Public health students reflect on pandemic
As news of the COVID-19 outbreak intensified in early 2020, Gabi Wiggill, a sophomore at Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) at Georgia Southern University, was shaken but ignored the coming international crisis or that his line of study would soon take center stage on an epic scale.
“The pandemic was no fun,” she said first when the University switched to online courses in March. âNone of us yet thought about the devastation the pandemic would cost us in human and economic losses. “
A year later, after months of Zoom courses that explored the various determinants of disease in real-time undergraduate and graduate epidemiology courses during a global health emergency, Professor JPHCOPH, the Dr Jian Zhang, DrPH, asked Wiggill and his peers to reflect on their experiences.
Zhang, who previously worked with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was impressed with their responses. Surprised by the inequalities in health around the world, students were finally compelled to continue their journey in public health after witnessing the selflessness of healthcare workers, the triumph of the human spirit and the expansive possibilities. .
Trent Rundle, senior in Introduction to Global Health, has learned hard lessons about the fragility of life, particularly, he noted, for people living in impoverished communities.
âSome of them were just abandoned during the pandemic,â he said. âSteps must be taken to address these deeply rooted social issues revealed by the pandemic. “
However, the extent of kindness shown around the world maintained his faith in mankind. âThe tough times are also the times when we see who we really are,â Rundle said. “It’s so touching to see neighbors helping each other, sharing food, sharing water, sharing everything they have.”
Margaret Davies, a master’s student in Zhang’s public health surveillance course, was appalled at the political divide created during the pandemic but marveled at the strength of healthcare.
âWe should celebrate our heroic frontline health workers with more than cheers and applause,â she said. âThey sacrificed their lives, like soldiers on the front lines of a battlefield, at the start of the pandemic, when basic safety equipment was critically scarce. “
Therefore, Davies was even more emboldened to pursue a meaningful and impactful career in public health so that she could make a difference in the lives of others as well.
The remarkable power of science has left an impression on sophomore Chris Reyes.
âWhen the pandemic started, I thought I should go to school virtually for two to three years,â he said. âI didn’t think I would have a chance to return to normal college life. It is truly amazing that we can develop, test and administer effective vaccines within a year. Science will get us out of this terrible pandemic. “
In a first-hand learning continuum, 32 JPHCOPH students and 20 faculty and staff volunteered to help Georgia Southern’s robust vaccination efforts, which included COVID-19 vaccine distribution sites on the campus for professors, staff and student populations starting in the spring.
JPHCOPH Dean Stuart Tedders, Ph.D., is proud of the students and faculty, who have taken on the task of teaching in real time during a global public health emergency.
Our students were able to gain real-world experience and had the opportunity to be part of the response, through research, community education and participation in the University’s immunization efforts, âsaid he declared. âWe don’t know when the next pandemic will arrive, but we do know it will. It is our commitment to train future leaders in public health to face challenges head-on, to learn from successes and failures, and to always be better prepared for the next. – MÃ©lanie Simon