Carley Fitzgerald

The Professionals Cohort (Florida)

*Acronym definitions to know: GIS (Geographic Information Science), ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute), WGIS (Women in GIS)

Carley Fitzgerald (Florida)

Carley Fitzgerald is a geographer and GIS expert from Highlands County, Florida, who’s dedicated, innovative and bold leadership in Florida changed how experts approached issues of geospatial epidemiology across the country.

In March 2020, Carley began working in the COVID-19 Information & Planning Section of the Highlands County Emergency Operations Center. A study released by ESRI around that time warned that Highlands was one of the most vulnerable in the nation, so Carley quickly got to work.

She worked on everything from sourcing, managing and analyzing data, to epidemiological modeling, to application development and public outreach.

“It is my hope that by providing the data, analysis, applications, and more to the County we were able to better prepare and respond to COVID-19 in our County despite our higher-than-average vulnerability to the virus,” said Carley.”

She built an application for residents to sign up for a waitlist when the state failed to provide the resources to do so, supporting her community’s access to information about vaccine distribution.

“As a geographer, I am familiar with sourcing, managing, and analyzing data,” said Carley. “I was able to quickly get to work learning GIS epidemiology models and providing key metrics regarding the status of COVID-19 in our County and State to Emergency Managers and Administration.”

Her role in managing the crisis for her community extended to advocating for data access across the country. A champion for women’s equality in advanced sciences, she was also elected to serve on the the board of Women in GIS (WGIS), an international non-profit and professional organization.

“The aim of WIGIS is to serve as a safe place for women from all geospatial fields to work towards overcoming things like: job discrimination, lower pay, professional isolation, and other common barriers women might face,” said Carley.

She currently serves as the lead for the professional development committee for WGIS, as well.

“It was especially important for me to join the organization, and now volunteer my time with WIGIS because GIS, as with pretty much most other sciences and technology fields, are very male dominated” said Carley. “Most GIS Departments are relatively small and that leaves many women in a unique position where they are the only woman in the department.”

“I worked with a colleague to develop a number of virtual events that help women in the GIS field advance their careers. We also developed a webinar series called Women in GIS Careers. We know that in a field that is male dominated representation matters and we are using the platform of our webinars to highlight successful women in GIS and their accomplishments in their field while they share how they got to their current role. We commonly speak about issues like imposter syndrome, where sometimes you just feel like you don’t belong in the role you have. Hearing these successful women speak about overcoming similar hurdles is reassuring and helps us to all know we are capable and not alone in our struggles.”

Examples of Carley’s work are submitted below.

An “At-A-Glance” Dashboard for Emergency Managers
This dashboard was created as a quick way to determine the condition in regional hospitals, our own bed availability, currently active cases and more.

Tracked Vaccine Rollout and Distribution Patterns
One of the priorities that I consider especially important for vaccine rollout are areas with high concentrations of currently active COVID-19 cases per capita. So I compare the per capita estimated current active cases for all the counties in Florida to their % of the population fully vaccinated. After highlighting the top 5 counties and Highlands in each graph you can see that they are negatively corelated. In fact, 6 of the 7 lowest fully vaccinated counties in Florida are all located in the Heartland region of Florida. Highlands County on this week was also high in concentrations of current active cases. This information is useful for advocating for increased vaccine allotment.

Weekly Trend Graphs for the County and State
These graphics were great at illustrating the progression of COVID-19 in our county and were shared at County Commissioner meetings with the public.

Tracked Hospital Bed Availability Over Time
In June I started tracking hospital bed and ICU bed availability in our county and in the state to provide a better perspective on the condition of the hospitals.

Calculated Senior Case Death and Case Hospitalization Rates for Our County and State.
Our county has consistently had a case hospitalization and case death rate that was higher than the rates of the state. This was important for future projections of COVID-19 conditions in our County. After determining an accurate case death and case hospitalization rate, I applied the CDC guidance for average time a new case takes to end up in the hospital and potentially succumb to the virus. This allowed me to project out new hospitalizations, and new deaths based on current case load.

One of the first things we knew about the virus was that it was more deadly to the older generations. I use state data to calculate how deadly by finding the case death rates based on smaller age brackets. Awareness of this metric puts just how perilous outbreaks can be in senior communities like ours.

Vaccination
I also assisted with the vaccination process by creating an online application that members of the public could register for a vaccine waitlist. In the one month the website was live before the state provided a solution to the public, is accumulated over 100,000 page views and 0ver 30,000 registrations. Not too shabby for a county that has a population of about 105,000.

Christian Hammond

The Professionals Cohort (California)

Christian Hammond is a software developer and founder of Beanbag, Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area.

During COVID-19, Christian worked to build an information and data portal for his home county in California, compiling all available data into a single access point for the public.

“I grew up in Butte County, CA, and as the early surge of COVID-19 began shutting down the world around me, I started an effort to keep people back home informed so they could make safe choices. This became the Unofficial Butte County COVID-19 Dashboard,” Christian said.

“Every day, using state and local data, I update the dashboard and write reports on Facebook and Twitter for thousands of people (including educators, healthcare workers, business owners, as well as friends, family, and those I’ve yet to meet), and provide data exports for others to use. I believe it’s important for people to use whatever skills they possess to help their communities in times of need, and this is how I’m choosing to use mine.”

A few words from those who nominated Christian:

“Christian Hammond has volunteered countless hours, on a daily basis, since June 2020, to provide current and updated data for Butte County residents. He presents this data in a narrated form as well as in the form of “easy to understand” graphs, via Facebook and Twitter accounts. Like many people in my county, I view his dashboard every day to keep informed. I use this information to make decisions on how to keep me and my family safe. I have been very impressed with the research and knowledge he has imparted, and with the compassion he uses to answer his followers questions.”

“He saw a communication void and decided to fill it with reliable information. He’s also super responsive and keeps politics out of his posts for the most part. My dad emailed him a lot of questions and Christian took the the time to explain answers to all of his questions. Christian is absolutely a citizen hero!”

Click here to visit Christian’s Twitter page.

Click here to visit Christian’s COVID-19 data site.

Ignacio Handal

The Professionals Cohort (Alabama)

We are working to complete our profiles for the more than 500 nominees submitted during the month of February. If you’d like to add to this profile, please email us at: Contact@Data-Usa.org

Ignacio Handal (Alabama)

“I realized in early February of last year before there was a single US case of COVID that this would turn into a global pandemic. As a microbiologist having studied viruses in college and having done viral vector clinical research I knew that I had to get the word out,” Ignacio said.

“I used Facebook to share peer-reviewed articles and hard factual data with my community. I noticed over time that the disinformation was as strong and ubiquitous as the real information which only fortified my intrigue and cause of getting the facts out about this disease. I hope I have helped save lives and I know my wife and I have distributed thousands of masks over this last year in the spirit of community and the common good. I am a data scientist at heart and I always follow the science.”

A few words from those who nominated Ignacio:

Ignacio aka Iggy has posted religiously accurate peer reviewed information about corona virus since last February. he was one of the first to do so before anybody even really knew about Corona virus. Ignacio is a microbiologist by training and according to GlobalData.com has done more clinical research than 99.23% of all clinical researchers globally. Ignacio had diligently posted great articles to keep his community informed. many scrutinized his postings early on in January and February of last year but then it soon became clear that Corona was a real thing. He had been unrelenting helping inform his community.

Click here to see Ignacio’s Facebook page.

Ryan Imgrund

The Provacateurs Cohort (Ontario, Canada)

Ryan Imgrund (Ontario)

In March 2020, Ryan was a biostatistician at Southlake Regional Health Center in Newmarket, Ontario where he was in charge of creating a model to predict future ICU utilization. The one value found to be predictive in nature was the effective reproductive value (Rt). Due to Ryan’s past experience at the Public Health Agency of Canada, it was a value he was able to calculate.

In May of 2020, Ryan shifted gears when he realized that this important metric, used throughout Europe, was referred to by the Province of Ontario constantly but it’s value was never publicly released.

In the summer of 2020, Ryan extended his Rt calculations to include all 34 public health units in Ontario, Canada. This extension proved extremely beneficial when the Province of Ontario included the Rt value in their “regional framework” but still did not release the value publicly.

In the fall of 2020 Ryan departed from Southlake and started working independently. He realized the “hiding” of this value wasn’t just an Ontario problem; in fact, it happened throughout Canada. He shifted gears and started providing this value for every large Canadian province as well as all urban centers.

This value is updated on his Twitter profile (@imgrund) every morning. He has not missed a daily update since May 2020.
The value of Ryan’s effective reproductive number calculations was further elevated  when several public health units in Ontario started using both his values and his methods, including Ottawa Public Health.

Image
March 1 post on case rates and reproduction rate of COVID-19 in Canadian provinces and select cities, published on Ryan’s Twitter feed here.

“Currently, I am the only person reporting regional effective reproductive values (Rt) in Ontario, a metric that is being used by our Government to re-open our Province. No one else releases this value, not even our Government,” Ryan said. “I have expanded this and now release the Rt for EVERY Canadian Province and EVERY major Canadian city – EVERY morning at 8:00 EST. I am a biostatistician, who works with several major public health units, including Ottawa, Ontario Canada, and Six Nations, an indigenous community in Ontario. My full-time job is a high-school science teacher in the Greater Toronto Area.”

Aside from publishing this important metric on a daily basis for all Canadians, he also publishes a personal risk assessment by region, school-based cases, and global case counts. He has become the go-to source for Canadian Covid content not just by the people of Canada, but by several health units including Peel Public Health and Six Nations Health Services.

A few words from those who nominated Ryan:

“High school teacher by day, also biostatistician by day, and also COVID-19 resource by day… I’m not sure how he fits it all in, but he is definitely one of Canada’s date heroes!”

Click here to follow Ryan on Twitter

Dr. Andrea Love and Dr. Jessica Steier

The Professionals Cohort (Pennsylvania and Florida)

This is an abbreviated version of our interview. The full interview will be uploaded in the near future.
Dr. Andrea Love (Pennsylvania) and Dr. Jessica Steier (Florida). Photo credit: Josh Pelta-Heller

As the only nominee team of our all our nominees, both Dr. Andrea Love (Pennsylvania) and Dr. Jessica Steier (Florida) would independently be finalists in our professionals and/or specialists cohort if we split them up.

We chose to select Dr. Love and Dr. Steier as a team in our finalists cohort because of their joint commitment to public information during COVID-19 through their weekly Unbiased Science podcast.

From Dr. Jessica Steier:

“I am a public health data scientist with expertise in health policy evaluation and advanced data analytics to support population health improvement efforts. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Vital Statistics Consulting– a woman-owned public health data analytics firm engaged in projects such as the mix-methods evaluation of a statewide comprehensive primary care initiative in a midwestern state. “

Dr. Jessica Steier (Florida)
Photo credit: Josh Pelta-Heller

“Most relevant to the pandemic, I designed and led a SARS-CoV-2 serosurvey for one of the largest FQHCs in the country, for which I am also developing a COVID-19 data dashboard. I am currently leading research on disparities in COVID-19 test positivity and vaccine uptake across different sociodemographic groups and subpopulations, as well as investigating impacts on other COVID and non-COVID related outcomes such as healthcare utilization, changes in preventive and wellness visits, and long-term outcomes.

“I launched the Unbiased Science Podcast, which I co-host with my brilliant immunologist colleague, Dr. Andrea Love, which aims to translate and communicate scientific research to the general public. Lastly, I teach coursework in biostatistics and epidemiology to clinical students with the goal of emphasizing the importance of the critical appraisal of evidence and life-long learning.”

From Dr. Andrea Love:

“I am an immunologist and microbiologist previously from academic research who currently works full-time in the biotech industry on research and assay development for cancer biology, immunotherapy, vaccine research and development, and other fields. “

Dr. Andrea Love (Pennsylvania)
Photo credit: Josh Pelta-Heller

“Science literacy and education is a passion of mine, and I’ve sought out other opportunities throughout my career to serve as a resource and subject matter expert to promote access to credible science. Once the pandemic started, I felt an obligation as someone in the field to provide distilled explanations and information to the general public, especially with the real-time emergence of data that was shared (and often misinterpreted) by media outlets, government agencies, and other organizations around the world.”

“After some time doing this on my personal social media pages, I joined forces with an old college classmate, public health scientist Dr. Jess Steier, to form the Unbiased Science Podcast. We provide continuous updates on the pandemic – from the science behind the novel virus, mechanisms of infection and transmission, mitigation measures and evolving recommendations, tracking infection metrics, emergence of variants, demographics and distribution of morbidity and mortality, and of course the ongoing clinical trials and regulatory review of vaccines.”

“One of the unique aspects of our project is that we collate and provide data in multiple modalities in order to effectively tackle the spread of disinformation. We have a weekly podcast that covers an array of scientific topics, many of which are directly related to COVID-19, vaccine research and development, public health, and clinical trials. We have active presences on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn) where we create daily infographics, data summaries, and other updates related to the pandemic. “

“And finally, we are actively engaged with media outlets, and have been interviewed by Philly Magazine, NBC News, VeryWell, (as examples), in addition to penning our own op-Ed discussing the need for scientists to join forces with the media to spread credible data. It is a multi-pronged approach that is overcoming the dearth of reliable data amongst a sea of disinformation.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Andrea Love:

“Andrea has been on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus doing vaccine research. She uses her personal time to educate the community on the pandemic and best ways to stay safe, and is always available to answer everyone’s questions. She is a tireless advocate for real science and believes passionately in providing the public with honest and accurate information. Though she is frequently attacked by deniers/hoaxers, she engages them in a professional manner and remains grounded in facts and science in providing counterpoints. She is an inspiration to everyone around her and deserves to be recognized for the front-liner, first-responder, and champion of science that she is.”

“Dr. Andrea Love and is devoted to objective, critical appraisal of available evidence on science and health-related topics relevant to listeners’ daily lives.”

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Jessica Steier:

“Dr. Steier has worked tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic. She launched a podcast (Unbiased Science) and social media page aimed at scientific communication for the general public in an attempt to make science more accessible. She is a public health scientist, applied statistician, and health policy expert by training but somehow managed to translate research in a way that is understandable for all. As CEO of Vital Statistics Consulting, she has also designed and led COVID-related research looking at test positivity rates across different subpopulations with an emphasis on the underserved. She has also led a multi-day summit with other experts in the field to translate COVID science, as well as a panel with faith-based leaders of contained communities aimed at combatting distrust of science and the medical establishment. She does all of this while being a mother to two young children and juggling lots of matters in her personal life. She is a real data shero!”

“Jessica has persisted relentlessly since the onset of the pandemic to educate and inform without insult or judgement about everything COVID. She has responded instantly to rumors with scientific fact and answered questions before we even knew we had them. She has aligned and acknowledged, empathized and sympathized always with passion and compassion yet never compromising her ultimate goal to educate based on fact.”

Click here to to visit the Unbiased Science podcast website.

Click here to visit Dr. Andrea Love’s Twitter page.

Jorge Caballero

The Provocateurs Cohort (California)

As a Stanford University physician with more than a decade of experience working with health data, Dr. Jorge Caballero could easily fit into both the specialists and the professionals groups of our awards program. His work during COVID-19 would indeed make him a finalist in either of those cohorts.

Dr. Jorge Caballero

Dr. Caballero’s advocacy for data access and transparency, and his continued commitment to communicating the racial and ethnic disparities in testing, cases and vaccinations shown in the data, makes him stand out as a Provocateur.

In March 2020, Dr. Caballero cofounded Coders against Covid, a volunteer group that builds tech solutions to address the most pressing needs of those affected by COVID-19, challenging his local, state and federal officials to step up.

Dr. Caballero built the first nation-wide COVID-19 testing site directory in mid-March 2020, before most states even had comprehensive lists of their own testing site facilities.

Shortly thereafter, Coders against Covid joined FEMA’s crowdsourcing initiative, and were connected with GISCorps, a volunteer group of geospatial information specialists. The partnership built the most comprehensive database of COVID-19 testing locations in the country, providing maps and tools to find your nearest testing site, operations hours, appointment scheduling, and more.

Dr. Caballero also uses the power of his position and his Twitter account to share data and information about the state of Coronavirus in California and across the country on a daily basis. He keeps up with data in Arizona and Nevada, even sharing the work of our other COVID-19 Data Hero Award nominees:

When California lifted its curfew and stay-at-home orders in January, Dr. Caballero made sure the public was aware that the data did not support such a move.

“Of course, all that flies out the window when it comes to extended contact that’s unmasked, as one might expect from, say, outdoor dining. It’s exactly that paradox that prompted an angry tweetstorm from Stanford doctor Jorge A. Caballerowho says that “The data does NOT support lifting restrictions— this would be Newsom caving to political pressure, again,” perhaps referring to an anti-vaccination/Republican-led recall effort against the governor. Caballero warns that even now, the devastating surge in Southern California “is moving up the state: through the central valley and into the SF Bay Area.”

San Francisco, Jan. 25, 2021

When California spent $62.5 million on a contract with Verily – a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet – which led Trump to erroneously claim Google was building a site to help Americans find testing locations (a site Dr. Caballero would end up creating), Dr. Caballero stepped up and spoke out.

But the [Verily] partnership has also faced criticism from public health experts from the start, and left some elected officials in California frustrated by what they describe as a misguided approach to testing vulnerable communities.

Dr. Jorge Caballero, a Stanford physician and co-founder of the public testing database Coders against COVID, began warning CDPH contacts in April that poorer areas remained underserved by state testing sites. As he fielded requests in Spanish for help with the platform, it seemed that Verily wasn’t “nimble enough to address the demand and the evolution of the demand,” Caballero said.

“This whole strategy was just sort of backwards from the get-go,” Caballero said. “Why were we spending this money if it wasn’t solving problems, and it was creating additional problems?”

Mercury News, Feb. 25, 2021

Not one to play partisan politics, Dr. Caballero calls out, defends, and makes policy recommendations to all of the science and data-backed decisions made across the country. His advocacy, insight and persistent communications about what the data tells us has impacted communities across the country, saving countless lives in the process.

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Caballero:

“If everyone would have just listened to him from the start, we would all be so much better off. California has made little effort to work with Hispanic communities, to communicate data with us regularly. It’s like we don’t matter. We’re dying and we don’t matter. The only person who seems to care is the doctor.” [Note: This submission was translated from Spanish]

“Jorge’s reputation as a physician, a scientist, as the “Data-driven MD,” could not be over-stated. I’ve never met a man who has worked harder to ensure accurate information reaches the public, that the accurate information is advocated for, and that the activism results in meaningful discussion and, hopefully, policy change. No one else could possibly be more worthy of a Data Hero Award than Jorge Caballero.”

Click here to follow Dr. Jorge Caballero on Twitter.

Click here to visit the Coders Against Covid Twitter page, or click here to see the Coders Against Covid website.

Olivier Drouin

The Professionals Cohort (Quebec, Canada)

Click above to listen to our interview with Olivier Drouin!
Olivier Drouin (Canada – Quebec)

Olivier Drouin ventured into the treacherous waters of reporting cases in COVID-19 schools when Quebec dodged the responsibility last August.

Despite the lack of transparency in many schools, Olivier worked with teachers unions, parents, and schools to produce his data analysis on COVID-19 in schools.

Infectiously kind, gracious, and humble, Olivier took on the task of reporting school cases in Quebec, much in the same way The Covid Monitor did in the United States.

Drouin appeared on “The Most Fascinating Montrealer” podcast and was featured in major news outlets for his work.

A recent research paper used Olivier’s data from Covid Ecoles to examine school cases trends in Montreal, Canada, bolstering his dutiful work and giving him substantial academic cred.

“I am a team of one – single parent of two teenage daughters and VP technology for a large company in Montreal,” Olivier said. “This is volunteer work and I have spent at least 1000 hours since August 26th, 2020.”

Olivier Drouin’s website greets visitors with a pointed note:

The mission of this citizen initiative for transparency of data on schools affected by COVID is to make information available, accessible and intelligible in real time to school stakeholders (parents, teachers, staff members).

The site uses the creativity, intelligence and know-how of the community to create content, develop ideas, solve a problem or carry out an innovative project, all at a lower cost. This approach is commonly known as crowdsourcing.

The project is based on the strength of collective intelligence using crowdsourcing. The site publishes the number of schools affected by at least one positive case of COVID since August 26th.

The information comes from the public and is validated with a copy of the letter issued by public health or the school administration. This list is an evolving and non-exhaustive list. It is updated several times a day. You can submit positive COVID cases in your schools, whether you are a parent, teacher, service center employee or citizen.

https://www.covidecolesquebec.org/
Olivier’s website, CovidEcolesQuebec.org.

Drouin, who lives on Nuns’ Island, started tweeting about the pandemic in the summer, concerned about the government’s back-to-school plan. In September, Drouin founded a volunteer website, CovidEcolesQuebec.org, posting cases of COVID-19 in schools across the province, based on letters by principals sent to him from parents. The website quickly became one of the most visited in the province.

Drouin has also advocated for better ventilation in schools, including the installation of portable air purifiers in classrooms.

“Twitter has a real-time aspect to it, contrary to other social media,” Drouin explained.

Cases by grade-level groups on Olivier’s website, CovidEcolesQuebec.org

“It is easy to connect quickly on content with experts (from) around the world on a given topic. When it came time to launch CovidEcolesQuebec.org, it was simply an extension of my community involvement and I felt it was important to create a separate account to promote the site and create a community of like-minded followers that would amplify the message and help make this crowdsourcing website a success.”

All of the data Olivier collects is public and easily accessible. Click here to download the raw data.

A few words from those who nominated Olivier:

“One parent, as a volunteer work, has been tracking all Quebec Covid cases in school since August 26th, at a time when the government was refusing to disclose the data. Using crowdsourcing method, he publishes official letters sent by school and public health to parents that confirm a case and compiles it in real time on a geospatial map. He manages also a twitter account and Facebook page. he was mentioned by elected officials at the national assembly of Quebec, covered in other 200 news media articles and name Most fascinating Montreal of 2020 by CJAD radio.”

Click here to visit Olivier’s website. Click here to access his raw data and dashboard.

Click here to follow Olivier on Twitter at his personal or Covid Ecoles handle.

Andrew Berens

The Professionals Cohort (Louisiana)

Andrew Berens, a population health and geospatial analyst with the Louisiana Department of Health, built and has maintained since March 2020 the Louisiana COVID-19 Information Dashboard.

Andrew Berens (Louisiana)

Andrew has worked to make COVID data consistently and transparently available to the public and local officials.

In addition to the public facing work, Andrew assists the state with data cleaning and processing, and he response to request for assistance from data users, making the state’s data more widely available.

A few words from those who nominated Andrew:

“Andrew worked quickly in March to establish one of the first state-level COVID dashboards when the first Louisiana case was reported, publishing one up in time to report Louisiana’s first death. Since then he has continuously worked to improve data quality and increase transparency, advocating to make high-quality data easily downloadable. Now that the vaccine rollout has begun, Andrew has stepped up on the team tasked with cleaning, enriching, validating, and reporting vaccination data as well to ensure these data are also accurately and transparently shared with the public.”

“Throughout the pandemic Andrew has worked directly with local officials, answering questions and helping to integrate state data in to their local informational products. He has also taken time to answer citizen questions regarding the dashboard, ensuring the people of Louisiana understand the data being presented.”

Click here to follow Andrew on Twitter.

Misty Oprin

The Newcomers Cohort (Arkansas)

Misty Orpin launched her Arkansas Covid tracking site in March 2020 to make the Arkansas Department of Health’s Covid-19 data more accessible and transparent to its people.

Misty Oprin (Arkansas)

A novice to the complexities of epidemiology, Orpin focused on visualization, geographic specificity, and active Q&A with Arkansans on Twitter and via email.

The organization evolved into a watchdog role, attending press conferences and striving for clarity from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Governor.

Orpin partnered with the University of Arkansas to bring on an intern to assist with demographic information, and eventually turned the project over to the University of Arkansas’ Department of Journalism after six months of 12-hour days bringing the latest data and updates to Arkansas.

The project is now student-run and continues to provide daily updates and in-depth news stories on the impacts of Covid in Arkansas.

A few words from those who nominated Misty:

“Misty Oprin began the @ArkansasCovid project and was invaluable to me the first several months to make sense if Arkansas covid data!”

Click here to follow Arkansas Covid on Twitter.

Click here to see the Arkansas COVID website, now managed by the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas.

Click here to follow Misty Oprin on Twitter.