Kempf is on county's COVID-19 taskforce

Professor Mirjam-Colette Kempf serving on Jefferson County COVID-19 task force

Covid-19 Task ForceBy Erica Techo

University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Professor Mirjam-Colette Kempf, PhD, MPH, is on the front lines of the community’s battle with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) serving on the Jefferson County COVID-19 Task Force, lending her epidemiological expertise and knowledge to help protect our community.

Kempf’s background in infectious diseases and epidemiology and her dual appointment in the UAB Schools of Nursing and Public Health led to her participation on the task force. The UAB Schools of Public Health, Medicine and Pediatrics, and the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) partnered to select faculty and county employees with a variety of backgrounds and experience to gather information, collaborate and recommend action.

“While most of my research and what I do looks at making life better for those living with HIV, including studying comorbidities and access to care, my work in epidemiology lends itself to our ongoing COVID-19 conversations. If you think about the roots of epidemiology, it traces back to the spread of disease and the study of the cholera outbreak in London as an example of epidemiological work,” said Kempf, whose primary appointment is in the School of Nursing. “It’s interesting to think of those roots and then to look at all the data and models we are working with to track the spread and potential spread of COVID-19.”

Since its formation, the task force has offered recommendations on the classification of non-essential businesses and shelter-in-place orders. Members also look at Jefferson County-specific information to create models and determine “trigger points” for action.

“We’re working to determine what are these trigger points that would lead us to increase or decrease measures,” Kempf said. “There has not been a consensus so far but determining and being transparent about those benchmarks is important to give the public confidence in our actions.”

She added that more information and data are vital in determining those trigger points, as more data creates more accurate models.

“The more we move on in this pandemic, the more accurate the models become,” Kempf said. “I think that is going to help us as we continue, because these models are not stagnant – they evolve over time. I think we are fortunate here in Jefferson County because we’re behind the curve, and we intervened before that window of opportunity closed. That affords us time to plan and flatten the curve.”

Kempf also is connecting with international colleagues to help develop innovative responses to COVID-19 through gauging how other countries and cities are approaching the pandemic.

“I reached out to some colleagues in Europe, given that they’re already ahead of us on the COVID-19 timeline, and had the chance to talk to the Infection Control Officer responsible for Hamburg, Germany’s response,” she said. “As a metropolitan area of about 2 million people, their death rate has been lower in comparison to other areas.”

Based on what she is learning and witnessing in other areas, Kempf also communicates with Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships Maria Shirey, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FACHE, FAAN, regarding ways the School of Nursing can continue to contribute clinical resources during these unprecedented times.

“That Dr. Kempf serves on this important and timely taskforce helps to identify potential opportunities for us to partner with the JCDH and other scientists to help our community,” Shirey said.

Other UAB members of the task force include School of Public Health Dean Paul C. Erwin, MD, DrPH, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Behavior Kevin Fontaine, PhD, Associate Professor Lisa McCormick, DrPH, Professor Suzanne Judd, PhD; School of Medicine Professor, Director of the Division of Infectious Disease and Director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research Michael Saag, MD; and School of Medicine Professor of Pediatrics and Co-Director, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases David Kimberlin.

To stay up to date on the latest information regarding COVID-19 and UAB’s response, as well as to see official recommendations to promote health and wellness, go to uab.edu/coronavirus.

Last modified on April 07, 2020

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