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How the military stays ready during disease outbreaks

Headshot of Dr. Sanchez Dr. Toti Sanchez is a senior scientist and deputy chief at Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

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Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Coronavirus

A Q & A with Dr. Jose L. (Toti) Sanchez, Senior Scientist & Deputy Chief, AFHSB


What is your focus area?

A major component of my work is to ensure that major health surveillance program plans and initiatives are current and reflect alignment with the Defense Health Agency’s Strategic Plan. Under the guidance of AFHSB’s Chief, I also help to build strong scientific and collaborative relationships within the Public Health Directorate.

How do you monitor disease outbreaks?

I spend a significant amount of time monitoring the many peer-reviewed, governmental and international association reports. I also analyze the disease outbreak reports and coordinate data gathering and report generation from AFHSB’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance, Epidemiology and Analysis), and Integrated Biosurveillance  sections.

In my role as Senior Scientist at AFHSB, I serve on the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program Operational Steering Committee, a “think-tank” committee of experts who provide guidance on military-relevant research efforts in support of the U.S. military’s force health protection needs. I also work as an instructor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. I ensure students and residents in public health learn the basic skills of outbreak investigation, associated surveillance, and research initiatives.

How do you support AFHSB's response to COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an immense workload on our AFHSB staff to produce analyses and reports for DHA leadership, senior DoD officials, the Secretary of Defense, and respond to questions from Congressional officials. In my role as Deputy Chief, AFHSB, I ensure that reports, documents and COVID-19 related policy reviews are accurate and produced in a timely fashion from AFHSB’s three sections. Since February 2020, I’ve reviewed and provided input to nearly 70 executive summaries , several information and position papers, and at least 20 weekly surveillance summaries addressing COVID-19 issues.

Where have you traveled in this role?

My travel is mainly limited to the National Capital Region. I’ve participated in tabletop drills such as an interagency simulation for Crimson Contagion, a response to a severe influenza pandemic. I’ve also served as a representative to the Defense Health Board to evaluate health surveillance matters such as COVID-19 and respiratory infections in support of DHA’s Combat Support Agency mission.

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Preserving the Health of U.S. Armed Forces with DMSS and DoDSR

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HIV and AIDS in the U.S. Military

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June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. HIV-1 infection is a major health importance for the U.S. military. Since the start of HIV-1 military health surveillance analysis during 1990-2013, service members diagnosed with the HIV-1 infection in recent years have remained longer in U.S. Armed Forces.  There were a total of 5,227 new diagnoses in 24-years of surveillance. The August 2015 Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR) reported that “Estimated median durations of service after initial HIV-1 diagnoses ranged from 2.29 years in Cohort 1 ( 1990-1994) to 3.65 years in Cohort 4 (2005-2009). Thus, in the 15 years between 1990-1994 and 2005-2009, the median durations of service after HIV-1 diagnoses increased by 1.4 years.” Factors contributing to longer service include: •	Availability and effectiveness of HIV treatments •	Decline in stigmas associated with diagnosis of the HIV infection •	Changes in U.S. military policy that allow the LGBT community to serve in its ranks  Note: Service members who are diagnosed with HIV-1 infections, regardless of their sexual orientations, may elect to continue their military service careers.  Get tested today – it’s the only way to know. Early HIV testing helps to prevent transmission and lowers the risk of severe health complications. Follow us on Twitter for more information: @AFHSBPAGE  Also on Twitter: National HIV Testing Day #NHTD

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