Grad Student Participates in Pandemic Simulation Exercise

Jennifer Rhinesmith-Carranza at a podium speaking

Jennifer Rhinesmith-Carranza speaking at a panel discussion. Photos by Rob Williams

Ph.D. student Jennifer Rhinesmith-Carranza recently got to see first-hand how government leaders plan and respond during a pandemic during a recent pandemic simulation event that was held at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in October.

The exercise was part of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs’ Fourth Annual Pandemic Policy Summit.  The simulation was designed to help bring graduate students together to respond to a simulated disease outbreak and demonstrated the multidisciplinary efforts necessary to respond to global challenges and gives students a chance to collaborate with peers from other disciplines.

During the half-day-long event, students were divided into groups where they collaborated with experienced group facilitators to formulate a response plan to a disaster situation while using expertise from their different fields to address either human or animal health issues, environmental concerns, or threats to food and other resources.

Rhinesmith-Carranza’s mentor was Dr. Elizabeth Cameron and her simulation group represented officials from the United States Government. They were tasked throughout the day  to address detection, prevention, and response plans as new information was given to members.

Panelists discussed what they learned about the exercise during the Pandemic Policy Summit.

Panelists discussed what they learned about the exercise during the Pandemic Policy Summit.

Other groups played such roles as government officials of the country of origin of the pathogen, global bilateral donor governments, pandemic response implementation organizations, and various non-governmental organizations and foundations.

Representatives from each group discussed the results and reactions on working the simulation during a panel discussion at the Fourth Annual Pandemic Policy Summit in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on Monday, October 15. Rhinesmith-Carranza was selected to represent her group at the summit.

Rhinesmith-Carranza enjoyed working with her group members and the other groups in the simulation and learned greatly from the experience.

“It was a phenomenal learning experience,” she said. “We had the opportunity to interact with professionals from across the spectrum – policy, epidemiology, veterinary science, human medicine, academia. My own mentor was part of the Obama administration and provided us with invaluable insight on the policy side of science. Learning from the experiences she shared with us regarding her current and former time in government and policy really gave me a new lens through which to view my own science and its applications.”

Rhinesmith-Carranza loved how science can play a role in policymaking.

“It honestly made me more interested in science and policy as a whole. There is this really fine line that policy enacters walk between public perception, politics, the best interests and safety of citizens, and the science itself,” she said. “While I’ve always known that’s a complex interaction, to see how it really plays out (even in simulation form) was fascinating, exciting, and at times a little concerning if I’m being frank.”

She also enjoyed being a part of the simulation and loved working with students and faculty from multiple disciplines.

“Presenting during the summit was also an honor,” she said.  “It was great to be able to represent Texas A&M, the Department, and the Scowcroft Institute in front of representatives from governments and nations around the world. As I move forward in my graduate studies, participating in the simulation really did open up this whole realm outside of academia where educated, engaged professionals are really needed in times of crisis, but also outside of those crises in order to better prepare for when they do – inevitably – hit.”

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