UCF director prepares campus for emerging diseases
A smile spreads across his face, and his infectious personality fills the rooms.
Working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UCF's Dr. Michael Deichen has kept dangerous viruses from creeping on campus for more than a decade.
Director of UCF's Student Health Services, Deichen is set to focus on a new goal: increasing awareness of emerging infectious diseases, but now on a national level. He was elected as chair-elect for the 383-member Emerging Public Health Threats and Emergency Response Coalition in late May.
As part of the American College of Health Association, the coalition consists of student health services members from various colleges and universities around the nation. Each member has a goal to help communicate information from the CDC to each health center.
Protocols for various infectious diseases are shared with other colleges and universities so everyone around the nation has the best possible approach for emerging health threats.
"My duties now as part of the committee are to coordinate information with the CDC to a large number of other colleges and universities," Deichen said. "Basically, if there's a merging public health threat, like Ebola, we will get guidance from the CDC and share that with the other institutions."
Anthony Jenkins, senior associate vice president and dean of students, said Deichen is a leader of higher education student health care.
"He is a forward-thinking guru in the Student Health Services," he said. "It is the quality of his work over the course of his career that has positioned him to be elected by his peers to lead them nationally."
With strict confidence in his abilities, expertise and leadership, Jenkins said the faculty at the Health Center is fortunate to have Deichen lead student health care at UCF.
Deichen has been working at the Health Center since 2001, and has helped prepare the campus for public health circumstances, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, pandemic flu, measles and Ebola.
An outbreak that started in Korea a few weeks ago, MERS is an emerging public health threat that is the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula, Deichen said.
With this concerning epidemic in mind, phone conferences are set to take place to develop a protocol for colleges and universities, where the CDC will advise student health centers on how to handle screenings for MERS, and what faculty should do if they identify someone with possible symptoms.
Being the newly elected chair-elect has helped Deichen to create the best standards for UCF, and he said it has raised the bar as far as the Health Center's ability to use the best methods to keep students healthy.
"Quite frankly, a lot of what I'll be doing, advising the coalition, will be the same that I did here at UCF: developing response plans for these public health threats. It's very similar, however, it just puts you in a really good position to develop the very best systems and protocols, it's a real advantage," he said.
Jenkins said Deichen has proactively helped UCF's Health Center address and respond to public health issues to avoid widespread negative implications on campus.
UCF's population of more than 60,000 students serves as a great risk for illnesses to spread, Deichen said.
More and more students are traveling abroad and coming in internationally, which could possibly introduce diseases on a college campus.
"There's this globalization affect that's occurring. And at universities, that's often more apparent just because there is such an international influence," Deichen said. "We have to be very prepared and careful, and if you're knowledgeable, it keeps everything very safe."
Finishing his residency in family medicine and community health, earning his master's degree in public health, finding UCF's Type 1 Diabetes Support Group and currently serving as the vice president of the Southern College Health Association, Deichen said he has a great love for public health.
"I just have always found [public health] very interesting," he said. "For me, this is not really added work — I find it interesting. It's just a subject I've always been fascinated with."
Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.