When Penn Nursing Dean Antonia M. Villarruel and Professor Deborah Becker gave a 2018 presentation at Perry World House with Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins about the need for disaster preparedness, they had no idea just how prescient that talk—and the subsequent simulations they put on—would end up being.
“We knew we wanted to engage more people in training for these events so that if they happened, we would be better prepared,” says Becker, a practice professor of nursing and director of Penn’s Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program. “We had no idea we were on the cusp of a worldwide pandemic.”
From that initial talk came three simulation situations, created with Jenkins, Shelley Rankin and Stephen Cole from Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Hillary Nelson from the Perelman School of Medicine, and Cathy Poon of the University of the Sciences.
Two iterations focused on infectious disease outbreaks, the third on a natural disaster. There’s a fourth scheduled for this fall. Each exercise placed graduate students into interdisciplinary teams that included public health providers, basic scientists, veterinarians, pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses, physicians, and more to come up with solutions to the challenge at hand.
In Frontiers in Public Health, the researchers have published findings about the framework they created. Penn Today spoke with Becker, Nelson, and Cole about PennDemic, as well as how the experience equipped participants for the coronavirus pandemic of today and for future disasters.
Deborah Becker is a practice professor of nursing and director of the Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program and Adult Oncology Specialty Certificate program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
Hillary Nelson is an associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, director of the Master of Public Health program at the Perelman School of Medicine, and director of education for the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.