One day, a message popped up on the computer screen of Nicole Iovine, M.D., Ph.D.: At UF Health Shands Hospital, the microbiology lab detected anthrax.
Then another message popped up: plague. Then, a third: a serious infectious disease called tularemia.
Her heart dropped for a second — but then logic kicked in. There couldn’t be three such dangerous infections in the hospital at the same time. This was just a test.
She was right.
The three notifications were test alerts generated by the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory to make sure the Safety Surveillor System was working correctly.
Iovine and her team created a series of alerts so that she is notified when highly resistant infections and diseases that don’t occur frequently but are high-risk — such as anthrax — enter the hospital.
“Periodically, we’ll have test runs. The microbiologists will put into our automated safety surveillance system that we have certain diseases, just to make sure it works,” Iovine said.
Keeping tabs on these infections plays into another part of Iovine’s job as co-director of the Antimicrobial Management Program, which oversees the use of antimicrobial medications in the hospital. Her teammates include co-director Kartik Cherabuddi, M.D., Kenneth P. Klinker, Pharm.D., and Samuel J. Borgert, Pharm.D.
While Iovine is a practicing physician — she sees patients several weeks each year — much of her job entails keeping watch over the health of the hospital environment. Iovine was recently named the hospital’s epidemiologist.
“When I went to med school, I didn’t go because I thought I was going to be in epidemiology. I went to medical school to become a doctor because I wanted to take care of patients,” Iovine said. “But in this role, I can, in effect, impact the health of a lot of people, and I think that’s really cool.”