SAFER COVID-19 Response

As the numbers of reported cases continue to climb, state and county public health departments are responsible for conducting all case investigations for confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, and the University of Arizona has jumped in to help. Kristen Pogreba-Brown, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department, leads the SAFER team. The SAFER program not only supports county and state agencies in the fight against disease, it also provides vital training for students who will become the public health leaders of the future.

The SAFER team poses in orange safety vests at the drive thru vaccine point of dispensing of the UArizona mall

SAFER Team at the state vaccine point of dispensing on the UArizona mall

Students help assemble CoVHORT packets

SAFER staff and students help assemble research study thank you packets for participants


The Student Aid for Field Epidemiology Response (SAFER) team was created at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health to provide additional opportunities for students to apply what they were learning in a practical setting. SAFER was developed to provide health departments with a team of trained and experienced students who could respond to a health departments needs, e.g. during an outbreak or emergency response. SAFER currently conducts routine surveillance of enteric disease for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health but has helped on numerous outbreaks, special events surveillance, and routine surveillance activities during staff hour shortages.   

call center

SAFER Students in the Applied Public Health Research and Surveillance Laboratory

safer surv

SAFER Students Conducting Public Health Surveillance at Super Bowl XLIX

SAFER Class Activities

  • Table-top outbreak exercises (in-class outbreaks, Inter-professional Pandemic Influenza exercise)
  • Experiential learning outbreak exercise (see related paper below)
  • Fieldwork experience (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever surveillance in AZ, flu surveillance)
  • Interviewing skills development in the Applied Public Health Research and Surveillance Laboratory
  • Participant recruitment and interviews for public health research
  • Guest speakers from local health departments
  • Training from local and state health departments

guest speaker

Guest Speaker from Environmental Services

SAFER-Related Papers

Pogreba-Brown K, Harris RB, Stewart J, Anderson S, Erhart LM, England B.  Outbreak Investigation Partnerships:  Utilizing a Student Response Team in Public Health Responses.  Public Health Reports.   2010 Nov-Dec;125(6):916-22.

Barrett E, Barnes S, Pogreba-Brown K. An Experiential Learning Exercise in food-borne illness outbreak investigations: bridging education and experience. Pedagogy in Health Promotion. DOI: