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UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Professor Recognized for COVID-19-Related Service

Award-Winning Los Angeles County COVID-19 Predictive Modeling Team Included UCLA Biostatistics Professor Dr. Thomas R. Belin

Tuesday, November 23, 2021


Thomas R. Belin

Dr. Thomas R. Belin, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor and vice chair of biostatistics, has been recognized for his service on Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 Predictive Modeling Team with the County’s “Gold Eagle Award.”

“We assembled a multi-disciplinary team of collaborators from both within and beyond the county to develop a statistical forecasting model,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which operates four public hospitals and 23 outpatient clinics. “These forecasts allowed the Department of Health Services to provide the public and news media with timely and accurate information.”

The team developed a system for collecting daily data from all the 911-receiving hospitals in the county regarding acute COVID-19-related hospitalizations; that data was used to predict hospitalizations demand for acute care beds, demand for ICU resources, and deaths related to COVID-19.

Belin was joined on the team by colleagues Dr. Andrea Bertozzi (UCLA Department of Mathematics) and Dr. Rick Schoenberg (UCLA Department of Statistics). The 'Gold Eagle Award' given to the interdisciplinary group of health professionals was one of two such accolades among this year's Top Ten award winners recognized by L.A. County's Quality and Productivity Commission.

“Amidst an ever-evolving mix of uncertainties, the Los Angeles County professionals were happy to have the statistical modeling expertise that Rick Schoenberg, Andrea Bertozzi, and I brought from UCLA,” Belin said. “It was an honor and a privilege to be included, and I was enormously impressed with the front-line medical staff and public-health professionals--many of them UCLA-trained--who were leading L.A. County's COVID-19 response."

The team provided weekly updates on hospital demand in Los Angeles County, which with some 10 million people is larger than 40 U.S. states. The county has recorded an overall virus-related death toll of 26,949, with a cumulative pandemic total of 1,515,324 reported cases.

“The model served as an early warning system for upticks in disease activity, and correctly predicted the fall, 2020, and winter, 2021, surge,” Ghaly said. “The model was predictive, and was consistently proved correct …we believe that the mitigation strategies made possible by accurate model forecasting reduced death and suffering related to the pandemic in Los Angeles County.”

The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.