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College of Public Health Holds Mock Disease Outbreak Investigation

Posted June 26, 2011
Nurse Kelly Englehart, a volunteer controller, assists two Upward Bound students during a mock disease outbreak held in collaboration with the Kent State College of Public Health.
Nurse Kelly Engelhart, a volunteer controller, assists two
Upward Bound students

Kent State University’s College of Public Health held an event last week for high school students enrolled in the university’s Upward Bound program as a way to show them what public health is all about. The June 20 event was a mock disease outbreak investigation.This event was designed to be a real-world outbreak investigation and served as a learning experience for those involved. Approximately 12 Kent State undergraduate and graduate public health students “contracted” salmonella from a food facility.

“The Upward Bound students had virtually no knowledge of public health practice,” says Melissa Zullo, assistant professor of epidemiology with Kent State’s College of Public Health, one of the event organizers. “By participating in the mock outbreak investigation, they were able to gain hands-on experience and a fundamental understanding of what happens when there is a public health emergency.”

The day after the mock outbreak, the students prepared presentations describing their unit’s activities during the outbreak and then related those to the entire class. The presentations allowed each student to gain an insider’s perspective of the activities performed by the other units during the outbreak.

“The students were excited about the outbreak investigation and found it to be a valuable learning experience,” Zullo says. “Many of them said it was not what they expected and that they were surprised by the level of detail and the coordinated efforts required to stop an outbreak of a foodborne illness.

Kent State coordinated this activity and secured participation from local organizations.

“The outbreak investigation was successful because of the involvement of our community partners, including the Portage County Health Department and Emergency Management Agency, as well as Dr. Angela DeJulius, Kent State’s chief university physician, and Kelly Engelhart, from Kent State’s Center for Public Administration and Public Policy,” Zullo says. “Without the efforts of those experts, the outbreak investigation would not have been a real-world learning experience.”