PROTECT Researchers Meet in San Juan for Annual Retreat

Mar 4, 2020 | PROTECT Events and Presentations, PROTECT Team

Over 80 PROTECT researchers met at the Condado Plaza Hilton Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to discuss future plans and harmonization for the centers. Although our cohort is based in Puerto Rico, our team is distributed across 6 universities. Due to the interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and geographically spread nature of the team, the PROTECT Annual Retreat is an important opportunity for our researchers, staff, trainees, advisory board members, and university leadership to strategize and discuss ongoing work in depth.

On the first day, Co-Directors Akram Alshawabkeh and José Cordero opened up the meeting with an overview of the last 10 years of PROTECT and delivered a report on the impacts of the Zika Virus, Hurricane Maria, and recent earthquakes on our research efforts, highlighting our team’s community response and how that has influenced our research. Additionally, project leaders John Meeker, Rita Loch-Caruso, Ingrid Padilla, and Akram Alshawabkeh gave presentations on their projects’ findings so far and future research plans. Following lunch, HSSC leader Jose Cordero and DMMC leader Dave Kaeli gave presentations on the work of their support cores and expanded on how they will enhance collaboration in the future. Lastly, researchers gave presentations on research the PROTECT center conducted following Hurricane Maria in fall 2017. April Gu presented on the environmental contamination and impacts following the hurricanes while Michael Welton and Deb Watkins presented on the biomedical and mental health outcomes found as a result of their Post-Maria R21 studies. PROTECT will continue to incorporate research and analysis on how major environmental events affect the island of Puerto Rico and the health of our cohort.

On the second day, the remaining support cores presented on progress to date as well as future plans and action items. Training Core leader Tom Sheahan, CEC co-leader Carmen Vélez Vega, and RTC leader Phil Brown all gave excellent presentations and received good feedback from the advisory committee. During the last hours of the meeting, the PROTECT team conducted three breakout sessions to allow working groups to discuss their research areas in depth. The biomedical, environmental science, and report back groups worked through some of their research challenges and made action plans to collaborate more effectively in the future.   Following our 2020 Annual Retreat the PROTECT Team is more connected and invigorated than ever to continue our research into environmental contamination, maternal and child health, and the effects of environmental disaster on these areas.