Dr. Ranit Mishori (M’02) is a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and a graduate of Georgetown medical school. She is also a graduate of the Georgetown University–Providence Hospital Family Medicine Residency and holds a master’s degree in international health from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. As of August 1, she serves as Georgetown’s interim chief public health officer. We asked her a few questions about her role and how it relates to the current pandemic.
What are your main responsibilities as interim public health officer at Georgetown?
My job is to help the group implementing the university’s COVID19 response by considering evidence-informed public health interventions that should be launched, the health of the community on- and off-campus, and that of our various constituents, including students, staff, faculty and visitors.
Where there isn’t solid evidence for a public health measure, we draw on the evidence and experience that exists to make the decisions we think will best protect everyone on and off our campus.
I also co-lead, with Marc Barbiere, the newly formed Public Health Operations Unit and oversee Georgetown’s contact tracing and care navigation team, which is tasked with providing support to those in quarantine and isolation.
What are you most proud of in terms of what Georgetown is doing in response to the pandemic?
A lot of people are working really hard to ensure we do the best we can to protect the health of our community in a very challenging environment of rapidly changing science and public health protocols. Every moment of every day I am amazed at the dedication of my colleagues here, their thoughtfulness in approaching this very complex situation.
How will the COVID-19 regulations Georgetown has put in place be reinforced?
We communicate and re-emphasize the importance of following public health best-practices every day and strive to understand the various and sometimes disparate needs of our many different groups – undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, clergy, re-deployed members, etc. We will work with each group as we approach testing/care in a holistic manner.
Communication is a key strategy to help people process new information and change behaviors. But it needs to be tailored to the different audiences we have. It’s no easy task.
I also look forward to consulting with the public health experts within the university at the medical and law centers. Their experience and expertise are critical to creating a comprehensive approach to the pandemic.
When did you first become aware of the pandemic?
As a practicing family physician and a global health expert, I have been aware of it since it first emerged in China. I never imagined that it could get this bad, this fast, in the United States, the home of the CDC. The chaotic response in the U.S. has been nothing short of devastating.
What is the best advice you can give to faculty, staff and students who will be on campus this fall?
First of all – follow public health practices – wear a mask, maintain physical distancing, wash your hands and take this pandemic seriously. You can be a role model for healthy behaviors. Also try to be flexible and patient. Understand that the situation is fluid and that decisions sometimes have to be altered based on new evidence or new research data.
More importantly, we need to acknowledge the great uncertainty of the times we live in and that this uncertainty can lead to stress, anxiety and emotional challenges. These are all shared experiences. It will take a village to keep as many people as possible safe. Everyone should consider how they fit into our immediate community and society at large and how we can look beyond our selves and work toward the greater good.