How should internet service providers keep their employees safe from COVID-19? When should a retail warehouse close? Would earlier closing times help big-box stores better protect customers and store associates?
These are questions that Tista Ghosh ’99 helps answer. Ghosh is the senior director of impact evaluation for Grand Rounds, a digital health firm that helps large employers improve and protect their employees’ health. And since February, she’s headed up Grand Rounds’ epidemiologic response effort.
Ghosh leads the team that advises Fortune 500 companies across a range of industries — including retail, manufacturing, technology, communications and entertainment, and banking and finance — on how to keep their operations running as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working across all 50 states, Ghosh is leading a multifaceted effort to protect critical business and infrastructure.
Considerations and Recommendations
“I’m directing one team to constantly stay on top of the latest clinical studies, and then another team is monitoring the guidance coming from each state’s government,” Ghosh says. “I have a group keeping track of personal protective equipment supplies and hospitalization capacity across the U.S., and I’m also making sure our data scientists have what they need to do their predictive modeling work.”
All of this information feeds into the business-planning recommendations Ghosh and her colleagues provide to large employers. Ghosh is careful to note, however, that the recommendations are as varied as the considerations that go into them.
“Let's say you’re a critical infrastructure worker who can’t maintain 6 feet of distance from others because you’re working with a team to make sure that power lines are in place,” Ghosh says. “Keeping those people safe requires different steps and precautions than we would recommend for others who are able to socially distance while doing their jobs.”
A Career of New Challenges
While much of the current crisis is unprecedented, Ghosh is no stranger to addressing new and previously unknown challenges. After graduating from Northwestern with a degree in biology from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Ghosh went on to medical school at Indiana University and subsequently earned a master’s in public health from Yale University.
As an epidemic intelligence officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ghosh tracked outbreaks before moving on to work in a local health department in Colorado.
“I was in that department when H1N1 came, and fortunately, we had a vaccine by the second wave of that pandemic,” Ghosh says. “I led the vaccination efforts for 60,000 people in six weeks, and I learned a ton, not only on the scientific side, but also how to get things moving on a broad scale very quickly.”
That experience would come in handy a few years later, when Colorado became the first state to legalize marijuana, and Ghosh was placed in charge of creating a public health plan from whole cloth.
“No one had ever had to do this before,” Ghosh says. “There was no national plan we could draw from when it came to labeling, safe packaging, dosing restrictions. We worked really quickly to keep people safe, and the Colorado legislature relied on our guidance to create laws governing serving size and childproof packaging.”
Ghosh would soon go on to become Colorado’s chief medical officer — the first woman to hold the position.
Public Health, Private Sector
The decision to move to the private sector was not an easy one for Ghosh, but her work at Grand Rounds has been immensely fulfilling.
“I’ve been able to use my public health background and really marry it with digital technology for the greater good,” she says.
Victoria Khamsombath, senior manager of corporate communications at Grand Rounds, certainly appreciates Ghosh’s expertise and work ethic.
“Tista is an extremely dedicated colleague, navigating the challenges of her day-to-day while also extending herself to other company efforts beyond her own duties,” Khamsombath says. “COVID-19 has left us with so many questions, and Tista has helped many — both within our company and among our customers and partners — navigate the clinical unknowns, providing easy-to-understand and reliable perspectives on this novel disease.”
What’s more, Ghosh believes the private sector has a key role to play in addressing the current crisis.
“Companies are stepping up,” she says. “Appliance companies are now making ventilators. The fashion industry is making masks. Companies are donating supplies and expanding virtual access to care. I haven't seen this level of private-sector involvement before, and it really makes me hopeful.”