Director: Esther Chernak, MD, MPH
Dr. Esther Chernak was appointed Director of the Center of Public Health Readiness and Communication at Drexel University School of Public Health in October 2010. She is an Associate Research Professor in the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health. From 2007 through July 2009, she was the Medical Director for the Acute Communicable Disease Control Program for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health where she was responsible for communicable disease surveillance and outbreak investigations in the Health Department’s Division of Disease Control. From 1999 to 2008, she led the development of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and oversaw public health emergency preparedness planning, training, and exercises for the City. Under her leadership, the department initiated critical activities such as planning for pandemic influenza, mass prophylaxis, and outreach to community-based organizations that serve vulnerable populations. In that position, she played a central role in launching enhanced surveillance programs, a health alert network, a preparedness website for public health partners, and department-wide training in public health preparedness. She also chaired several multidisciplinary task forces to coordinate public health emergency preparedness planning and response in the Philadelphia metropolitan area that were comprised of public health, law enforcement, emergency management, healthcare, and other public safety officials.
Dr. Chernak has over 19 years of experience in public health practice. She was the Clinical Director of HIV Services for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Division of Ambulatory Health Services, a system of primary healthcare centers that provide care to the city’s uninsured and underinsured population. She has also worked as a public health physician in acute communicable disease epidemiology, a clinician in HIV, Sexually Transmitted Disease and Tuberculosis Control programs, and served as the Medical Director for the Montgomery County Health Department in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. In addition to her academic position, Dr. Chernak is also currently a Medical Specialist in Infectious Diseases in the Philadelphia Department of Public Health Division of Ambulatory Health Services, where she specializes in HIV/AIDS care. Dr. Chernak is Board-Certified physician in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. She received a Bachelors degree in Comparative Literature from Princeton University, a Doctor of Medicine from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and a Masters degree in Public Health from the Medical College of Wisconsin. She trained in Internal Medicine at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, and completed a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | CV
Program Manager: Hilary Kricun, MPH
In November 2011, Hilary Kricun, MPH assumed the role of Program Manager for the Center for Public Health Readiness and Communication. Hilary will oversee the Center's research, service and teaching activities related to public health readiness, and she will manage the National Resource Center on Advancing Emergency Preparedness for Culturally Diverse Communities. Ms. Kricun has a background in public health education, emergency management planning, and clinical and social science research.
Prior to beginning at the Drexel University School of Public Health, Hilary worked with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management as the Health and Medical Program Manager and the Hazardous Materials/WMD Planning Coordinator. She has experience writing city-wide response plans for public health and other emergencies, and has developed, executed and evaluated emergency preparedness drills and exercises. She also worked as a Study Coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and as a Curriculum and Training Specialist with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, where she developed health education curricula for diverse audiences. Hilary holds a master’s degree in public health (MPH) from Emory University with a concentration in behavioral science and health education, and a B.A. from Syracuse University in History, Anthropology and Spanish.
Research Associate: Rachel Peters, MPH
In November 2011, Rachel Peters, MPH joined the CPHRC staff as a research associate. Ms. Peters will oversee research activities for major projects within the Center, coordinating data collection and analysis, and formulating study protocols and methods. Rachel is interested in reducing health disparities and in improving access to healthcare for marginalized populations. She has conducted a number of public health research projects, including a study of micronutrients and risk factors for depression in patients with diabetes, a study of barrier contraceptive use among at-risk young adults, and a study of communication needs and preferences among family planning providers in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Ms. Peters holds an MPH in Health Management and Policy from Drexel University School of Public Health. She has a B.A. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Philosophy from Franklin and Marshall College.
Public Health Planner: Tom Hipper, MSPH, MA
In March 2012, Tom Hipper, MSPH joined the CPHRC team as a Public Health Planner. Tom will be responsible for developing initiatives with key community sectors to assure preparedness and continuity of public health, medical, and social services before, during, and following disasters. He will also be responsible for planning activities for CPHRC projects, including oversight of data collection and analyses.
Tom is particularly interested in disaster communication and developing effective messaging for the general public during all phases of emergencies. Prior to joining the Drexel University School of Public Health, Tom worked alongside the Director of Communication at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. While at ASPR, he helped developed HHS’ Emergency Text Message Database and worked on the communication objectives within the Biennial Implementation Plan for the National Health Security Strategy. Tom received his MSPH from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he led a project pertaining to the mental health of first responders for the Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (PERRC – Johns Hopkins). Tom also received an MA in Health Communication from Pennsylvania State University, and holds a BA in Communication Arts & Sciences from The College of New Jersey.
Research Assistant: Lauren Forbes, B.S
In January 2011, Lauren Forbes joined the CPHRC as a graduate research assistant. She will be involved in data collection and analysis along with other CPHRC projects such as the integration of human service agencies in emergency planning and coordination of the Diversity Preparedness website. Ms. Forbes' research interests are in health disparities, maternal and child health, cultural competency and global health. Currently, she is working on a research study examining the influence of culture and faith on the pregnancy experiences of African-American women, and she is a finalist for the 2013-14 Fulbright U.S Student Program. Ms. Forbes is an MPH candidate at Drexel University concentrating in Community Health and Prevention, and she has a B.S in Biology and Writing from Oregon State University.
Center Faculty: Curtis E. Cummings, MD, MPH
Dr. Cummings is Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. He is board certified in internal medicine and preventive medicine, and served for 20 years in the U.S. Public Health Service Corps and the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. During his Navy career he designed curricula for preparedness training, and trained over 2,000 people, primarily in the area of radiation emergencies. From 1982 to 1985, Dr. Cummings served as a senior public health physician, in the State of New Jersey Department of Health. He represents Drexel University at the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s State Advisory Committee for Preparedness.
Center Faculty: Arthur L. Frank, MD, PhD
Dr. Frank is the Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. He is a graduate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the City University of New York and has been an academic physician throughout his career. His research interests include occupational and environmental carcinogens and other toxic hazards, and agricultural safety and health concerns, including agroterrorism. His clinical activities have included setting up field projects in a variety of settings.
Center Faculty: Marcia Polansky, MS, ScD, MSW
Dr. Polansky is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She received a Master’s degree in Health Policy and Management and a Doctoral degree in Biostatistics from the Harvard School of Public Health. She has also received a Master’s in Social Work from Rutgers University. Dr. Polansky’s research interests are in medical and social services that are needed for children and families, effects of drug addictions on the relationship of the mother and child, and the psychosocial aspects of chronic disease. She brings valuable contributions in epidemiological design and statistical analyses as well as expertise in needs assessments.