Savanah Russ is passionate about her work on monitoring the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine which she sees as a unique and complex public health problem. The HPV virus is the cause of cancers in both men and women and is transmitted sexually. Its vaccine, which has been on the market since 2006, is ideally administered to pre-adolescents, but because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, there has been resistance to vaccinating preteens.
The Healthy People 2020 goals strive for an 80 percent vaccination rate nationwide. Connecticut is still only reaching 60 percent coverage and there are great disparities in its distribution, with minorities and males lagging.
Savanah’s work on this surveillance project, run by the CT-Emerging Infections Program at the Yale School of Public Health, allows her to speak with women who have been diagnosed precancerous cervical lesions. Through these patient interviews, she hopes to determine the reasoning behind missed vaccination opportunities. Savanah is also working on a paper about unvaccinated, but eligible women in Connecticut who have developed the condition since 2008.
“EIP is a unique place for students. We get to see public health surveillance from the bottom up,” says Savanah. Those skills are important to her as she aspires to completing a doctoral program and working in epidemiology on the national level.
Savanah is an MPH candidate in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases and the Public Health Modeling Concentration.