UNM alumnus analyzes impact of COVID-19 through epidemiology

Sarah Shrum Davis had a winding path to discovering her love of epidemiology, but now works as a coordinator for the New Mexico Emerging Infections program. Hand in hand with the CDC, Shrum Davis and the EIP team are monitoring infectious diseases and have specifically researched more information on and regarding the coronavirus.

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Shrum Davis moved to New Mexico and worked in a wide variety of fields, from animal husbandry to mental health to education. However, once she discovered the field of epidemiology, she never looked back.

“Once I stumbled across epidemiology, it kind of clicked for me, and I absolutely fell in love with it and knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my career,” said said Shrum Davis.

At UNM, Shrum Davis obtained a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology. While attending school for this, Shrum Davis was a student employed with EIP from 2012 to 2016.

“I have known his work from the start and have always been impressed with it,” said Sarah Lathrop, Director of EIP.

After graduating from UNM, Shrum Davis spent four years working for the Office of Infectious Diseases of the New Mexico Department of Health, but returned to the UNM Health Sciences Center to work. with EIP.

“What I love about epidemiology is that I can use science to help people,” said Shrum Davis.

Shrum Davis began working with EIP in March 2020, just before the University closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the EIP has focused heavily on analyzing COVID-19, but the program is also analyzing its impact on other diseases.

“I am so proud of the work that (EIP) is doing,” said Shrum Davis. “Each of our employees has co-authored an article at least once in the past year. And we were able to continue our high-quality surveillance for infectious diseases, both COVID and non-COVID. ”

For Shrum Davis herself, the shutdown has been difficult. While she was working 80 hours a week, her husband had to switch to a virtual school and the two had to watch their three-year-old at home as daycares also closed.

“The pandemic has affected everyone,” said Shrum Davis. “I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had to change jobs, change their way of life, who hasn’t lost anyone, during this whole affair.”

However, Shrum Davis found his role at UNM to be an opportunity to help others learn more about the virus that is invading the community.

“I think it’s really unfortunate that (COVID-19) has become so politicized,” said Shrum Davis. “And I think the key to improving that is in education, and that’s one of the reasons I’m so proud to work for UNM.”

Shrum Davis said his team at EIP is exceptional, although some have never even met in person.

“They have done amazing things. The CDC has used our data, both in publications and in making policy decisions… (EIP employees have continued to) help each other over the past two incredibly difficult years, and I couldn’t be more proud of them, ”Shrum Davis mentioned. “It’s an honor to work with this team.

Lathrop noted Shrum Davis ‘ability to expertly communicate and empathize, which she believes may have come from Shrum Davis’ second Masters in Counseling.

“I like to brag about her because she is an amazing employee and a wonderful person at every level,” said Lathrop.

Although Shrum Davis was only at the EIP five days before the shutdown, Lathrop said she got down to business right after and set up a contract tracing system and taught others how to draw up contracts. EIP only had eight employees before the pandemic, and Shrum Davis then helped hire, train and supervise 12 new employees.

“I don’t think she realizes how amazing she is, but we all do it… (She’s) absolutely amazing at her job and we’re so, so happy that she works for us,” said Lathrop.

Shrum Davis also discovered the love of teaching at UNM and is an Assistant Professor at the College of Population Health. One of the courses she taught was called “Pandemics: Past and Present,” which compared the COVID-19 pandemic to other pandemics.

“I really enjoy teaching undergraduate and graduate students,” said Shrum Davis. “It’s the thing that really energizes me. I love their energy; I like their questions. Every time I look at my students I’m like, ‘Oh, I can’t wait for them to be in the field and working for them someday.’ “

Going forward, Shrum Davis is keen to continue working with the “vibrant community” of UNM and hopes to earn a PhD in the future.

“She’s destined for big things and (EIP is) happy to have her with us for as long as we can keep her,” Lathrop said.

Megan Gleason is the editor of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @ fabflutist2716

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