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DrPH student honored for COVID-19 work with local Nepali-speaking Bhutanese population

Aditi Sharma, a Doctor of Public Health student at Penn State College of Medicine, received an Excellence in Community Service award from Penn State Health for her leadership efforts in providing COVID-19 support to the local Nepali-speaking Bhutanese (NSB) population.

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Aditi Sharma

Aditi Sharma, DrPH student

In response to a growing number of NSB patients being admitted to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center with COVID-19, a team of physicians and public health specialists worked together to deliver immediate support to this community. The group partnered with local health providers and NSB community leaders to implement a two-phased approach to meet the needs of the community.

Leading the first phase, Tanuja Devaraj, MD, from Penn State Health’s internal medicine service, reached out via telephone to COVID-19-positive patients, their contacts and Hershey Medical Center’s NSB patient panels for immediate, personal intervention.

Leading the second phase, Sharma facilitated two virtual gatherings with health and public health professionals, community leaders and community members to disseminate COVID-19 information and address concerns.

In her role, Sharma connected with various organizations and community leaders to advertise the events. Using a modified version of the Penn State Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) platform, the following topics were covered:

  • What is COVID-19?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • Tips on protecting yourself
  • Tips on getting your household ready for COVID-19
  • Details on screening and testing for COVID-19
  • Information on filing claims during the pandemic
  • Information on mental health resources
  • Access to essential goods at Nepali stores

In addition to the work by Sharma and Devaraj, the following collaborators aided in the success of this project: Megan Mendez Miller, MD, Penn State Health Medical Group Nyes Road Family Practice; Sanjay Yadav, MBBS, Penn State Health Medical Group, Psychiatry; Dr. Rashmi Banjade, Penn State Health, Infectious Diseases; Dr. Khem Adhikari, Geisinger; the Penn State Project ECHO team; the contact tracing team at Hershey Medical Center; and community leaders Binay Luitel, Deepak Bishwakarma and Bishwanath Chhetri.

Sharma’s COVID-19 work continued with assistance to the contact-tracing team at Hershey Medical Center. For that project, Sharma helped to develop and translate informational materials about COVID-19 for NSB populations. In addition, she has helped family health physicians conduct follow-up calls with COVID-19-positive patients.

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