UConn Master of Public Health

Hurricane Relief

UConn Docs Provide Medical Assistance in Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Dr. Robert Fuller says of the crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.


In the wake of devastation from Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, UConn Health physicians were among those who traveled to help with humanitarian and medical relief efforts. Dr. Robert Fuller, department chair and professor of emergency medicine at UConn Health (pictured, bottom), traveled with the International Medical Corps on a mission to assess the damage to, and identify gaps in, medical infrastructure for delivering care to the poor, and to find and coordinate resources to close that gap.

“Everyone is affected in a serious and ongoing way,” Fuller says. “It is impossible to see or do anything that is not changed by the storm.”

Dr. Natalie Moore, UConn Health’s first International Disaster Emergency Medicine Fellow and a UConn Master of Public Health candidate, went to the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma. She treated patients at a temporary triage clinic in St. John before working at a hospital in St. Croix, where she hunkered down for Hurricane Maria. It was the only hospital open in the area, as the hospital in St. Thomas was destroyed.

a fellow volunteer caring for a resident of St. John following Hurricane Irma.

UConn Health’s Dr. Natalie Moore shared this photo of a fellow volunteer caring for a resident of St. John following Hurricane Irma.

UConn Health's Dr. Robert Fuller, center, a volunteer with International Medical Corps in San Juan, discusses logistics with AmeriCares staff.

UConn Health's Dr. Robert Fuller, center, a volunteer with International Medical Corps in San Juan, discusses logistics with AmeriCares staff.

Working Together for Better Public Health

Q&A with Dr. Raul Pino, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health and a UConn Health board member

Q

What are some of the major public health issues facing Connecticut?

There are many public health issues facing both Connecticut and the nation as a whole. At the Department of Public Health, our emphasis is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 6|18 initiative, which targets six major health conditions — asthma, high blood pressure, tobacco use, hospital-acquired infections, teen pregnancy, and diabetes — with 18 evidence-based public health interventions.

Each of these conditions is common, preventable, and costly, but importantly, all have proven interventions that can be effectively employed across the health care spectrum to improve both individual and community health, saving lives and dollars. Other areas where I believe we can see good results in Connecticut by employing evidence-based interventions include addressing HIV and the rising number of syphilis cases.


Q

How can physicians assist the DPH daily to address and reduce these issues?

Doctors, particularly primary care physicians, are the main point of contact with the public for health education. We need to engage practitioners in addressing the six major health conditions with their patients — screening for the conditions; educating in advance to enhance prevention of disease; and providing effective, evidence-based treatments when needed. Physicians play a critical role on the front lines of health care to shift our focus from treatment to prevention through lifestyle changes and other healthy choices. They are an indispensable part of the continuum of care between DPH, health care practitioners, and public health.


Q

As DPH commissioner, what drives your daily public health passion and mission?

I am convinced that we — as a nation, a state, and as public health professionals — can do more than we are currently doing to impact public and population health. Addressing the health disparities that continue to plague our population, costing millions of lives and countless health care dollars, is what drives me. We are so fortunate to live in one of the richest countries, and states, in the world, yet we spend so little on public health. My mission is to spread the message that modest investments of money, time, and effort in proven education and prevention methods can lessen these disparities, which will save millions of dollars in health care costs and, more importantly, save lives.


Q

Tell us about your connection to UConn Health and what you hope to accomplish as a member of the board of directors.

I am a 2009 graduate of the UConn Master of Public Health program and receive my own health care at UConn Health. Spending time there for my education and health care has really crystallized for me that UConn Health is the epicenter of clinical care and education in Connecticut. UConn Health is where advances in science and medicine happen, which allows patients to get the best in cutting-edge care. As a member of the board of directors, I am looking to learn and understand better the role that this large institution plays in public health work. I hope my passion for public health and the elimination of health disparities will allow me to give a voice to the importance of integrating education, prevention, public health, and clinical care in order to strengthen our health care system, curb rising health care costs, and foster healthy communities and individuals.