Document Type


Version Deposited

Published Version

Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice : JPHMP




CONTEXT: Research and policy studies alike have enumerated population and community health benefits of system integration between medical, public health, and social entities. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the necessity of a well-trained and adequately staffed public health and medical workforce in order to process SARS-CoV-2 cases and prevent subsequent transmission. Higher education systems, in particular, represented defined populations of exposure and transmission. Opportunities existed for collaboration and task sharing between institutions of higher education and local public health departments to limit spread and impacts.

PROGRAM: This article describes the Pandemic Response Officer (PRO) program at Cornell University, a team of staff and students created during the intensity of the pandemic to benefit the Tompkins County and Cornell University communities.

IMPLEMENTATION: The PRO program was formed in January 2021, with an original team of 8 individuals, working iteratively to investigate and support employee cases and exposures. Implementation was motivated by Cornell University's dual responsibility as a large employer that also possessed SARS-CoV-2 test results of employees. PROs loaded case information into a shared HIPPA-compliant electronic record that collected information for case notification, case investigation, isolation support, contact tracing, contact notification, and quarantine support. Over time, the PROs grew to a team of 25, gaining responsibilities as university and public health systems shared roles to maximize resources.

EVALUATION: From January 1 to December 31, 2021, PROs managed 773 employee and 2943 student cases. During the Omicron surge (November 28-December 31, 2021), PROs saved the public health department an estimated 2797 hours of effort, equating to more than 10 professionals working full-time, evenings and weekends, to process cases and contacts during this interval.

DISCUSSION: By integrating efforts between a university and public health agency, this intervention minimized SARS-CoV-2 transmission via expedient case support and alleviated strain on public health systems by expanding the public health workforce.

Published Citation

Jones AC, Meredith GR, Leong D, et al. Pandemic response officers: an opportunity for integration between medical, public health, and higher education systems.” Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 2023 Jul-Aug;29(4):556-562. Epub 2023 Jan 24. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000001704. PMID: 36727770.