As a first-year student at the School of Public Health, Ariana Cappuccino knew she wanted to help underserved communities prepare for disasters, after briefing Admiral W. Craig Vanderwagen, head of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Now in her second year as a candidate for a Masters of Public Health degree, Ariana is leading a research project through ASPR that will help ensure that those with special needs are included in the nation's future disaster-preparedness plans.
Ariana graduated Georgetown University in 2007 with a degree in Religion & Culture. She also served as an EMT during her time as an undergraduate, and even worked at a Red Cross shelter in Washington, D.C. for families that escaped from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was this experience that really opened her eyes to public health and specifically helping others during natural disasters.
"I enjoyed the clinical work of being an emergency medical technician, but I was also interested in helping others on a more community-wide basis during extreme times of need," said Ariana. "When I presented to the head of the nation’s preparedness and response agency for the Mid-Atlantic region, I saw a need to better identify and help patients with special needs during times of natural and man-made disasters."
Today Ariana is preparing her Community-based Research Project report, entitled "Special Medical Needs: Current Terminology and Implications for Disaster Preparedness." She spends hours each week at the ASPR office in Philadelphia, analyzing the history and challenges of planning for disaster preparedness for patients with special medical needs, as well as how different agencies and support organizations define this particular group. The results of her work will be a detailed analysis of the population of those with special needs across the Mid-Atlantic region, and how the federal government's disaster preparedness planning can better serve this underserved community in the future.
"The School of Public Health at Drexel University provided significant opportunities to roll-up my sleeves and get involved in true public health research that will have meaning and an impact after I graduate. It was one of the main reasons why I was attracted to Drexel University," said Ariana.
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