A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Lessons from COVID’s Frontlines


Innovative virtual course helps leaders tackle pandemic challenges in real time.

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic feels nearer every day, but this year’s global health emergency may well mark the start of an age of pandemics, experts agree—so the sooner the world can learn from and adapt to its challenges, the better.

That’s why public health and medicine scholars at Brown University wasted no time in preparing and delivering virtually a pandemic problem-solving course for working professionals.

An idea hatched late in 2020 became reality in February 2021, when the first class session was held online with Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, and Megan Ranney RES’08 F’10 MPH’10, MD, an associate professor of emergency medicine and director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health.

Twice weekly over six weeks, Jha and Ranney led the course with visits from national leaders to share frameworks, tools, and lessons learned with course participants—a range of civil servants, policymakers, and business leaders charged with addressing the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

The course—Pandemic Problem-Solving: Surviving and Thriving in the Age of Pandemics—was structured to re-create the collaborative work that course leaders say is essential during a pandemic, bringing together people with diverse expertise from around the globe. Each 90-minute session was moderated by Jha or Ranney, who engaged featured experts in conversation on specific themes. The class would then divide into curated breakout sessions for knowledge-sharing and real-life problem solving with peers.

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