwe.

“What’s unique about what we’re doing is that this is an on-the-ground field epidemiology collaboration, and the work being done mirrors local on-the-ground public health priorities," Baseman said. "I would love to institutionalize this collaboration and collaborations like it.”