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UA infectious disease researcher receives prestigious fellowship

February 28, 2017

The importance of communicating science to the public -- particularly the risk and uncertainty of mosquito-borne emerging infectious diseases -- has never been more urgent.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has selected Kacey Ernst, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, as a 2017-2018 Public Engagement Fellow. Together with 14 other researchers in the field of infectious disease, Dr. Ernst will attend the Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science in June.

Dr. Ernst's primary research interests are in determining how human-environment interactions alter risk of vector-borne disease transmission. She specifically focuses on questions surrounding the emergence of Aedes mosquito-borne viruses such as dengue and Zika in the U.S.-Mexico border region and the development and uptake of sustainable control strategies for malaria in western Kenya.

Recently, she partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop Kidenga, a community-based surveillance mobile application that is intended to educate communities and provide early warning of pathogen emergence. She has presented to the public in a wide range of forums on her research and the impact of climate change on human health.

"I am honored to have been chosen as one of the 2017 AAAS Leshner Fellows. As infectious diseases emerge and re-emerge around the globe, it is critical that scientists, such as myself, are equipped with the tools to better communicate risk," said Dr. Ernst.

"I am particularly interested in learning how to discuss uncertainty in a way that is meaningful and informative. Communities can play a significant role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, but only if accurate information is available," she noted.

The new AAAS Public Engagement Fellows will convene in June at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training, networking and public engagement plan development. After the training, AAAS Public Engagement Fellows will return to their institutions with resources and connections to develop and implement public engagement activities, opportunities for training other scientists in their communities and increased capacity for public engagement leadership. AAAS staff will provide ongoing support and continuing professional development throughout their fellowship year.
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The full list of 2017-2018 AAAS Public Engagement Fellows: https://www.aaas.org/pes/leshner-leadership-institute

About the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Established in 2000, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona Health Sciences is the first nationally accredited college of public health in the Southwest. Today the college remains the only accredited college of public health in the state of Arizona with campuses in Tucson and Phoenix. The college enrolls more than 1,100 students per year across degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. Through research, education and community engagement, the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health continues to find solutions to public health problems in Arizona, the southwest and globally. For more information: publichealth.arizona.edu

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu.

University of Arizona Health Sciences

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