Superhero: Alan Powell

Alan Powell (for the win with this Superhero photo!) was inducted into the Love Superhero Hall of Gratitude during the September 2020 Disease Investigator Specialist (DIS) Summit for California. Alan was nominated by his peers as the Sonoma County DIS Superhero.

In early 2018, Mr. Alan Powell noticed a syphilis morbidity shift from men who have sex with men to heterosexual, including females of child-bearing age who lived in a homeless encampment, some reporting methamphetamine and needle use. There was urgency in the situation since the encampment involved was to be disbanded by the county within 1 to 2 months. The index case was a female, staged as secondary syphilis and co-infected with gonorrhea and chlamydia.  Alan went on to conduct multiple field visits at the homeless camp.  He assessed the community and identified the “gatekeeper” to assist in locating patient.  He located the patient and brought her to treatment and interview.  He elicited 10 sexual contacts (8 located).  Seven tested negative and were epi treated. One new early syphilis case was identified.  Within one month there were 9 cases of syphilis among individuals experiencing homelessness in the county.  In 1/2018 the county declared confirmed outbreak in the homeless population.  Alan was the lead in a collaborative effort with Sonoma County; the California Department of Public Health (OA; STD Control Branch) and local community based organizations to conduct a two-day targeted screening event at the encampment offering rapid Syphilis, HIV and HCV tests; incentives for testing (OA) and veterinary services (also incentive) for residents’ pets at the encampment.  In all, 91 Individuals participated; 78 tested syphilis negative; 3 rapid syphilis test were positive; 1 of 3 was a previously reported syphilis and had been treated.  There were also 7 rapid Hep C test positive (final confirmed result information not available).  One rapid HIV positive was identified, but confirmatory test was negative.  In addition, 18 pets were vaccinated and 6 were signed up for spay/neuter.

The syphilis outbreak among those experiencing homelessness continued throughout 2018.  Alan then pivoted to doing street outreach with a colleague in the streets of Santa Rosa.  He drove around with a supply of rapid syphilis and HIV tests, gift cards, socks, and boxes of Girl Scout cookies.  If the rapid test was positive, he would perform phlebotomy and collect the specimen for a titer and confirmation and drive the client to the health department for evaluation and treatment.  In this second phase of the outreach over 80 new syphilis and a few HIV infections were identified.

For his proactiveness, initiative, creativity and determination is why we consider Alan a public health DIS superhero.


About the Love Superhero Hall of Gratitude

“The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.” David Orr

I deeply admire those who “live well in their places.” The ordinary and the unsung who offer to the world the very best parts of themselves without expectation.

This is a beautiful expression of love in her calm, persistent, generous manner – offering a ripple of change (a metamorphosis) to the world.

Inductees to the Love Superhero Hall of Gratitude are caped in recognition of their contributions to a love-filled world.

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