ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The U.S. Army Public Health Center COVID-19 Task Force recently received the Army Medicine Wolf Pack award for fiscal year 2021, recognizing their efforts to mitigate the spread of disease and sustained force health protection across the Army and Department of Defense from March 13, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
The Wolf Pack Award is sponsored by the Army Medical Command Civilian Corps to recognize and celebrate the teamwork that drives excellence in outcomes supporting the Army Medicine mission. Eligible teams must consist of a mix of civilian and military team members.
During a presentation ceremony held virtually and in-person at the APG South (Edgewood) conference center on April 21, the Director of APHC Col. Alisa Wilma accepted the award from Chief of Staff, Office of the Surgeon General and U.S. Army Medical Command and Chief, Army Medical Department Civilian Corps Richard Beauchemin.
Wilma thanked the former directors of APHC, John Resta and retired Col. Jennifer McDannald who served from March 2020 to March 31 2021, who attended the ceremony. She also thanked the entire APHC workforce for their efforts during this time period.
“We recognized that we stand on the shoulders of others to do the work that we do,” she said.
Dr. Steven Cersovsky, deputy director at APHC, accepted the award from Wilma on behalf of the COVID-19 Task Force. He praised the team for their ability to remain positive during immensely challenging circumstances. He noted many members of the team were also balancing personal demands, like homeschooling, while getting the job done.
“It was such an enjoyable group to work with,” he said. “I think that was the most impressive aspect of all of this.”
Providing timely expert advice
Beauchemin said in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, APHC immediately mobilized to provide comprehensive public health guidance and consultation to clients worldwide. The APHC COVID-19 Response Task Force was pivotal in safeguarding the lives of Soldiers, families and civilians by providing consistent and timely expert advice to ensure information was available for the Army to make evidence-based decisions, he said.
According to Beauchemin, the COVID-19 Task Force is routinely consulted by OTSG/MEDCOM leadership for its expertise, and the team led the development and implementation of essential public health practices across a broad spectrum.
Beauchemin said the COVID-19 Task Force was able to provide requested information in a timely, accurate manner.
“You were so responsive and so deliberate because [being] right in your business is important,” he said.
Beauchemin praised the integrity of the team. They never caved to political pressure, he said. The team provided a consistent message, which only changed when the data changed.
“I am sure that was very difficult, so I applaud you for that,” he said. “You showed [us] what right looks like. In my mind, and the surgeon general’s mind, that is very important.”
He said the team continues to serve as the “information nucleus” driving the public health pandemic response.
Efforts of the team
The efforts of the team included:
- They collectively responded to more than 1,600 requests for information and assistance from more than 180 organizations worldwide
- Produced 20 web pages with more than 300,000 views
- Led development and delivery of 105 information products resulting in more than 60,000 downloads.
- Conceived and fielded the Army COVID-19 Model for Epidemics, or ACME, to quantify hospital resource needs based on pandemic evolution.
- Organized, maintained and visualized dozens of metrics on multiple common operating picture dashboards.
Beauchemin called APHC “a phenomenal organization.”
“Because of what you do, it has allowed our senior leaders to make informed decisions,” he said. “And that is important because often without the right permission you make a decision, but it isn’t informed, at least as informed as it should and or it could be.”
Ginn White served as the COVID-19 Task Force response coordinator during the period of the award. He praised the team for being able to accomplish the mission in a new virtual work environment.
“A tremendous component of it was all the coordination of all the science, to make that into a message that could be digested,” he said.
Steven Starbuck, the current response coordinator said that it feels “fantastic” for the team to be recognized.
“The last year and a half while working on this task force has been, for me, the most rewarding professionally for my career,” he said. “It has certainly been the hardest. It takes not only a mental toll but also an emotional toll. But being surrounded by such dedicated professionals has also been the joy of my career.”
The APHC won two of the quarterly Wolf Pack awards in FY2021. The COVID-19 Task Force received the second quarter Wolf Pack award. The APHC COVID-19 Pooled Surveillance Implementation Team was the third quarter winner. APHC holds the record as the only organization that has won two quarterly annual awards and the annual award in one fiscal year.