Giving Students First Hand Experience

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Emory students holding up sheets of paper

By Annum Shaikh

We often hear about CDC professionals who are preparing the nation and responding to various public health emergencies. But what about the students who are contributing to these initiatives?

Close to the CDC campus in Atlanta resides a group that provides students with practical experience in public health emergency preparedness and the opportunity to serve the greater Atlanta community and beyond. The group is Emory University’s Student Outbreak and Response Team, also known as SORT.

Emory SORT students standing outside the Dekalb County Emergency Operations CenterSORT is a graduate student-led organization that collaborates with CDC and the Dekalb County Board of Health in various preparedness exercises, trainings, outbreak investigations and emergency responses. The team of 45 energetic and passionate Masters of Public Health (MPH) students, from various concentrations and diverse backgrounds, has participated in a range of activities including serving as volunteers for a Nurse Triage Line exercise at the CDC, entering data for the multi-state fungal meningitis response, providing assistance at flu clinics, and organizing activities at the Emory campus to bring awareness about emergency preparedness to students.

Back in September 2013, SORT members were asked by the CDC Emergency Operations Center to help facilitate an investigation into an outbreak associated with nutritional supplements contaminated with steroids in New York. These members contributed over 130 volunteer hours total, while gaining practical experience in conducting an investigation using public health skills.

In October 2013, SORT members participated in a tornado drill at the Emory Hospital. Members served as victims of the tornado, acting out an assigned set of symptoms and presenting to the Emergency Department. Working with a diverse group of healthcare staff in a mock emergency allowed students to learn the process and challenges of of disaster management.

Emory students standing with Spiderman at a fundraiser eventIn light of the Typhoon Yolanda that hit Philippines in November 2013, SORT members combined efforts with other student organizations on campus – Emory Refugee Alliance, Rollins Association of South Asian Health, and Emory Global Health Organization – for a fundraiser that helped support the International Medical Corps.

SORT is a unique student organization that allows members to interact and learn from public health professionals on a regular basis. This provides students with a strong knowledge base when they enter the workforce.

If you are interested in reaching out to SORT or working with their team, please email:

To find out more about SORT’s activities, visit their blog at:
Follow them on Twitter @sortemory

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Page last reviewed: March 20, 2015
Page last updated: March 20, 2015