Baylor Research Partners with UT College of Medicine Chattanooga in COVID-19 Study

A partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, the University of Tennessee College of Medicine-Chattanooga, and the Center for Global and Community Health has led to a COVID-19 study on Baylor’s campus that has trained a cohort of Baylor students to work as research assistants.

Titled “Impact of Non-Pharmacologic Interventions to Prevent COVID-19 Transmission on a Residential School Campus: A Descriptive Study,” the project is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions including social distancing, protective masks, handwashing, and other anti-microbial measures in preventing an outbreak of COVID-19 on Baylor’s campus.

The principal investigator of the work is Dr. Mike Davis, affiliate associate professor with the Department of Medicine at the UT College of Medicine-Chattanooga (UTCOMC). Dr. Davis also serves as the director of the Center for Global and Community Health (CGCH). Co-investigator of the study is Dr. Gregory Heath, adjunct professor of medicine at UTCOMC.

It has been fascinating living through what I know is a historic moment in our nation’s and the world’s history, and that feeling only grew when I realized I’d have the opportunity to analyze data relating to the pandemic.

“The study is designed to ask the specific question: Which one of these non-medical interventions is the most important to help decrease the spread and transmission of the virus,” said faculty member and Baylor Research instructor Dr. Elizabeth Forrester, who coordinated the independent study along with her colleague Dr. Dawn Richards. The two are currently working fulltime in the Esoteric and Molecular Lab, which is now located on the first floor of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI).

An important component of the study involves nine Baylor students who have been trained as community health workers for Baylor. The students are currently enrolled in Baylor’s advanced scientific research program (Baylor Research) and completed a CITI training to understand the regulatory and ethical issues that are important when conducting research involving human subjects. Additional training sessions introduced students to epidemiologic methods used to evaluate public health programs and policies such as COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

Baylor junior Fatima Sohani, a student in the biomedical component of Baylor Research, said working under Dr. Forrester and Dr. Richards throughout her high school career “has been absolutely incredible,” and the opportunity to work with Dr. Davis and Dr. Heath of the UT College of Medicine Chattanooga during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped grow her understanding of epidemiology, the pandemic, and research itself. “It has been fascinating living through what I know is a historic moment in our nation’s and the world’s history, and that feeling only grew when I realized I’d have the opportunity to analyze data relating to the pandemic and the new way in which we’re living today.”