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Enhancing Resources for Better Health Among EMS Personnel

Headshot of student

September 2, 2020

Priyatham Kurapati is a second-year MPH student at the Dornsife School of Public Health within the department of Environmental and Occupational Health. When his journey in the public health world began, Kurapati was initially interested in how climate change and environmental hazards could impact health. Now after having completed year one of his MPH program with many interdisciplinary courses, his interests have expanded to include mental/behavioral health, substance use and abuse, and infectious disease.

To gain more experience in these areas, Kurapati pursued an Applied Practical Experience (APE) at a company that could accommodate this goal. He chose to intern over the summer at RPM Solutions Group, Inc., a consulting firm that provides a wide range of professional management services to public, private, and nonprofit organizations.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic he, like his classmates, would be challenged with doing his APE virtually. “We [the MPH Class of '21] are the first cohort to enter our first practical experience in the middle of a pandemic. Standard procedures and protocols were altered during this time so we're navigating uncharted waters,” said Kurapati. “Every single one of my classmates and I should feel proud about what we've been able to do in our respective experiences over this summer."

At RPM, Kurapati was joined by fellow MPH student, Mariah Menanno. Together, they conducted a comprehensive review of an existing safety guide for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel and identified areas for evidence-informed improvements.

First, they had to gain a better understanding of the many issues EMS personnel face on the job and at home. “ We needed to understand the toll that these workers’ jobs take on their mental and physical health,” said Kurapati. They examined nationwide survey data from various stakeholders and peer-reviewed research in the field that helped them identify missing information or areas to expand upon in the existing guide.

Once these initial steps were complete, the pair primarily focused on updating three sections of the guide — mental health, physical/inflicted injuries, and infection control protocols. They took into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Kurapati and Menanno are currently in the process of finalizing and submitting their work to members of RPM Solutions Group, Inc. They hope that their guide will be nationally published upon review by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

So far, Kurapati shares that the project has been “rewarding” because it has the ability to make a real difference in the lives of EMS personnel. He hopes that workers will use the guide to get the resources and support they need to overcome mental and physical health challenges, while also utilizing the recommended infection control protocols to help combat the current pandemic and other potential outbreaks. He also stated that he is particularly thankful for his teammate, Menanno, whose contributions to this project have been “unparalleled."

The internship will come to an end on September 15 just in time for the new academic year to begin. In the future, Kurapati hopes to learn more about the public health professional’s role in dismantling systemic racism.