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COVID-19 Work by Students and Alumni

Photo of Zach Nortz

Zach Nortz
Cohort 9

Read about how Zach is helping with CSUSM's Pandemic Response HERE.

Alicia Espinoza

Alicia Vicencio (Espinoza)
Cohort 7

COVID-19 Case Investigator, COSD HHSA 
August 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
Identify COVID-19 cases and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Ashley Reyes

Ashley N. Reyes, MPH
Cohort 5

Lead Investigator at the County of San Diego’s Epidemiology Department
May 2020

Describe your work or project?
I supervise a group of 20 case investigators and monitor their caseload, scheduling, and conduct QA reviews in support of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also notify appropriate administrators of any high-profile or high-risk exposures, deaths, and/or outbreaks.

Nikalina Plescia

Nikalina Plescia
Cohort 9

Population Health Team Member, Prime Medical 
March 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
Oversee patients with chronic conditions to ensure all their health needs are being met and any issues are being addressed with patients primary care physicians due to COVID restrictions. Patients can only be seen virtually unless PCP believes it’s emergent. Some patients do not have the technology to video chat with the doctor so we keep in contact with the patient on a weekly, sometime daily basis to ensure all concerns are being addressed with the doctor. Also monitoring ER visits to better understand trends in diagnoses and working with my team to help prevent the need to visit the ER.

Usman Akram, MPH
Cohort 3

Exposure Management Specialist on the COVID-19 ICS Education Sector with the Acute Communicable Disease Control Division, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health with the Substance Abuse Prevention and Control team 
Health Educator: 07/2019-03/2020, Public Health Specialist: 03/2020-09/2020, Exposure Management Specialist: 09/2020-Present 

Describe your work or project? 
I am currently teleworking and facilitating the reopening of colleges, k-12 and early childhood education. I am communicating with various teams to discuss how to safely reopen facilities while preventing COVID-19 from spreading. Currently, we are opening schools at 10% capacity and will gauge the number of cases to decide if more students should be allowed on campuses. My role is primarily on post exposure. If a case is reported we monitor to ensure they are not epidemiologically linked and it is my role to update schools on safety protocols and delegate to the investigation team. 

Salvador Roman, MPH
Cohort 2

Homeless Services Manager: City of Oceanside 
May 2020 - present

Describe your work or project? 
Worked with partners and Vendors to provide Non-Congregate Sheltering for residents of oceanside experiencing homelessness. Also, provide Homeless Prevention and Intervention Programs for those affected by COVID-19.I am incredibly proud to be working for a City invested in helping our most vulnerable residents, especially during the pandemic. Thank you to  Dr. Morton, my data sensei, she helped discover my passion for the Social Sciences. Thank you to Professor Jason Coker, who mentored me and helped me find my vocation to serve underserved and disadvantaged populations.
Oceanside Bridge Expansion Program 

Stephen Basubas
Stephen G. Basubas, MPH
Cohort 6

Contact Tracer for Riverside County Department of Public Health
July 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
Assist case investigators with investigating source COVID-19 positive patients and solicit any possible contacts. Make calls to contact patients and disclose their exposure to the virus. Conduct follow-up calls to follow case patients and contact activities. Connect source patients and contacts with County services to minimize their hardship during this troubling time. Offer empathy to reduce panic among COVID positive patients.I would like to thank Drs. Deborah Morton and AsherLev Santos for the guidance and leadership they provided during my MPH experience at CSU San Marcos.

Jamielee Gruspe

Jamielee A. Gruspe, MPH
Cohort 3

Contact Tracing Lead, UCSD COVID Team, University of California San Diego
July 2020 - present 

Describe your work or project?
As a Contact Tracer Lead, I make sure contact tracers are fully equipped and ready to conduct COVID calls. While conducting data reports, I help train, guide, assure team flow, and relay information to the CORE team if any contact tracers are having any concerns. Furthermore, I make sure contact tracers have all the needed resources to provide San Diego County information to help prevent COVID transmission and protect a healthy community.
I would like to thank the CSUSM MPH Program for helping me prepare for the public health experience outside of academia. Also, a big shout out to Dr. Christina Holub for mentoring me in developing leadership skills for community research and program development.

Esmeralda Elia 

Esmeralda Elia
Cohort 9

Research Associate II, Kaiser Permanente Department of Research and Evaluation
March 2020 - July 2020

Describe your work or project?
I worked as a Research Associate in the Clinical Trial treatment of COVID-19 with the drug Remdesivir, sponsored by Gilead. My main job was to extract and pull data from patient EMR into the Gilead Clinical Trial database. Kaiser Permanente of Southern California was one of the many worldwide sites. The clinicians had so many patients and the Department of Research and Evaluation at Kaiser Permanente assisted with programming, data search, and entry, among other things. Our department worked daily, including most weekends, during this time due to a 48-hour turnaround period. Remdesivir is now an FDA-approved treatment for patients with severe COVID-19.
I have been an employee at Kaiser Permanente for 6 years and I am proud to have been selected to work on this study. 

Courtney Jones
Courtney Jones
Cohort 9

Contact Tracing Coordinator, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (through a grant funded position by the CDC Foundation)
August 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
From a grant, I work remotely for the state of Montana as a Contact Tracer Coordinator where I train contact tracers statewide, aid the Communicable Disease Epidemiology and STD sections, and coordinate responses for an outbreak by directing local health jurisdictions, Native American tribes, and the National Guard. I'm also in charge of out-of-state COVID cases where I contact other states and Canada regarding test results.
The CDC Foundation constantly has different jobs posted 

Stephanie Ferro, MPH
Cohort 3

Case Investigator, County of San Diego Public Health Services
August 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
I contact cases that tested positive for COVID-19, collect information, give them guidance, and provide them with resources. 

Richard Jaenisch
Cohort 7

Student, CSUSM Master of Public Health Program

June 2020 - August 2020 (with Dr. Deborah Morton, Leila Lawson & Courtney Brewer)
Describe your work or project?
Covid19 Antibody test explainer. 

May 2020 - present
Describe your work or project? 
Systematic Literature Review of the US response to the coronavirus pandemic focused on screening Interventions with International comparisons. 
I'd like to thank my thesis chair Dr. Morton, and my co-chair Dr. Santos for their advice and suggestions.

Stephanie Lee 

Stephanie Melissa Lee
Cohort 9

Case Investigator, County of San Diego
August 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
Conducting COVID-19 disease investigations.

Leila Lawson
Cohort 7

Student, CSUSM Master of Public Health Program
Summer 2020

Describe your work or project?
Analyzing SARS-CoV-2 and the current emergency use authorization of antibody testing under the FDA. Research and report findings with team members under the advisement of our site supervisor to create a final document encompassing information curated to be easily digestible for community members without a science background.
Covid-19 Antibody Testing Guide

Leticia Montoya 

Leticia Montoya
Cohort 9

Case Investigator, County of San Diego
July 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
As a case investigator, I interview individuals in the County of San Diego that have COVID-19. During this interview, I build rapport and try to engage as much as possible, making it apparent we are a resource and will guide them through the process. The interview questions consist of basic demographics/health information, questions regarding where they may have been exposed (work, travel, restaurants, etc) and whom they have had contact with(friends, household members, relatives). We gather as much information as possible, as this information is essential in slowing the spread of the virus. 
San Diego County.gov 

Luciana Bchir 

Luciana Manfrim Bchir, MPH
Cohort 4

Case Investigator at County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency/ Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch
September 2020 - present

Describe your work or project?
As a case investigator working for the County of San Diego COVID-19 response team, I conduct interviews that allow for the collection of critical information about people diagnosed with COVID-19 and potentially exposed contacts. I provide support, education, referrals, and answers to questions people may have. To perform my job appropriately, I apply concepts of cultural competence, cultural responsiveness, and cultural humility learned during my MPH at CSUSM. The work I perform allows me to leverage the core of my MPH.

Public Health Program760-750-7373publichealth@csusm.eduCSU San Marcos 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road San Marcos, CA 92096-0001