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Update from STAR Fellowship Program Amid COVID-19

Updated April 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that is challenging nations and communities across the globe. One of the things that public health practitioners do so well is support each other, especially the most vulnerable of us, during difficult times. As we continue to navigate this pandemic using the guidance and protocols shared by the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others, the safety and well‑being of our STAR Fellows, Interns and program staff remains our top priority.

STAR’s host organization, Public Health Institute (PHI), is taking steps to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic while continuing to serve our STAR community with as minimal disruption as possible. Effective Friday, March 20, STAR is:

  • Encouraging all Fellows, Interns and program staff to work remotely. PHI’s offices in Washington, DC, and Oakland and Sacramento, California are closed. Participants sitting in USAID Missions or with implementing partners, including staff employed by Elements, are working from home as possible, or are asked to practice social distancing to the extent possible in an office environment, in order to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.

  • Continuing to recruit for critical Fellowship and Internship positions. Pandemics require technical expertise, like those of our participants, to assist containment. During these transitional times, STAR recruitment interviews are being held virtually, with some positions being delayed to accommodate USAID personnel availability. As this situation develops, STAR will continue to re-assess our processes and contact applicants as needed. Should you have questions, please contact us at recruitment@ghstar.org. And, check out our job board for open Fellowships and Internships.

STAR’s Learning team is providing a variety of tools and resources to STAR participants, including PHI and Elements-employed Fellows and Interns. One highlight was a webinar that focused on practical and technical recommendations from STAR’s network of health experts.

Navigating COVID-19 while Supporting USAID and its Global Health Programs Panel:

The Learning team hosted a panel on April 3, 2020 for STAR participants and staff to garner insights from panelists on the impacts, based on their personal experiences, they anticipate in their work. The panelists discussed their experiences and the complexities they’re taking into consideration, how they’re maintaining focus on their target areas and how they’re flexing, and how they can support their country partners during this time. The panelists featured three senior-level STAR Fellows working in different areas: Aryc Mosher, who works on neglected tropical diseases; Nega Gebreyesus on health information systems; and Amy Bloom on tuberculosis. The panel was moderated by Johns Hopkins University professor Sara Bennett. The panel was held online, and the audience was active in participating in polls, submitting questions and comments via chat. There were 51 attendees, 29 of which were STAR participants, primarily Interns and overseas Fellows.

STAR's Learning team is also supporting participants during the time of COVID-19 through a variety of activities that help improve their knowledge of infectious diseases, pandemics, community responses, and partnership building. Activities are led by STAR Learning team members from both PHI and Johns Hopkins University, and build resources and expertise across the partnership.

  1. Just-In-Time Learning Helpdesk: In the current situation participants’ learning needs may have shifted and planned activities may be canceled. Rather than review and revise individual learning plans as a whole, the Learning team attempts to locate, primarily virtual, resources to meet participants’ immediate learning needs.

  1. COVID-19 Resources on the participant system (IMARS): This curated list features resources that may be of interest to STAR participants. It includes over 80 links to government guidance and policy pages, surveillance dashboards, webinars, trainings, research, and perspectives and conversations of medical and community health professionals.

  1. COVID-19 Mentorship Groups: The Learning team is offering one-hour facilitated discussions focused on COVID-19 and the global response to foster knowledge and resource sharing among participants. Two sessions have been held addressing epidemiological and clinical topics and two dealing with responses from governments and health systems. The sessions are facilitated by members of the Learning team and are held twice to accommodate participants’ schedules and time zones. Future discussions will include COVID and TB, COVID and health equity, and the impact of COVID on other sectors in which participants work, such as HIV, family planning and maternal, neonatal and child health. The sessions on response have been attended by 4-5 participants, and the epidemiological/clinical sessions by 7-9 participants.

We are living in extraordinary times, and we are confident in our community’s ability to adapt to these temporary changes seamlessly as we continue to deliver the level of service and support our valued STAR participants and staff deserve. We will continue to take proactive, educated actions with the needs, health and safety of our team and their families at the forefront of every decision we make. Be well.

Learn more about the Public Health Institute’s response to COVID-19.

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