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Alumni Spotlight

Collrane Frivold, MSPH '17

"The Bloomberg School is a magical place. Every time I walk through the doors, I’m reminded why I work in public health and inspired by my accomplished colleagues and professors." Collrane Frivold, MSPH 17 

Collrane Frivold, an MSPH graduate of the Department of International Health’s Program in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control, recently visited the Bloomberg School to attend events celebrating the 10th annual Vaccine Day. at Hopkins. After several days of meetings at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, she had a layover in Baltimore for a couple days on her way back home to Seattle. In addition to presenting a poster on a user evaluation of novel blow-fill-seal parenteral vaccine containers during Vaccine Day, she was able to visit former teachers and peers at an alumni reception for the School’s Program in Applied Vaccine Experiences (PAVE), which she was a part of in 2016. PAVE, which is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department of International Health, places students in vaccine-focused internships at WHO; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliancethe Pan American Health Organization; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and UNICEF. Collrane was kind enough to spend a little time discussing her experience at Hopkins and her current work at PATH, an international nonprofit and leader in global health innovation.

Can you tell me a bit about your work at PATH?

I am currently working on several projects using microarray patch technology to deliver vaccines such as measles-rubella as well as drugs, including the delivery of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. Microarray patches are a discreet, easy-to-use technology that contain an array of micron-scale projections that painlessly penetrate the top layer of skin to deliver a vaccine, drug, or even diagnostic. These patches offer a number of benefits that could help improve adherence to all types of drug regimens. They also enable alternative delivery scenarios—increasing coverage, enhance immunogenicity of novel vaccines, and reduce the burden on health systems. Since June 2017, I’ve been working at PATH as a program associate in the Devices and Tools Program’s Packaging and Delivery Technologies Portfolio. I provide technical and program management support to develop tools and methods that improve safety, acceptability, and effectiveness of vaccine and drug delivery. I’ve worked on several alternative delivery technologies including microarray patches, respiratory formulation and delivery, and intradermal-capable technologies used for fractional-dose vaccine delivery.

What are some of the innovations or research you’re most excited about now? 

I’m very interested in how innovations can facilitate delivery and increase equitable access to vaccines and essential medicines. For instance, I find sublingual vaccine delivery fascinating—i.e., delivering a vaccine via the mucosal surfaces under the tongue rather than swallowing it. For instance, AIDS, tuberculosis, acute respiratory-tract infections, and diarrheal diseases are all caused by pathogens that enter the body via the mucosa, tissue linings found in the oral cavity, and the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts. Vaccines administered directly to the mucosa can trigger key antibodies and preferentially activate specific cells, which potentially makes them more effective at preventing these infections. Besides the biological benefits, sublingual delivery technologies are needle-free, improve thermostability—meaning the vaccines are less prone to damage by changes in temperature—and are easy to use, which could enable task-shifting to lesser trained health workers. 

I’m also passionate about Total Systems Effectiveness, which is a holistic approach to prioritize or decide between products from a systems perspective, taking into consideration coverage, equity, programmatic implications, and full systems cost. I enjoy gathering and analyzing evidence to understand the health impact as well as the commodity and delivery costs of alternative vaccine presentations. 

What was your master’s capstone topic?

My MSPH capstone was on tetanus vaccination in Papua New Guinea and proposed policy recommendations the National Department of Health could implement to achieve broader tetanus protection and control post-maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination. It resulted from the work I did as an intern through PAVE. The program placed me at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. I worked directly for WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). It was an incredible experience that provided me a deep understanding of immunization policy, current challenges faced by immunization programs worldwide, and confirmed my desire to pursue vaccine research in my future career. In just a few months at WHO, I drafted an updated WHO tetanus vaccine position paper, conducted a literature review, helped organize the biannual SAGE meeting, and sat in on countless fascinating meetings. The knowledge I gained through my PAVE internship has been instrumental to my success in my current position and is unlike any other vaccine internship opportunity.

The PAVE internship experience also accelerated my career by enabling me to build relationships with leaders in vaccinology. Moreover, attending the deliberations where WHO vaccine recommendations were decided upon was invaluable and helped me understand the type of evidence I must generate as a public health professional so that the novel packaging and delivery technologies I am researching can be approved and recommended for use in low-resource settings. 

I should also mention the Vaccine Science and Policy Certificate I received from Hopkins. In my daily work at PATH, I draw on the expertise in vaccinology I gained through the courses required in that certificate program. For instance, when I am evaluating the technical and programmatic feasibility of vaccine-technology pairings, I draw on the vaccines I learned about in the Vaccine Development and Application course. I also consider how the vaccine type and route of immunization impact the immune response, which was a core competency of the Biological Basis of Vaccine Development course, to determine if the vaccine is compatible with the technology and the potential programmatic benefits of delivering the vaccine through a novel delivery technology like a microarray patch. 

Do you have any advice to current or future students?

The Bloomberg School is a magical place. Every time I walk through the doors, I’m reminded why I work in public health and inspired by my accomplished colleagues and professors. I would recommend taking courses that will develop your skills, such as Stata Programming. These classes might not be as exciting as a deep dive into your favorite disease area, but they will be vital to your future success. I would also encourage you to let your interests grow. I anticipated that graduate school would help me refine my interests. However, after my time at Hopkins, I felt like my interests only expanded, and I learned about new research areas I had never considered before. If you’re interested in vaccines, I highly recommend completing the Vaccine Science and Policy Certificate and applying for PAVE. PAVE is one of the reasons I decided to attend the Bloomberg School, and I cannot imagine where I would be now if I hadn’t pursued the fellowship. Furthermore, don’t forget to have fun and build relationships with your fellow students. Students at JHSPH come from a diverse background of rich experiences, and I grew so much learning from my peers. 

Interview by Brandon Howard