Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2009 - (Page 10)
An Ounce of Prevention by Scott Kobner Educating Athletes about MRSA I ’ve always thought of epidemiology as a powerful science. By identifying the roots of a problem and providing that information to other people, such as doctors and engineers, it provides two of the most important tools to protect public health: education and prevention. When I heard about the Young Epidemiology Scholars competition in my sophomore year of high school, I saw an opportunity to conduct some epidemiological research of my own. Unsure of where to start, I searched on the website of the nearby Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for a possible mentor. I sent an e-mail to Dr. Arlene Potts, the Director of Infectious Disease Control and Prevention at RWJUH, asking if she would be willing to meet with me to discuss ideas for research. At our meeting, Dr. Potts gave me a pile of medical journals that I could barely fit under one arm. She told me to call her when I found something I was interested in. That night, I read through a few of the journals. One report really caught my attention. It was about a football player who died from a bacterial infection I was unfamiliar with: CA-MRSA. I tried getting through a few more reports, but that football player’s case kept drawing me back. I knew I’d found my research topic. Athletes at Risk In further research, I learned that Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a virulent and antibiotic-resistant strain of the very common Staphylococcus bacteria. CA-MRSA was curable, I read. But some cases had resisted even the strongest antibiotics, treatments were often arduous and costly, and the victims were hospitalized for a long time. I eventually landed on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which had identified athletes as a group at high risk of contracting CA-MRSA because they come into contact with each other on the field, in the locker room, or both. My thoughts immediately turned to the student athletes at my school. It struck me that no one had investigated how well athletes were being taught to protect themselves from contracting CA-MRSA. It seemed to me that prevention is especially critical when confronting a disease that is resistant to a broad spectrum of treatment. A few days later, I went back to Dr. Potts to discuss my ideas. My plan was to conduct a study that quantified both athletes’ knowledge of CA-MRSA and their hygiene practices, before and after an educational intervention that I would create. I started from scratch, researching the latest CAMRSA risk factors and developing my own education curriculum using materials such as reports and advisories from the CDC and the New Jersey State Department of Health. I also included findings from studies showing strong correlations between certain hygiene practices, such as cleaning equipment, and a reduced likelihood of contraction. My education program included short lectures, question-and-answer sessions, and handouts detailing January/February 2009 10 imagine
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