COVID-19 Projects and Response

Department of Family Medicine & Community Health faculty, staff, trainees, and students have been at the forefront of Duke Health's response to COVID-19 through clinical care, educational offerings, research, and advocacy. Here is a summary of the ways our department has been involved.

Patient Care & Community Health


Duke Family Medicine Center Became the Epicenter of Durham's Initial Response

The week of March 9, 2020, Duke Family Medicine Center staff received training on safety and testing protocols―including swabbing and donning and doffing PPE―and on conducting telehealth visits. On March 12 the clinic tested its first potential COVID-19 patients, and the next day 32 patients were tested. Since then, Duke Family Medicine Center served as ground zero for COVID-19 testing at Duke, manning Duke Health's first drive-through testing tent and managing the large on-campus tent. Read more about the early weeks of the response.

Testing Expanded to East Durham at Holton Wellness Center

Duke Health, the City of Durham, and Durham Public Schools recently partnered to expand COVID-19 testing to East Durham with a testing site at Holton Wellness Center, which is administered by the Division of Community Health.

Carol Epling, MDCaring for Duke's Employees

Duke Employee Occupational Health & Wellness (EOHW) has played an integral role in Duke Health's COVID-19 response. Director Carol Epling, MD, assistant professor of family medicine and community health, is a member of Duke's emergency management team, and EOHW mobilized quickly and continues to support screenings, symptom monitoring, contact tracing, and testing for all of Duke's employees. Read more.

Caring for Duke's Students

Duke Student Health faculty,  under the leadership of Division Chief John Vaughn, MD, and Medical Director Hunter Spotts, MD, serve on the university's emergency management team and have been caring for Duke's students throughout the pandemic.

Michelle Lyn and Fred JohnsonProviding Support in the Region

Department of Family Medicine & Community Health Faculty Michelle Lyn, MBA, MHA, division chief of community health, and Fred Johnson, MBA, are serving as project directors for Duke University Health System's contract to lead Region 3's COVID-19 Support Services Program for N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Region 3 includes Durham, Vance, and Granville counties. The program will support North Carolinians in 20 targeted counties who are asked to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19 and need assistance such as food, relief payments, or access to primary medical care. Learn more.

Blogs: Stories from Health Care Workers in Our Department Clinics

Read what our colleagues were seeing and feeling during Duke Health’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020.

Read the Stories

Education & Training

Duke PA Program Creates Contact Tracing Elective

The Duke Physician Assistant Program partnered with the Durham County Department of Public Health to create a community health elective that put clinical-year PA students to work on the front lines of the local COVID-19 response. Students were trained to do case interviews and contact tracing, making calls to individuals who tested positive and those they had come into contact with, and to utilize their clinical training to offer medical advice when needed. Read more about the elective.

Jacqueline S. BarnettDuke Physician Assistant Program Adapts to Changes Overnight, Continues to Innovate

The Duke Physician Assistant Program, under the leadership of Jacqueline S. Barnett, DHSc, MHS, PA-C, is leaning into challenges while looking for opportunities to re-imagine the structure of students’ education, not just for the immediate crisis, but for the future. Read about how the program adapted quickly.

Research & Scholarship


D'Agostino EM, Armstrong SC, Humphreys L, et al. Symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 transmission in youth and staff attending day camps. Pediatrics. DOI:

Denny TN, Andrews L, Bonsignori M, et al. Implementation of a Pooled Surveillance Testing Program for Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections on a College Campus — Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, August 2–October 11, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 17 November 2020. DOI: icon.

Seidelman J, Lewis S, Advani S, Akinboyo I, Epling C, Case M, et al. Universal Masking is an Effective Strategy to Flatten the SARS-2-CoV Healthcare Worker Epidemiologic Curve. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2020 Jun 24;1–5.

Schwartz A, Stiegel M, Greeson N, Vogel A, Thomann W, Brown M, et al. Decontamination and Reuse of N95 Respirators with Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor to Address Worldwide Personal Protective Equipment Shortages During the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Pandemic. Applied Biosafety. 2020 Jan 1;

Michener L, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Alberti PM, Castaneda MJ, Castrucci BC, Harrison LM, et al. Engaging With Communities — Lessons (Re)Learned From COVID-19. Prev Chronic Dis 2020;17:200250. DOI:


  • Emily D’Agostino, DrPH, MS, MEd, MA, assistant professor of family medicine and community health, is on a project team developing and testing a virtual platform to increase equitable physical activity opportunities for youth in home and community settings during COVID-19.  This national effort is in direct response to school closures due to the pandemic, and is in collaboration with researchers at University of South Carolina, Indiana University, Kennesaw State University, and University of Northern Colorado.
  • Lavanya Vasudevan, PhD, is on a project team testing a contact tracing app.
  • Community-based Testing and Primary Care to Mitigate COVID-19 Transmission: Department residents and faculty are leading a Bass Connections project to address COVID-19 inequities in Durham County's Black and Latinx populations by strengthening collaboration between clinical, policy and community partners and assessing long-term sustainability. Project participants include:
    • Andrew Flynn, MD, family medicine resident
    • Ry Garcia-Sampson, MD, family medicine resident
    • Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, FAAFP, associate professor of family medicine and community health
    • Gabriela Plasencia, MD, family medicine resident
    • Truls Ostbye, PhD, professor
    • Mina Silberberg, PhD, associate professor of family medicine and community health
  • Coping with COVID-19: Using Behavioral Science and Digital Health to Promote Healthy Families: Tiarney Ritchwood, PhD, assistant professor of family medicine and community health, is on a Bass Connections project team to address the need for feasible, scalable interventions to strengthen family relationships in low-resource settings during the pandemic.

  • Improving Food Security to Increase Resiliency to COVID-19 for Latinx Populations: Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, FAAFP, is a team leader on a Bass Connections project aimed at addressing food security in the Latinx community.

Honors & Recognition

  • LATIN-19, co-founded by Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, associate professor of family medicine and community health, received the 2020 Latino Diamante Health & Science Community Award, a statewide award to recognize excellence, outstanding achievements and to honor individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions in the Hispanic/Latino/Latinx community of North Carolina

Advocacy & Advising

Local and State

  • Faculty are advising the Durham Recovery and Renewal Task force on topics related to the Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities.
  • LATIN-19: Faculty and residents are serving on the Duke Latinx Advocacy Team & Interdisciplinary Network for COVID-19, co-founded by Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, associate professor of family medicine and community health
  • Faculty and residents are serving on the NC Department of Health and Human Services' COVID-19 work group for Historically Marginalized Populations
  • Faculty and residents have been  featured in a series of PSAs for the NC Department of Health and Human Services aimed at the state's Latinx community

Media Attention and Press Releases

Study Shows Minimal COVID-19 Infections Among Children at Day Camps

Case Study: Duke's Aggressive COVID Testing and Surveillance Minimized Infection


On Caring and Advocating for the Latinx Community

Faculty Participation in Duke Media Briefings

December 10, 2020: Lavanya Vasudevan, PhD, MPH, on "Overcoming reluctance to mask up, distance and vaccinate"

October 21, 2020: Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, FAAFP, on "How to Trick or Treat, Enjoy Holidays Safely This Year"

September 18, 2020: Lavanya Vasudevan, PhD, MPH, on "Flu season, COVID-19 and vaccination"

July 22, 2020: Lavanya Vasudevan, PhD, MPH, on "Public Health Messaging"

June 10, 2020: Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, FAAFP, on "Effects of COVID-19 on Latinx Community"