Cherokee Federal employee and veteran

CNSP employees lend expertise to fight against COVID-19 infections in military

March 16, 2021

Employees with Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs (CNSP) are working to detect emergent infections, like COVID-19, among U.S. military forces and other areas through a contract with the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch's Global Emerging Infection Surveillance (GEIS) section.

GEIS has a laboratory network of hundreds of surveillance sites in more than 30 countries that CNSP helps support in three key ways:

COVID-19 Surveillance & Data Reporting
The CNSP team leads the development, implementation and management of data in COVID-19 surveillance for GEIS. Since February 2020, the GEIS team has coordinated the distribution of RT-PCR reagents to test for COVID-19 in 17 GEIS-supported labs, including support of Naval Fleet operations. The team also coordinates and reports related virus isolation and COVID-19 sequencing of positive samples from Department of Defense (DoD) service members.

Kathleen Creppage is a senior epidemiologist and respiratory focus area portfolio manager with CNSP. Creppage coordinates weekly with GEIS-funded partners to collect and compile the most up-to-date surveillance data on COVID-19 for further analysis.

“The work I do allows me to engage directly with our partners on a routine basis, which is one of my favorite parts of the job,” Creppage says. “GEIS has not collected structured respiratory data in such a way prior to the pandemic, so it’s really exciting to be part of a new initiative that gives us timely insight into COVID-19 across the world.”

Coordinating & Planning COVID-19 Genetic Sequencing
As subject matter experts, CNSP members contribute to informational materials that are distributed to inform GEIS stakeholders such as the DoD COVID-19 Task Force and the Office of the Joint Staff Surgeon. They also contribute to the planning and development of the DoD’s strategy for COVID-19 support.

Alex Woodward, a senior biosurveillance specialist, joins data to translate findings from GEIS projects to DoD decision-makers. Woodward leads the production and dissemination of GEIS’s monthly surveillance update report, which includes a section with COVID-19 surveillance updates.

“I am proud to collaborate with the GEIS partner network to translate infectious disease surveillance data into meaningful forms of communication that aim to inform force health protection,” Woodward says. “Working with the Network throughout this pandemic has given me great insight into how timely, actionable data can drive key decisions.”

Coordinating & Collaborating with the U.S. Government Interagency
CNSP recently represented the DoD on a newly established U.S. Government Interagency Working Group. The goal was to coordinate efforts on COVID-19 sequencing, genomic surveillance data needs, bioinformatics analysis, data sharing and information management. CNSP team members were able to coordinate with partners to provide updates on current activities and assess mutations, including gaps in surveillance capacity, resources and standardized processes needed to rapidly assess and triage mutations of concern as they are identified.

Lindsay Morton, a senior molecular epidemiologist who leads the Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics Consortium (NGSBI), coordinates with DoD experts that are isolating and sequencing the COVID-19 virus. She collects weekly and monthly updates on the number of samples sequenced, including variants.

“I’m proud to be working on genomic epidemiology for SARS-CoV-2 during this time and with our partners in the NGSBI,” Morton says. “It has been incredible to be at the forefront of surveillance for novel SARS-CoV-2 variants within DoD populations in the U.S. and with our international partners. It is very satisfying to see our data being used by the DoD, CDC and others to support pandemic response.”

Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs is a part of Cherokee Federal -- a division of Cherokee Nation Businesses. For more information, visit

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