From the Front Row: A conversation with Dean Edith Parker

Published on October 22, 2020

 

The following is a transcript of an episode of From the Front Row: Student Voices in Public Health, the University of Iowa College of Public Health’s student podcast. This episode features a conversation between CPH student hosts Oge Chigbo and Luke Sampson and College of Public Health dean and professor Edith Parker. They discuss Dr. Parker’s path to public health, what it’s like being a public health dean during a pandemic, community-based participatory research, social determinants of health, and more.

Oge Chigbo:

Hello, all. And welcome back to From the Front Row. My name is Oge Chigbo.

Luke Sampson:

And I’m Luke Sampson.

Oge Chigbo:

If this is a first time listening to us, welcome. We’re a student-led podcast that discusses issues across the field of public health. Today, we’re joined by our very own dean, Edith Parker, of our College of Public Health. Dean Parker holds her BA from Davidson College, an MPH and doctorate in Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill. She joined us as professor and chair of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in 2010, and was appointed as dean in 2018. Dean Parker, it’s a delight to have you on today to talk to us.

Edith Parker:

Thank you so much, Oge. It’s very nice to be here today. And Luke, thanks so much.

Oge Chigbo:

Our first question, it’s been wonderful having you as a dean of this college and we adore the work and effort you put into ensuring CPH is a safe space for both students and staff to strive and have a steady foundation in the field of public health. Could you tell us about your journey on the road to becoming a dean? So basically what you’ve done in the past and how your life has changed from 10 or 20 years ago. So did you ever picture yourself as a dean?

Edith Parker:

No, absolutely not. In fact, when I kind of came into public health, I didn’t discover until after I had already done my undergrad and I was actually working in teaching overseas in Africa, when I began to run into a lot of people who had actually trained in public health from my own state and sort of began to introduce me to the concept of public health, et cetera. So I came back to get a Masters of Public Health and told everybody there were two things that I wasn’t really interested in. One was research, and one was being a faculty member. I wanted to be a practitioner and go right back out into the field.

Edith Parker:

And then somewhere along the way, I worked with a professor, Dr. [EugeneAne 00:02:07], who brought me in on some of her community based participatory research projects in Mississippi. And I began to see that research can really be [inaudible 00:02:17] issues and really making a difference. And so that got me thinking, maybe I’d like to do a doctorate, but still I was not going to go into the academy. I was just going to maybe work for CDC or UNICEF or something like that. And I’m still not sure what happened, what went wrong, but I ended up applying for a job at Michigan thinking that probably didn’t have much of a chance. I think I had one publication at the time and no postdoc and ended up getting the job and becoming an academic. But even at that time, didn’t think that administration was something that I necessarily wanted to do, or had the skill set to do.

Edith Parker:

But while at Michigan, I was asked to be an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. And by that time I’d sort of grown into doing leadership in some research projects. And so I realized that I really enjoyed kind of helping others to kind of achieve their goals and as associate dean, which focused mostly on student affairs, I really enjoyed working with colleagues to try to enhance the educational experience for our students.

Edith Parker:

And that made me interested in coming to Iowa to be a chair of a department, but still never thinking that I would want to be a dean. But when our former dean stepped down, I thought, maybe I’ll put my hat in the ring and see what happens, thinking that the best case scenario or our worst case, whatever you would want to say is, if somebody else was chosen, that would be fine. If that person was selected that had better qualifications, et cetera, I would benefit from that. But I’d also wanted to put my name in because I really love the college and didn’t want to see somebody I thought that might not do us right in that position, sort of how I kind of got there.

Oge Chigbo:

I’m actually glad that you got there because [crosstalk 00:04:07] that job is me for you. I think so.

Edith Parker:

Thank you. Thank you for that.

Luke Sampson:

In your role as a dean, you have to navigate through many decisions that impact the College of Public Health, students, faculty, and other staff. What do you think is the most challenging part of being a dean that many people may not recognize or understand?

Edith Parker:

Yeah, no, I think that’s a very good and timely question during all this going on this year. I think one of the things that people don’t realize, and I don’t think I did until I became a dean, is how much of your work is behind the scenes, dealing with situations or decisions that are not visible or known to your faculty, staff, or students. And many of them are sensitive, so you can’t really share information or what happened with meetings with UI leadership or what’s been shared there because a lot of those discussions are also confidential. So tell folks, always I’m thinking about our college, but also public health when I’m brought in for discussions around decisions.

Edith Parker:

But I think that the other aspect of the job is there’s so many stakeholders. I think if you’re a student, then you’re obviously thinking about what a student needs, what a student feels and what a student wants. And then faculty have different points of view, but being at a state institution, and being a public institution, then we also have stakeholders throughout the state, the legislature in the regions. So I think balancing all of those doesn’t impact me as much, but certainly impacts our more senior leadership. So I think the COVID example, where I think there probably were decisions made that maybe were influenced by all of our stakeholders, not just those of us in public health, who would say, “We need to do it this way to be the absolute safest.”

Edith Parker:

So I think that another thing is that oftentimes as a dean, you may be working behind the scenes. So people may not know where you’re trying to impact change. So it may not show up in  Twitter, which would be hard because I don’t tweet, we’re working on that, but certainly I’m using kind of venues in ways to sort of impact change and influence that people may not know is happening. And that certainly has been the case in some of the COVID activities and decisions this year, I think.

Luke Sampson:

You say things like having multiple stakeholders to understand and being behind the scenes for a lot of things, that’s kind of your job as a dean is almost like a microcosm of public health writ large, things [crosstalk 00:06:41] that we have to think about all the time.

Edith Parker:

I think it really is. And that since I think you make a really good point, Luke, that it’s not unique to being a dean, it’s what we’ll have to do once we all get out in public health because we’re all going to be dealing with so many constituents. And I think in an election year, but every year I think public health and decisions have become politicized, certainly we’re seeing it in the pandemic. So that adds a whole different angle and a challenge to all that we do, I think.

Luke Sampson:

Absolutely. I cannot agree more. So I think it’s safe to say, as you’ve already kind of mentioned here that you are a champion in the field of community-based participatory research, which emphasizes the active involvement of community members in all aspects of the research process, how do you think this expertise has influenced your role as a dean during a global pandemic?

Edith Parker:

That’s a great question. A couple of things on that. I think one is for me as a dean–let me start first as the field of public health, and maybe some mistakes I think we have made that had we done more of a CBPR approach we may not. There were a lot of criticisms after Ebola breakout about sort of the way that WHO and other international health experts operated in the countries in West Africa that had Ebola, because they come in and say, “You need to do X, Y, and Z” without kind of engaging with communities there to find out what were the cultural norms and practices. And a lot of critiques have said, had they done that, then probably a lot of lives could have been saved and the epidemic could have been sort of stopped much sooner if they partnered with the communities instead of coming in and having a bit more of the expert hat on.

Edith Parker:

And I think that we faced a challenge in public health with COVID in that we know that the nature of evolving research changes, but the average citizen sometimes doesn’t know that. And so I think we haven’t engaged as much as we should to explain the nature of scientific discovery, but also, how it can be somewhat fluid. Like masks, at first we were saying, “Don’t wear because of the scarcity,” then we said “Do wear [them].” There’s been several things like that, as this virus emerges and we learn more about it. But I think had we thought more about engaging people in kind of trying to figure out where they’re coming from, we would have sort of increased the support for what we think are standard best practices in public health. So really taking a more engaged approach.

Edith Parker:

And I think in terms of being dean, what I’ve learned in general, but certainly came in handy in the pandemic is, one, is really the need to solicit the viewpoints of those most affected by the situation in both in seeing how they’re doing, but any decisions that need to be made. And by that I’m thinking I’m sort of narrowed down as me as dean of a college. So throughout this, there’ve been a lot of decisions, some that were kind of given to us by our central administration, some that we were able to enact ourselves such as, we are six feet apart, we have a little [inaudible 00:09:55] kind of modifications to the building in terms of signage, et cetera, that we’ve done above and beyond what the university’s done. And a lot of that I think is in response, realizing that we are public health, and talking to our students, faculty and staff,  that we have to lead by example in that regard.

Edith Parker:

But another is just sort of thinking about what we’ve done in our decisions, in preparation about our college. I decided to have a committee of folks that represented our stakeholders, not so much students, but student services who are daily in touch with those folks. Because the planning happened for the most part when the students were away in early May is when we started thinking about this, but to really kind of ask folks and check in quite often on their new reality. Do they have what they need to be successful? That students’ access to internet, access to computers, how is this going? Faculty that we’ve asked a lot of, to sort of teach and actually in some classes, if they were originally on campus to be also be hybrid in an online for those students who may not be able to be on campus because they are vulnerable or they just decided not to come back. But to make sure also that all of these faculty, students and staff are doing these things at home with children around, pets, et cetera. And so it adds a lot more so as we make decisions that are in our control, how can we really reach out and make sure that we’re making those with people, not to people, or on top of people, so to speak.

Edith Parker:

And I think the second is recognizing that because of social determinants of health and health inequities, that there are always going to be persons that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic as we are seeing now nationally and internationally, but also that this kind of hits home to the college, that there may be decisions we make on how to deliver courses or whether or not to be on campus that may impact folks disproportionally. And it goes both ways. A lot of questions, concerns rightfully about why we didn’t go online, but also some questions and concerns about for some students, we may be a safe haven by being able to be on campus or in dorms because they don’t have adequate housing or safe situations at home. So there’s been a few articles on that, balancing all of this, but making sure that we’re trying to really engage the people who are most impacted by the decisions we make.

Luke Sampson:

I just want to reemphasize something that you said early in that answer, talking about this challenge, especially early on with COVID-19 where have a lot of panic and fear, and it’s very fast moving and doing something as important as community-based participatory research is going to help in the long run, but making sure you have this balance between that fast moving pace, but also understanding and listening to all the constituents. And like you said, using the social determinants of health in that decision making is really important. So I’m glad that you touched on that.

Oge Chigbo:

Yes, that was actually going to really be our next question about social determinants of health, which honestly I think is one of my most interesting topics in public health. And I thank God I came into public health and I could learn about that. So we’re actually pleased to see that talking about associated determinants of health and health disparities is a huge part of your research. So we’re hoping if you could talk to us a little bit more about that concerning your research?

Edith Parker:

Well, prior to coming to Iowa, much of my research was in the area of environmental health, particularly elucidating environmental causes for asthma, and then designing interventions that could sort of improve or alleviate the asthma symptoms for kids. That work was in Detroit, it was community-based participatory research. And I think in that research, oftentimes we think of asthma as a health issue, but my gosh, if there’s ever been one that just says social determinants of health all over it and environmental justice and health inequities, then it is asthma.

Edith Parker:

So I really saw firsthand, the impact of social determinants of health. Issues such as unaffordable housing, unsafe housing, living conditions with all kinds of pests, cockroaches being a huge one. And I think we sometimes… Or let’s say you all are more sophisticated than most people are, but growing up in the South, we lived with cockroaches in and out. And my mother was always horrified because she felt like it was a sign that she wasn’t keeping the house clean. But realizing that if you’re living in an apartment that you don’t own, in one of the multitenant house, and even if you do everything to get rid of the cockroaches, the chances are that they’re going to go to the neighbors and then come back again. And that also a lot of the ways that if you don’t have resources to do integrated pest management, the way you may get rid of cockroaches or mice or whatever that impacts your child’s asthma, may actually be detrimental to your child’s asthma because of the aerosols and say, Raid and things like that, and the chemicals you may use.

Edith Parker:

So I think housing is one example of that, and people’s ability to get safe housing. Our exposure to poor air quality, a lot of ours was working in neighborhoods where there were approximately about 7,500 trucks, diesel trucks would come through this neighborhood every day crossing from the Canadian border into Detroit, that area was deemed to not be in attainment for air quality standards. And yet there was a project that was being proposed by the Michigan Department of Transportation to add intermodal freight transport that may increase the truck traffic by another 7,000 trucks a day. And when we were able to present data that showed that it was already a propound impact of, when the air pollution levels would go up, that you would see a three day lag and then the child’s asthma symptoms would go up. And the answer was, “Well, it’s already not in attainment, so what are more trucks going to do?”

Edith Parker:

Well, we didn’t actually have the research to show or really a dose response at that time. So we still had to sort of double down on some other data we did just to say that that doesn’t quite make logical sense that you’d put more trucks in when you already have a problem. And so I think we were able to address that.

Edith Parker:

But thinking about social determinants of health, for me, it was real education in policy because all of these plans for this intermodal freight transport had been put on the books years before, without community input. And so now it showed up in the community and there was a lot of communities trying to mobilize around that, it took a lot or effort to do that. Whereas if you could get it on the front end and be sort of a little bit more informed about policy as we all should, citizens should always be, regardless of our political affiliation, we should be actively engaged in our communities and what is coming.

Edith Parker:

So I think it was poor air quality, lack of transportation, lack of access to health care, and exposure to really stressful life events. I think one of the saddest things, we had a household intervention and as we were enrolling in the intervention, three children died of asthma at schools. And part of that were school policies around access to inhalers and whether the kids could keep the inhalers with them at the time while they were at schools. And so that was three totally avoidable unnecessarily deaths and [inaudible 00:17:55] spoke to me about all of this, the impact of social determinants of health of children with asthma.

Edith Parker:

So I think when my husband and I moved here and I took the job, we sort of switched the focus more. And I happened to be the PI of the Prevention Research Center, which is CDC funded, where we were working more on rural health and obesity issues around physical activity, but many of those same social determinants of health impact there, of people’s access to healthy foods, we know food deserts are present in rural areas just as they are in urban areas. And so many of those things are across those two contexts and are really important to health outcomes.

Oge Chigbo:

It’s ridiculous how a lot of people, or how in this society, social determinants of health in as much as it plays a huge role, I think one of the biggest roles, honestly, in health outcomes, it’s also belittled at the same time. And it’s not a conversation that people usually have. And I think since I came into public health, I know of social determinants of health and it’s something that I look out for and we’ve been having multiple conversations, but then you come out of public health and no one is really having those conversations also because they are not aware. Or even if we know that, Oh, there are these things affecting our health outcomes, but we don’t know how to really navigate through all those problems because you don’t even know they’re problems or they’re problems you can talk about in the first place.

Oge Chigbo:

And kind of when you talked about doing things without asking the community for what they need, so without adding the community as stakeholders. Even like my own country, I’m from Nigeria, and it’s something that it’s a recurring thing, even right now, there are things going on in my country that I’m going to talk about in a different podcast, hopefully, but we’re seeing more and more people are trying to [inaudible] themselves on the policies that we have. But then again, the way policies are written, I think it’s hard for the average citizen to kind of understand which is where I also think public health we come into, trying to translate all those jargons into things that people can actually read and understand.

Edith Parker:

I think in public health, I hope we do a good job across all departments of making our students think ecologically, in the sense of, you’ve seen the ecological framework where in a lot of times if you’ve seen the figures, I think healthcare contributes to, RWJs figure says healthcare itself and probably contributes maybe 20% of your overall health, like 20 [crosstalk 00:20:49] even less, I think in figures. But that’s where we tend to focus a lot on that individual afterwards and not thinking about what are the upstream social determinants of causes at those other levels in the community or policy being a big driver of that, that if we focused there, we can have much better population outcomes and prevention, I think. So I think you’re right about that.

Luke Sampson:

Yeah, absolutely. And just to kind of add it on to what both of you are talking about, thinking about this from a framework of a gradient and being dynamic in how you work through problems, like you said, maybe something at the community level might be really helpful to go upstream to the policy. It also has to go downstream to each individual and going between those levels is one of the most important aspects of public health. And I’m really glad that you emphasize that and you’ve clearly demonstrated that in your research and what you do for the college. What would you say is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome or are still currently trying to overcome as dean during this pandemic?

Edith Parker:

Thinking as being a dean of any college in this kind of unique time. But I think it’s really trying to keep a sense of community for our students, our staff and our faculty. We’re working remotely, we don’t see each other. We don’t have those hallway conversations where I can stop and say, “Hey, Luke, how’s it going?” And you can say, “Well, I just had four exams and two papers and I’m exhausted.” And I could buy you a cup of coffee at the snack bar. But along with those, I think is, and we touched on this before, is with those I’m worried about all of our mental health. I’m worried about all of the stress that we’re under, not only from the pandemic, but we have what was going on before. And then we have all of the events of the pandemic that have disrupted the way we do things. We’re sitting at a screen, we’re not moving as much as we used to.

Edith Parker:

I think many of our students, our faculty and staff may have family members who’ve been disproportionately impacted either because they got COVID, some of them because they know people who died from COVID, many of them who maybe they had loved ones or friends who lost their jobs. So it sort of reached into every aspect of our life. And so we have been trying to find ways to make sure that we’re communicating often and trying to let people know, “You’ve got to let us know if there’s anything we can do to make life easier.” So I encourage you to, and anybody who’s listening, to please keep letting us know what you need and how we can best support you in this time.

Edith Parker:

Because I think, realistically, we don’t have a vaccine. I don’t know when we’ll have one. And when we do have one that seems promising, then there’s going to have to be the ramp up and the prioritization. So I think we probably will still be online for the Spring semester I imagine, I know we haven’t heard that officially, but we’re leaning that way and we’ll have to [inaudible 00:24:00] online or hybrid. And as you may know, we have tried as much as possible to de-densify our building by having people work from home if they can do so. And so I think we’re going to have to try to keep making those decisions as prudent as we can for everybody’s health. But all of that I think has implications for how we normally operate and the kind of interactions we have that I think are so important for us and our sense of community.

Luke Sampson:

Absolutely. I cannot agree more and I’ll be the first to tell you that I think you’ve done a wonderful job trying to keep that community. I know from a personal perspective, I was a little bit worried about that aspect of it because that’s something that I think I can speak for myself and for probably many others, that the thing that makes our college really unique and really special for a lot of people is the sense of community and not having that can be difficult, whether it be with collaboration in education or with strictly social characteristics, so.

Edith Parker:

Well, I’ve said often I think I owe a lot of meals to a lot of people. We didn’t have our Fall picnic or our food trucks, so that, and there’ve been several events where I’ve had to say to people, “Put it on the IOU list.’” So it’s getting pretty long. So it’ll be lot of meals when we come out of this.

Oge Chigbo:

We know you’ll come through.

Edith Parker:

Well, I hope so. I hope so. Here’s another interesting thing is just, I’ve talked to other deans of public health and I think this is another sort of obstacle. And I think for all of us to realize that we have to keep saying here we are in a public health pandemic. And I think that oftentimes our voice has not been heard as much on campuses or states or national efforts of what we should do. Example being, I think I’ve had a lot of talks about testing, testing strategies, and there are a lot of new tests coming out, a lot of them have emergency use authorizations from FDA. Some are not as sensitive or specific as the gold standard, which is the PCR nasopharyngeal test, yet some of them seem to be promising.

Edith Parker:

And then also, I just had an aha moment when I was talking to a dean. I think some of the kind of reluctance of particularly clinicians or folks in medicine to rely on this is that they’re thinking about clinical care where you have to be absolutely sure that it’s 100% specificity and 100% sensitive. We in public health, because we’re thinking populations, may say, “Okay, I’ll take little bit less sensitivity and a little bit of specificity because I’m trying to get a picture of a whole population, not this one individual right here in front of me that I have to treat.” And I think that’s something that I’ve realized I need to reorient my messaging around to others is to sort of really make that point across because it just occurred to me, it’s a clash, I think of sort of cultures and ways of thinking about things that I had not thought about until I just had a conversation with a few deans at other schools of public health who were facing similar situations.

Oge Chigbo:

What do you think is the most pressing issue in your field of expertise that you want to address in your career?

Edith Parker:

I think one of the pressing problems is the lack of funding for prevention in both practice and in research. One of the ways this manifests itself, say for example, I’m in community and behavioral health, so we’re trying to find ways to help folks live the healthiest life possible, which oftentimes involves what we know are healthy behaviors. But to do that, not in a way necessarily where you say “You must do this” because that never works, well it might in a small percent of the population, but really to think about using all the levers as Luke was saying of everything from policy to community, to social networks that we have that may influence our behavior.

Edith Parker:

And yet if you think about it, and if you look at the figures of where funding goes, say for cancer, which is a non-communicable disease, there’s estimates that behaviors contribute maybe to more than 40% of the incidents, but the funding for behavioral prevention can be less than 5% of the research budget. Now, [inaudible 00:28:31] how you define that in NIH, sometimes it gets larger for pure behavioral interventions.

Edith Parker:

And then I read a stat the other day that really, boy, impressed me and maybe not in a positive way, and that is that thinking about COVID-19 research. And probably, this was a scan that was done back in maybe April and I think it came out in May, then this was worldwide that they were looking at what research had been funded around COVID-19 and they found that there were 975 registered clinical trials, 46 had reported results, those were drug trials. But only six registered trials looking at behavioral, environmental, social systems interventions and only one reported.

Edith Parker:

And why I think this is important is that I happened to be watching 60 Minutes the other night when they were talking about vaccines. In the very end, they asked somebody about a vaccine, if one came out, I think the question was, “Would you still wear a mask?” And they were like, “Oh yeah.” The single most important thing that we’re finding right now is probably wearing a mask, if there was one magic bullet. Of course, we also want to social distance and we know the message. And so we’ve had this discussion with the Research Council for the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, with the deans, I’m on a research committee there, about how, even in NIH is disproportionally for drug discovery or development or basic sciences, which don’t get me wrong, that’s crucial. What we know about, back to the RWJ reference I made of what really creates health and a lot of it is social determinants of health, which directly affect health, and also directly influence behaviors and behaviors influence health.

Edith Parker:

So if we could sort of, kind of change our narrative, and that’s not only in research, but in practice, we’re seeing it now, we were not prepared with the amount of public health on the ground staff to be able to do contact tracing, to be able to keep stats fresh and accurate and updated, et cetera. So I think those are two areas that I think are really crucial and incumbent upon folks such as me, but all of us to talk to our policy makers and say, we need a basic and a strongly supported public health, because it really does impact us all. It’s not one person, it’s all of us, and we would all benefit from that.

Luke Sampson:

I think the one thing that I am hoping a positive thing to come out of this pandemic is just people understanding what public health is, what we do. And then, like you said, making that translation to policy and funding, having a broader and more grounded public health infrastructure for the future, as we’ve seen with other situations. For example, I believe it was after 9/11, there was a lot of funding pushed towards public health. And then as they do their job, this is something we talk about all the time, as public health works in the background and things don’t happen, it’s easy to say, “Oh, well, we can take a little from here, take a little from here.” And slowly you find yourself in a very vulnerable situation if something like a global pandemic happens. And I hope that the one thing from this will be that people broad scale, but like you said, policy makers will understand the importance of having a robust infrastructure in public health.

Oge Chigbo:

Yeah. Bottom-top approach, instead of always a top-bottom approach. Sometimes you don’t know what they need. And as we’ve seen this year, a lot of things have happened so far in 2020, and it still keeps on happening. And it’s not just a 2020 thing, it’s been happening over the years where people keep on speaking, saying what they need over and over again but no one is listening. And there’s just so much you can say, and if nothing is done at the top, then nothing is done. Yeah. So I just think, I don’t know, because most times you see that like protests happening everywhere around the world, people get frustrated, people come out, do what they can and then nothing is being done. That’s something I can never really wrap my head around. I think in public health we try, but then again, without the funding there’s only so much we can do.

Edith Parker:

Well, there’s been quite a lot written in… What is it? Public Health 3.0, I think is what… And you have probably studied that about… And I think it’s one thing that we probably haven’t done as well… Maybe I should say I probably haven’t also, but as a field, I think, and that is reaching out to other sectors because it’s sort of been, “This is what we do, and this is our responsibility.” But as the resources have gone away, I think it is incumbent on us to sort of remind and there’s some good models in the college, like our Healthier Workforce Center, of reminding employers that we’re here as a resource for you, let’s work together to establish not only health protection and safety at work sites, but also health promotion of how you can make your workforce, help them to be more healthy, which then of course can help with your bottom line to have productivity.

Edith Parker:

So I think there’s a lot of push and maybe a lot more that we need to start doing. And I think you two and your classmates are the perfect group to sort of start to rethink it.

Oge Chigbo:

Yeah. Public health as a chief health strategist.

Edith Parker:

Yes, exactly.

Oge Chigbo:

Yes. [crosstalk 00:34:14] so far, then we find ourselves with some key stakeholders who also have revenue, I guess, and then make it happen for ourselves.

Edith Parker:

Yes, exactly.

Oge Chigbo:

One of my favorite activists said, “We own the government, they work for us.”

Edith Parker:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that’s true. And I think sometimes we kind of forget that, that we are their bosses.

Luke Sampson:

We have one last question for you. What is one thing that you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Edith Parker:

I don’t think we have enough time on this podcast to… Particularly thinking about our discussion about the emerging nature of science and anytime when we were doing data, and then we’re thinking we’ve got this, and then we find out later that maybe that was not the case.

Edith Parker:

But I think I’m going to take this a little bit different because sort of thinking about early in my career, and I think one of the things when I was a newly minted faculty member was that I was always, I think, oftentimes kind of reluctant to speak up unless I thought I was a 100% sure that the answer was right. And now as with age comes wisdom, maybe, maybe not, but realizing that A, I lost a lot of opportunity for good dialogue. B, I also realized I would beat myself up if I said something that I felt was not the most brilliant in the world. And then only to realize that that’s kind of the price of doing business in the world.

Edith Parker:

And so I think that what I kind of realized much later is that it’s okay to be wrong about something. We’re never right all the time. It’s not okay to be wrong about something and not change in the face of evidence that you’re not right about that, but I think it’s also okay to sort of learn and change your mind. I think I was at Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Foolish consistencies are the hobgoblins of little minds.” And I think that’s something to sort of think as you grow in your career and as a professional, that don’t worry that you might not always have the right answer because that’s part of learning. And took me years later when a colleague said, when you’re a newly minted doctoral student, you think that you’re supposed to know everything, but you’re just sort of at the start of your trajectory. And I think that’s true. We give you I hope, a really good education, but we can’t teach you everything. And so you’re going to learn on the way, but get out there, explore, and don’t be shy about speaking up.

Oge Chigbo:

Thank you. That was great advice.

Luke Sampson:

Yeah. Thank you.

Oge Chigbo:

[crosstalk 00:36:57] imperfect is the enemy of good.

Edith Parker:

Yes, exactly. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Oge Chigbo:

Yeah. Wow. Thank you.

Edith Parker:

Well, thank you. Thank you both so much. This has been wonderful. I enjoyed our conversation. Great questions and great comments from you guys.

Luke Sampson:

That’s it for our show. Thanks to Dean Parker for coming on to chat with us. Today’s episode was hosted and written by Oge Chigbo and Luke Sampson.

Oge Chigbo:

This episode was edited and produced by Steve Sonnier. You can find us on iTunes, Spotify, and Apple Podcast as the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

Luke Sampson:

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your colleagues. You can reach out to our team at cph-gradambassador@uiowa.edu That’s C-P-H-G-R-A-D-A-M-B-A-S-S-A-D-O-R@-U-I-O-W-A.E-D-U

Oge Chigbo:

Thanks again for everyone for tuning in this week, we hope you stay safe and healthy out there. See you next week.