Woman IAS officer to research on coronavirus pandemic at Harvard – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: The global public health emergency due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus pandemic, has alarmed authorities and policy makers worldwide to handle such situations with robust and guided interventions in future.

“This can only be achieved by having a vast academic and practical training of the public health and healthcare, for this I chose to study Public Health through the Harvard Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) which is a program to prepare for high-level leadership to make a difference in public health,” Dr. Mrinalini Darswal told IANS who is a doctor turned IAS officer from India.

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She has worked as special secretary, Health, Commissioner Food Safety, Drug Controller, and project director for HIV/AIDS control for the Delhi Government.

Dr Darswal is the only Indian among fellow foreign students who will study this first-of-its-kind, multidisciplinary degree that provides advanced education in public health along with mastery of skills in management, leadership, communications, and innovative thinking.

“It’s a doctoral degree course in which I shall learn how to address complex problems of public health policy and use advanced analytical and managerial tools to lead organizational and societal change,” Dr Darswal told IANS, adding, “I anticipate that this year most students would be studying pandemics due to the recent outbreak of novel coronavirus.”

Talking about the coronavirus, Dr Darswal said that medical professionals are fine tuning their responses according to the WHO guidelines.

“Currently, nothing is known definitively about this novel virus,” she said.

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She also said that the biggest challenge, in the absence of its cure or vaccine, that the world is facing, is how to prevent people from getting infected through non- pharmacological methods alone like social distancing. “Staying at home, and closing schools and businesses has a major impact on earnings and on overall economy, which is again an unprecedented and major worry for all nations of the world,” she said.

Hailing India’s efforts in combating the pandemic and conducting research in this matter, Dr Darswal said, “India has a huge advantage in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industry, which can be easily repurposed to manufacture new drugs and vaccines when found. We should be able to produce in bulk at short notice, and at very competitive costs. Indian government has managed the crisis well so far, and if people bear constraints of lockdown for some more time, and are disciplined in maintaining social distance, we shall be able to stop transmission completely.”

However, expressing the fear of reappearance of the virus Dr Darswal told IANS that since the virus can reappear from outside travellers or asymptomatic carriers, the country cannot let our guard down till a vaccine or cure is found. “We have to be watchful of clusters carrying high risk and promptly mitigate transmissions through periodic lockdowns,” she said.

The Doctor suggested that people of India need to be very disciplined in observing the lockdown, and then maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene for a long time like Japanese or South Koreans till a vaccine or cure is found, which may take up to an year or more.

“Besides containment of pandemic, governments at all levels have to be very meticulous and planned in ensuring food security to the poor. It is a very difficult task, but the only way we can prevent large scale disease and mayhem like we saw in Italy or New York,” Dr Darswal told IANS.

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