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UMass Chan MD/PhD student’s published COVID-19 rapid testing research guides FDA

Carly Herbert responsible for data management and data analysis on NIH-funded RADx

The Food and Drug Administration’s guidance for Americans on the use of rapid COVID-19 tests is based, in part, on the work of an MD/PhD student and a research team at UMass Chan Medical School.

Carly Herbert is a student investigator and the first or second author on six publications related to her work as a research assistant for the National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Tech program. The RADx Tech Clinical Studies Core Logistics Team, led by Nathaniel Hafer, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, and Herbert’s mentor, Apurv Soni, MD, PhD’21, assistant professor of medicine and co-chair of the Program in Digital Medicine, contributed to the FDA’s guidance on the use of rapid COVID-19 tests. National publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have reported on the team’s research.

“We’ve seen that taking rapid antigen tests at home are just as accurate as doing it at the doctor’s office or going out to a pharmacy to do these tests,” Herbert said. “What has really excited me is the use of digital technologies for designing these studies. We are able to recruit participants from throughout the United States. People who traditionally may not have access to a lot of research studies have greater access to participate. It’s really fascinating to see how we can use these digital platforms going forward to open up research to different populations.”

Herbert, an Atlanta native, earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. She worked as a research fellow at the Centers for Disease Control, where she studied human papillomavirus (HPV). Through the T.H. Chan School of Medicine Population-Based Urban and Rural Community Health (PURCH) Track and the Clinical and Population Health Research program in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Herbert is able to prepare for a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency and specialize in population health, looking at how communities as a whole can be made healthier. She is the investigator and lead author of a newly published study in Disability and Health Journal that found no difference in HPV vaccination rates among young adults with disabilities or without.

“This means that young adults with disabilities are probably going to the doctor more than other people, so we really need to have a focus on giving out immunizations at every single visit and making sure that our doctors know that every chance at a physician encounter should be a chance for vaccination,” Herbert said.

A two-time recipient of a Martin Luther King Jr. Semester of Service Award, Herbert has managed the day-to-day operations of the free clinic at the Epworth United Methodist Church and served as a coordinator for the student-run Worcester Asylum Clinic. She is co-chair of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) Student Council’s Curriculum Committee and a member of the MSTP Student Council’s Action for Equity and Inclusion Committee.

“My favorite thing about UMass Chan is the collaboration between departments. I have been able to work on so many studies, with our clinicians, with our coordinators, and, through my medical training, people within our local community, at Baystate Health and all over the state. The collaboration at UMass Chan has been incredible. And that’s something I really value in an institution,” Herbert said.

The Student Spotlight series features UMass Chan Medical School students in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing and T.H. Chan School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Chan Medical School and how to apply, visit the Prospective Students page.

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2019 MLK Semester of Service Student Awards support community service initiatives