John Lynch, PA-C, has always been fascinated by the fields of travel medicine and tropical and infectious disease. His 30-year career with the federal government has taken him all over the world and has provided him with hands-on experience in emergency planning and coordination.
Early in the DMSc program, as PA Lynch was considering topics to write about for his evidence-based medicine course, he came across articles discussing yellow fever and the vaccine being in short supply, and then completely exhausted in the United States – and he was immediately hooked. “I became very interested in yellow fever, and the vaccine production and its history,” he says.
He explains, “The reservoir of yellow fever is in apes, in the jungle, and every once in a while it will spill out into the countryside. The fear is that the virus – which is transmitted by the same mosquito that vectors Zika virus – if it gets into a village or a city and an urban outbreak occurs, you have a real disaster.”
As his research progressed, he came across a piece by a well-known medical historian describing a yellow fever outbreak in Norfolk, Virginia in 1855. “As a Virginian, and a history buff, I was very surprised that I had not heard about this before, so I had to pursue the story.” His research on the Virginia outbreak confirmed that the crisis proportionally affected Norfolk in a greater way than the black plague affected London in 1665. “I was stunned – everyone knows about the black plague of London, but not many have heard of the Norfolk yellow fever outbreak.”
PA Lynch decided to submit his paper topic to VAPA for consideration for their annual summer CME conference, given both the current COVID-19 situation, and the historic Norfolk outbreak being in the same geographic region as the conference. The paper was accepted and he is scheduled to present “Yellow Jack: the Reemergence of Yellow Fever” this July. “During the presentation, we will be discussing the yellow fever vaccine and vaccine production. The vaccine and mosquito control are literally the only things we have to combat yellow fever – similar to COVID-19, everything else is symptomatic treatment,” he adds. His presentation will also draw from his real-life experiences in emergency planning over the course of his career.
Of his experience in the DMSc, PA Lynch says he has been very happy with what he has encountered so far. “The instructors have been incredible and very supportive. I have enjoyed the class content and also the discussion boards,” he says. PA Lynch also notes that the breadth and depth of the experiences of classmates is impressive. “I am thrilled with the academic rigor of the program, and I enjoy the intellectual conversations with my colleagues in the program.”