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Drexel University’s FIRST Center announces 9th class of FIRE Fellows

The Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) Fellowship recipients’ research focuses on the occupational health and safety of firefighters

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The 2024 FIRE Fellowship recipients are (from left to right): Divya Chanda, MPH(c) 2025; Ripon Hosain, MS(c) 2025; Amruta Patil, MPH(c) 2025; and Noah Southard, MPH(c) 2025.

Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends

By Bill Carey

PHILADELPHIA — The Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) announced on Wednesday the 9th class of Fire service Injury Research, Epidemiology, and Evaluation (FIRE) Fellowship. The FIRE Fellows are graduate students from the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

A statement from the FIRST Center shared this information about the fellows:

Divya Chanda, MPH(c) 2025, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics: Chanda, a dentist turned epidemiologist, is enrolled in the MPH program in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Excited to explore the U.S. fire and rescue service, she is fascinated by their rapid response despite complex operations. As a FIRE Fellow, she hopes to gain insights into first responders, enhancing her understanding and professional growth.

Ripon Hosain, MS(c) 2025, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health: Hosain, enrolled in the MS program in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences with a minor in Human Health Risk Assessment, is eager to use the Fellowship to deepen his occupational health knowledge. He looks forward to contributing to research that enhances first responders’ health and safety, working with an esteemed team, and gaining insights to shape his public health career. He aims to improve the well-being of those who serve our communities.

Amruta Patil, MPH(c) 2025, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics: Patil, an MPH student in Epidemiology and Biostatistics with a dentistry background, is dedicated to addressing health disparities and promoting preventive care. With experience in diverse oral health teams, older adult health research, and Statistical Analysis System (SAS) data analysis competitions, she is excited about the hands-on FIRE Fellowship. This opportunity aligns with her goals in public health research and community engagement, focusing on analyzing fire service data using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Noah Southard, MPH(c) 2025, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health: Southard, an MPH student in Environmental and Occupational Health, is thrilled to join the ninth cohort of FIRE Fellows. He looks forward to working with the FIRST Center’s team to support and empower the fire and rescue service through research, education, and policy initiatives.

This year’s programs are funded by FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety Assistance to Firefighters grants. The two programs focus on DEI and fire service culture:

  • In partnership with the Metro Fire Chiefs Association, the DEI FIRE Toolkit enables fellows to analyze data from the DEI Departmental Assessment. This analysis helps fire departments assess their readiness for changes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • The Fire Service Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey, the largest national survey of firefighters, allows fellows to develop skills in stakeholder engagement through collaboration with department champions on recruitment, survey administration, and data analysis. They will also assist in the Combination and Volunteer Assessment of Safety (CANVAS) project, which involves an over-sampling initiative of combination and volunteer fire departments.

The FIRST Center collects and analyzes data on safety culture, stress, mental health, and injuries. FIRST’s research and practice responds to the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. FIRST developed two tools currently in use: the Firefighter Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) survey and the Stress and Violence against fire-based EMS Responders (SAVER) Systems-Level Checklist.