State’s COVID-19 Response Gets Vital Assistance from School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMass Amherst

Daniel Gerber
Daniel Gerber

AMHERST, Mass. — Daniel Gerber, associate dean for academic affairs, is leading a School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS) effort to assist the state with its COVID-19 response efforts. Student involvement is a key aspect.

Gerber, along with Karen Helfer, communication disorders; Andrew Lover, epidemiology; Risa Silverman, office of public health practice and outreach; and Mary Ellen Liseno and Aimee Gilbert Loinaz, office of career planning; are responding to Gov. Charlie Baker's call for academic health departments to help the Massachusetts Department of Public Health during the ongoing public health crisis.

Leaders in the governor's COVID-19 Command Center have reached out to the state’s partners in higher education for assistance — from training, coordination and communication to graduate student, faculty and staff support surrounding surveillance testing and state lab needs. The Massachusetts Health Officer’s Association (MHOA) has already collected needs assessments from 70 local boards of health in order to determine ways in which to help.

"Right now, there's an urgent need to place volunteers into remote positions to manage phone banks, conduct contact tracing and make wellness calls," says Gerber. “Boards of Health are being overwhelmed with phone calls concerning the virus and our students are being trained to answer these calls. Next, they will be trained in making wellness calls for the elderly. Our students are truly amazing!”

Over 100 current SPHHS students have registered for the state volunteer database so far. Gerber urges current graduate students and alumni, especially those with training in epidemiology and biostatistics, who are willing and capable of volunteering to contact Aimee Gilbert Loinaz, SPHHS assistant director for internships and employer engagement, at

“Our students’ willingness to take part in this critical effort to assist Massachusetts residents speaks to their compassion and selfless commitment to public health,” says Gilbert Loinaz. “The SPHHS is so fortunate to have such an exemplary cohort of students.”