Emma Hosman received her MPH from the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences in 2017. She is currently the Response Coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Health’s Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness Program. She has been on the front lines of PA’s largest city’s COVID-19 emergency response. The following are but a portion of the activities in which she has had a leading role in the last six months: In the early days of the pandemic, she was responsible for staffing the call center, answering questions from citizens about COVID-19 and city resources, as well as creatively sourcing PPE for public health partners. Hosman was called upon to create risk communication messages about COVID-19 to be used across social media platforms and websites to inform the public about the dangers of COVID-19. She also assisted all urgent care centers in Philadelphia providing evidence-based information about the disease. Additionally, she activated drive- through testing centers and is currently developing a plan for distributing a vaccine when one should be available.
Hosman's division works with vulnerable populations such as those living in long term care facilities and people living in shelters. "So we're the ones that make sure that those responses go smoothly: making sure that we have testing kits, making sure that people go to where they are supposed to be." They are also preparing for eventual vaccine distribution, looking at models and ensuring they have the correct supplies. "With a city like Philadelphia that's very dynamic, we want to make sure that the vaccine is distributed equitably and that we're targeting the correct locations so that we're vaccinating the correct people and making sure that we're targeting the correct locations so that we're vaccinating the correct people - enough people."
"Every challenge is also a learning experience."
She began her career as an EMT and a health educator as an undergraduate student and then continued to build her competencies as a health educator in the Peace Corps. The skills she learned in Kyrgyzstan, particularly those of working cross-culturally, working with youth, and communicating about mental health, dovetailed nicely into her work at University Health Services at Carnegie Mellon University during the first year of her MPH studies at Pitt. Upon graduation, Hosman accepted a job at the Philadelphia Department of Health. She has worked her way up from Preparedness Program Assistant to Community Resilience Coordinator to Response Coordinator in less than three years.
Her background as a health educator and EMT led her right to public health. "Being an EMT helped one person at a time and I realized that's not a very efficient model," says Hosman. It's important and impactful for that one person, and their families, but she kept seeing underlying factors that brought the same person back to the hospital mutliple times because they weren't able to manage their own health - say their diabetes or their blood pressure. "I kept seeing the same people going to the hospital and I realized that's where we can do so much more. Whenever we start targeting populations and help them on a larger scale."
Her favorite part is knowing that she's making an impact. While a lot of her work, and public health work in general, is long-term planning and expecting an outcome years down the line, she says "I know that I'm changing people's lives today."
"This year has really shown that public health is adaptable. A lot of things that we came into - these are very long term things that are set in stone." There were FEMA trainings, for example, that hadn't changed since 2012 when she was an EMT. "Until this year. This is challenging these norms. It's challenging what we have. It's challenging all these systems. And that's great. It's allowing us to be adaptable and change what we're doing."