|Practice Pathways PHield Trip instructs, motivates first-year students|
|September 22, 2011|
When incoming master's students at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health stepped outside the classroom to visit a local health department during the first week of classes, they expected to learn about public health work at the county level. They expected to meet public health leaders and interact with other first-year students.
The Practice Pathways PHield Trip to the Orange County (N.C.) Health Department on Aug. 26 was an idea conceived by Anna Schenck, PhD, associate dean for practice at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH), an initiative of the School.
"My thought was that if students could visit a local health department and experience public health in action, they might be more interested in practica and internship experiences in state and local public health departments," Schenck said.
Janet Place, MPH, and her colleagues at the Southeast Public Health Training Center (administered by NCIPH) organized the event. Place is a workforce development specialist with NCIPH and director of the training center. The training center covered the cost of the tour bus and lunch.
In Hillsborough, the students learned how a public health department is structured. They saw a presentation by interim director Dorothy Cilenti, DrPH, about public health issues within counties and communities, learned about programs and solutions used to address public health issues and toured a health clinic. Cilenti also serves as deputy director for NCIPH. And then there was the scavenger hunt. Small groups of up to eight students were teamed with local health department staff members and given a list of public health items to find, including restaurant sanitation scores, the most littered item in America (cigarette butts) and health clinic service hours. Students also were asked to take photographs of items that represent public health as part of the "This is Public Health" campaign organized by the Association of Schools of Public Health. The winning team won backpacks filled with emergency preparedness supplies.
Nidhi Sachdeva, MPH, Healthy Carolinians coordinator for the Orange County Health Department and alumna of the School's Department of Health Behavior and Health Education (2007), planned the scavenger hunt with other department staff members. She said she remembers her eagerness to learn "everything public health" when she was a student.
"The students discovered that public health really is everywhere and that health department responsibilities range from community outreach to clinical services to environmental and food safety and beyond," Sachdeva said.
"This was a great way to end my first week," said Sara Zizzo, first-year master's student in maternal and child health. "There's something about the combination of lectures, panel discussion and getting out in the community, especially as a new member to the community."
Prior to their arrival in Hillsborough, the students attended a morning panel of speakers from North Carolina's Division of Public Health: Jeffrey P. Engel, MD, state health director; Danny Staley, MPH, deputy director and chief operation officer; and Chris Hoke, JD, chief of the Office of Regulatory and Legal Affairs. The panel was moderated by Dennis Harrington, MPH, former deputy director and currently a senior consultant for NCIPH.
"The topic was how state and local public health departments work together," said Harrington, who also served as tour guide on the bus trip to Hillsborough. "The students asked super questions. One asked how departments can do all they do with funding cuts and the economic climate."
Harrington said that while all health departments offer eight to ten core services, each health department across the state is unique based on county needs, funding streams and the influence of county governments and local boards of health.
"Public health practitioners are some of the hardest working people you'll ever find," he said. "It's not a profession; it's a mission."
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|Last updated September 23, 2011|