The Busiest Two Years in Public Health
Nov 30, 2021 10:00 AM
I had big plans for my first two years in Utah. As the newly appointed Division Chief for the department, I had a number of goals and ambitions—people to meet, programs to begin, staff and faculty to get to know.
Clear back in February 2020, I couldn’t have known that I would have barely two weeks in role before the COVID-19 pandemic would rewrite all my expectations. Suddenly, meetings and classes shifted online, travel limitations shuttered conferences and outreach programs, and everyone had to begin the hard work of adjusting to a demanding and confusing new environment. Public Health’s faculty and researchers had to quickly shift their activities, some joining the fight against COVID-19 and others innovating ways to maintain their important research in the era of social distancing. Students had to demonstrate increased resiliency and commitment as we struggled with online instruction and the challenge of practicums. And our staff had to navigate the challenges of working from home while keeping the program running smoothly.
The challenges and surprises we have gone through in our division during COVID-19 are similar to the challenges being faced by people all across the world. However, our division has had the advantage of understanding the importance of public response to our public crisis. I have been gratified by the way that everyone at the Division of Public Health, from students to staff to faculty to leadership, has shown a commitment to the principles of good public hygiene and a community-minded spirit.
Even though the past two years have been full of surprises and unexpected complications, it has also provided an opportunity for our public health workers and researchers to do what they do best. The list of our successes and achievements over the pandemic thus far are almost too numerous to mention, from the thousands of community health worker masks our community engagement committee helped sew and deliver, to the groundbreaking research from our faculty on the impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented groups, to the tireless work of our army of contact tracers who supplement Utah’s efforts to understand and contain the spread of the coronavirus. These moments, among so many others, show the scope of our division’s impact and the power of our ability to provide the public with vital information and reasonable solutions to the health problems we face.
Public health is often about balancing our expectations in the light of unexpected, challenging situations. The power of public health is in its very ability to respond and react to new circumstances, learn from them, and then to create better situations. Although my perspective at the close of 2021 may be significantly different from what it might have been had the COVID-19 pandemic never happened, I can honestly say that our division is stronger and better for being required to adapt to changed circumstances. I look forward to what this spirit of innovation, resilience, and commitment will build as we look forward to 2022.The grant will fund the development and implementation of a continuing education certificate program in biological and infectious agent health and safety as well as two academic courses: a research-oriented course and a field practitioner course that will focus on emerging technologies in the field. The academic courses will be offered collaboratively, allowing Utah students the opportunity to learn cutting-edge technological solutions to biological and infectious agent hazards from faculty across the country.