When the White House calls, Pacific alumnus on frontline of COVID-19 vaccine answers
In a job where pandemic-related requests from the White House can come day or night, Pacific alumnus David Carranza ’16, ’19 thrives on being on “the frontline of the frontline” as an epidemic intelligence service officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carranza’s position is a two-year fellowship which had a highly competitive hiring process. His current three-month assignment has his three-person team analyzing data related to the COVID-19 vaccines based on requests from the White House and other government agencies.
“It can be about how many providers are out there at the moment who are vaccinating children? And is that different in counties with higher socioeconomic status versus counties with lower socioeconomic status? So really, it's a whole gamut of different analytical requests that we receive,” Carranza explained.
He also tracks supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
“I can get called at any hour of the day, 24 hours a day, if there's ever a problem with dose allocation or an urgent request that comes from the White House prior to a briefing. I'm expected to be on 24 hours, and I really think that's awesome—also a little stressful,” said Carranza, who also is a 2019 Fulbright Scholarship recipient.
One of his big projects is modeling what type of demand the government should prepare for once vaccinations are approved for babies and toddlers.
“It's a lot of high-level decision making that some of the work I'm doing helps inform,” said Carranza, from Stockton.
When his temporary role focusing on COVID-19 vaccination wraps up in March, he’ll go back to his primary assignment at the National Center for Health Statistics in Washington, D.C. evaluating prescription medication use trends.
The impactful work he’s doing across the country comes as no surprise to those who knew Carranza as a student at Pacific, where he earned a bachelor of arts in economics in 2016 and doctor of pharmacy in 2019.
“He is driven by a strong moral compass to do the right thing, no matter the work that needs to be put into it, and to do it right the first time,” said Carly Ranson, assistant professor in the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy.
She worked with Carranza when he was a student in Pacific’s Medicare Part D elective program, where he volunteered at health fairs, an experience that solidified his desire to work in public health.
“During that time I really got to see the impact that I could have in a much more community setting. So not just individual pharmacist-patient interaction but pharmacy-community interaction,” said Carranza.
Ranson says Carranza is well-suited for the role.
“He always has been very strong at being able to put people at ease—students, patients, colleagues, everybody alike. It’s just part of David's personality,” said Ranson.
From Pacific, Carranza continued his journey into public health in Finland as a Fulbright Scholar, studying in the masters of public health program at Tampere University.
A year into his studies, he became a visiting researcher for the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare studying vaccine hesitancy. The project, which began prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, focused on public health officials’ perspectives of vaccine hesitancy across Europe and how to improve confidence in vaccines.
One of the main findings is the need for a more targeted approach.
“The COVID vaccine has had a lot of attention in terms of specific targeting for that vaccine, but prior to that when we look at all the vaccines in existence, government efforts to improve uptake is rarely ever directed at a specific vaccine or specific population,” said Carranza.
Carranza has maintained a strong connection to Pacific since graduating, volunteering as a preceptor with the pharmacy school, even doing it virtually from Finland. A preceptor is a licensed pharmacist who supervises students when they’re working with patients.
Carranza credits Pacific with encouraging him to pursue unconventional paths.
“You can challenge the norm and really grow from it and get experiences you couldn't get at other universities. And I think a lot of it comes down to the faculty who care and will check in on you and want to help you succeed,” said Carranza.