By Katarina Fiorentino, B.H.S. Communication Sciences and Disorders ’21
Cindy Prins, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of epidemiology and epidemiology Ph.D. program director at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, hopped on a Zoom call with the judges of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in September. When she logged on, she wasn’t expecting the panel of judges that greeted her or the donation made in her honor to a UF scholarship fund by the lawyers and judges of the Middle District of Florida through the Middle District’s Bench Bar Fund.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Prins volunteered her expertise in public health and epidemiology for the Middle District of Florida, one of the country’s 94 United States District Courts. Her communications were integral in informing response efforts and health safety measures for the court at the height of the pandemic.
“When everything was topsy-turvy — to mask or not to mask, to plexiglass or not to plexiglass, fake hand sanitizer or real sanitizer, delta/omicron/beta — one constant was an email from Dr. Prins every Saturday with the latest fact-based analysis,” said Judge Mary S. Scriven in remarks on behalf of the Middle District judges during the Zoom meeting.
“It was funny, I think anytime you are invited to appear in a Zoom judges meeting, it’s going to be a bit intimidating,” Prins said. “I got on the Zoom meeting, and it was lovely. The judges all gathered together, and Judge Scriven thanked me; they had a nice big novelty check they were holding with the donation on it. I was really humbled.”
Prior to her service to the Middle District, Prins directed the Master of Public Health program at UF. When the pandemic hit, she shifted her focus to front line efforts, working as the infection preventionist for the UF Health Screen, Test and Protect program, where she managed infection prevention and campus safety initiatives. In her work with the Middle District, Prins made recommendations on a myriad of COVID-19 related topics, including how the court could navigate a safe return to in-person jury trials and other court proceedings. Additionally, she aided the court with COVID-19 protocols, analyzed pandemic data for counties within the Middle District, and coordinated a Zoom town hall meeting where employees could ask questions and receive COVID-19 related guidance.
“In a world where it sometimes seems that everything is transactional — quid pro quo, as it were — Dr. Prins has flatly declined to accept any remuneration for her invaluable service,” Judge Scriven said.
Prins said she didn’t feel right accepting compensation for her services. She wanted to share her knowledge with the intention of supporting public welfare during an unprecedented time.
“I helped a couple of other government organizations during the pandemic, and for me, I felt it was a civic duty to help these folks (at the Middle District) to continue to be able to do their job and protect people within the court system,” Prins explained.
Prins designated the $5,000 gift to the UF Master of Public Health Scholarship Fund. This fund directly benefits students pursuing their M.P.H. degree at PHHP. The impact of Prins’ service, and this donation, will provide long-lasting benefits to students training to be the next leaders in public health.
“The M.P.H. program is very dear to my heart, especially as I had completed my own Master of Public Health at UF. It was important to me that the funds go toward scholarships for students,” Prins said. “I chose M.P.H. because it’s an applied program, so these are the students who are going to wind up on the front lines, responding to pandemics and working with communities. I wanted to support that for the future.”
Visit the UF Advancement website to make a gift to the Master of Public Health Scholarship Fund.