News

From the Front Row: Celebrating the 100th episode and the student podcasting experience

Published on March 12, 2021

This week, we’re so pleased to celebrate the 100th episode of “From the Front Row.” We bring back former hosts Ian and Hailey to chat with our current crew about their podcasting experiences. They share what stood out to them in their interviews with public health experts, what they’ve learned about themselves, and discuss their favorite episodes.

Stevland Sonnier:

Hello, and welcome back to From the Front Row. My name is Stevland Sonnier, and if this is your first time with us welcome. We’re a student run podcast that talks about major issues in public health and how they are relevant to anyone, both in and out of the field of public health. Today, we’re excited to welcome two of our podcasts and CPH alums, Ian Buchta and Hailey Boudreau to celebrate their accomplishments and the accomplishments of our team over the past few years. We’re going to be reflecting on how From the Front Row has shaped their experiences and our own across the field of public health and enjoy our 100th episode. Ian and Hailey, welcome to the show, guys.

Ian Buchta:

Thanks for having us on.

Hailey Boudreau:

Thank you. I’m excited.

Stevland Sonnier:

If you both want to start out briefly, what was your major while at the College of Public Health and what are you guys up to now? Ian, if you want to tee us off?

Ian Buchta:

Yes, so I studied a Master’s of Epidemiology while I was at the University of Iowa. And now I am a temporary epidemiologist with Salt Lake County Health Department in the Bureau of Epidemiology, and I work on COVID.

Stevland Sonnier:

Perfect, and Hailey.

Hailey Boudreau:

Yeah, I got my Master’s in Public Health, in the Community and Behavioral Health Department at the University of Iowa, and now I work for the Iowa Department of Public Health as a community health consultant, and I manage a program called Fresh Conversations, which is a nutrition and physical activity education program for older adults, which is within the SNAP-Ed Program.

Stevland Sonnier:

Perfect, all. Looking back at From the Front Row, the podcast has really been an excellent vehicle for all of us to learn about public health, about podcasting, and what we’re all looking to accomplish across the field of public health as a whole. If we could go from everyone’s perspective, what have you really learned while you’re doing this podcast? Is it about something personal for yourself or with your professional life? What have you taken away as being part of the From the Front Row team? And we’ll start off with, Oge, first.

Oge Chigbo:

I remember first when I first started this pod or when I first joined the team and the question you asked me was what are you trying to get out of it? I definitely said just trying to speak to professionals and get comfortable, which even just speaking in general. I would say that’s definitely something that I think I’ve gotten out from this podcast, and I’m very grateful for because now I started my whole networking process. And whenever I tried to talk to someone, and then they’re like, “You seemed very comfortable. Are you sure this is your first time?” I’m like, “Yes.”

Oge Chigbo:

Well, at the same time, I’ve had a lot of training over the years that now I’m not so much intimidated by the name. I’m just like, “Give me the interview. I’ll be fine. I’ll be perfect. Just talk to me, you’ll love me,” that kind of thing. And it’s definitely made me more comfortable talking about public health issues with just anyone, to be honest. I can actually sit down and you just ask me, “Oh, what are you studying?” And then they go off on this tangent, and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I do a podcast, and I also [inaudible 00:03:06].” I know stuff and I just want to talk all the time. So, I think that’s one thing I loved about this.

Stevland Sonnier:

That’s excellent to hear all that passion and that confidence and see that come to fruition. Alex, on your end, what is something that you’ve learned along the way as part of the podcast?

Alex Murra:

Yeah. I can definitely echo a lot of what Oge has talked about. I think when I first came on this too, I’m naturally a shy person. So I was like, “Oh, well this is going to be very out of my comfort zone, but I want to try and take this chance,” because I’d always enjoyed listening to podcasts and everything. So, I was like, “I want to see what’s on the other end.” I think that I definitely have realized that professionals aren’t as scary as I might’ve actually thought they originally were. Just because you have some type of doctoral or master’s series of letters after your name you’re very willing to talk to me. So I’ve been surprised at the responsiveness of people. I’ve also been surprised with my own ability to be able to talk about public health and to be able to carry on conversations. I’m no longer afraid of interviews. I think being on the other side as the person directing the interview has helped a lot too.

Stevland Sonnier:

That’s great to hear too, especially that part about having a series of letters after your name. It can seem intimidating at first, but then when you get the conversation going, it’s fantastic to be able to drive about all this wonderful public health knowledge that we get to talk about on our podcast. Ian, in the hot seat, what is something that you’ve learned on your end when doing the podcast as a whole?

Ian Buchta:

I think the thing I learned was that it was really hard. I used to work as a scientific educator before I went to the University of Iowa. It’s easy to talk to someone when you’re in the room with them, but I think it was definitely a challenge of trying to build something that could move people’s perceptions of public health because this was three years ago when I was thinking about going back to grad school, and when I was telling people… This isn’t the case anymore, but when you tell people three years ago, “Oh, yeah, I want to do epidemiology.” People say, “Bless you.” They have no idea what that is. I mean, that’s not as much of a problem anymore. People have a better perception that yes, infectious disease still matters, but I don’t think the average person knew that three years ago.

Ian Buchta:

And so, one, building a platform that we can all share our experiences in public health. But for me, especially like getting out ideas in infectious disease and epidemiology was really tough at the beginning. Podcasting is really, really hard. I think the biggest thing was can I build something, and can we build something that will last beyond my tenure, and the fact that you all are still turning out great episodes is really awesome. I think that’s what I learned that you can have an idea and take it to fruition, even if it is really hard.

Stevland Sonnier:

I agree. A lot of work goes into our production of the weekly podcast side of things and coming up with new episodes, coming up with interesting guests, and this whole production as a whole, it really can be summed up in our team effort. It’s fantastic to see the tenure of this podcast as a whole and what we’ve been able to produce.

Ian Buchta:

Adding one more thing. I think the other thing I learned, and this is far more important than everything I’ve just said was when to get out of the way. I think one of the… And this might jump ahead a little bit. One of the absolute best podcasts was over the summer, the Racing Through Roots of Diversity, and Oge said, “Hey, I have an idea for a podcast.” And over the course of having worked with all of you brilliant people, I learned that sometimes you just need to say, “Yeah, you do your thing and I’ll edit it, and I’m not going to really touch it much. I’m just going to clean it up a little bit.” And it turned into one of the absolute best episodes, and I think the most listened to episodes that we ever had. It was learning that, oh, you can trust the team because they’re brilliant too was really an important step as well. And that’s the other thing that I learned from the podcast.

Stevland Sonnier:

I think it’s great to see that too. And the management side of things a little bit where you’re trying to see where the next steps are with the team and cultivating those great ideas and then giving people the opportunity to do so. We’ve had so many excellent pitches for this podcast for many of our team members here, and it’s exciting to see them come to fruition from so many different areas. Alexis, on your end, what’s something that you’ve learned along the way as being part of the podcast team?

Alexis Clark:

Yeah. So, I think one of the most difficult parts of coming into this was the ability to actively listen when someone’s speaking to you because at first I feel like I was struggling because I was so focused on my next question that I wasn’t really engaging with the guests. So, I was missing such an opportunity to connect on a deeper level that I think the more podcasts I’m part of the more comfortable I get. So I think just that opportunity to increase not only my comfortability with speaking to professionals, but also to just gain that active listening skills while being a part of such a great initiative.

Stevland Sonnier:

There’s definitely that first little bit where you’re trying to figure out where you’re at in the podcast flow of things, especially when you’re on the training wheels side of things it’s a lot of just reading through the questions and then eventually you develop that flow, that conversational style, and that is just a tremendous skill set to have. Luke, on your end, what’s something that you’ve learned or taken away from the podcast?

Luke Sampson:

So, I’ll try not to be too redundant because I was going to say a lot of similar things to what others have said as far as being able to talk to professionals, and breaking down that barrier of those letters after their name, like you said, but I think probably the coolest thing that I’ve learned is that prior to doing the podcast, I would have a lot of really interesting conversations with family and friends about public health because I was the only person around me that knew about this.

Luke Sampson:

So, every time I talked to somebody I had to give them, first, baseline knowledge. Second, tell them what I’m interested in. All of these different things and talk about current issues in public health that I was interested in and things like that. And it was really cool to realize that because I would say that I’m a relatively talkative person in private, but I’ve never really been publicly conversational. And it was really exciting to see the translation from, oh, I can have these conversations with my friends and family, but I can also have these conversations with professionals.

Stevland Sonnier:

It’s definitely a big leap into that professional setting side of things and feeling so comfortable with talking with these guests who are at the top of the game. They’re experts in these areas. And once you have that repertoire, that established rapport going back and forth with folks, it’s just tremendous to be a part of. Emma, on your end, what’s something that you’ve learned along the way while being part of the podcast for these years?

Emma Meador:

Yeah, I would just say in addition to everything that everyone else has said really just being able to communicate public health news, information, and statistics just because in class we learn about all of it and we learn the logistics of it, but we don’t really learn how to communicate that to peers, professionals, and people that don’t really understand public health. So, I think that’s probably been my biggest thing I’ve learned. And then also not only talking to professionals, but learning how to getting background knowledge on them and just researching the professional themselves and what they study so you can come in with good questions catered towards them, so you can have a good conversation. So, I would say that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned, too.

Stevland Sonnier:

Yeah. Again, another really amazing skill, right? We talk about the academic side of things and you’re trained one way then in the real world it’s a very completely different situation. And so, having this as the trial period of it, but also really getting to do it as a whole, especially with, like we said, people who are experts in their field. They’re very interested in different areas of public health. Getting to be well-versed in so many different areas is just a tremendous asset for all of us. Hailey on your end, what is one thing that you’ve learned while working on the podcast?

Hailey Boudreau:

I really want to echo Alex’s. That was exactly what I was going to say. I can say that that active listening is really beneficial when you do get in the working world because when you’re in meetings and you’re in a presentation and there’s a lot of things happening around you, thinking ahead and thinking of your questions is really important, but also being able to pay attention and think strategically of what things you want to say and make sure they didn’t already say it in their presentation. So, that is definitely a great skill to learn. And then the other thing that I really just enjoyed getting out of the podcast was that public health is really not a competition at all. It was great to hear from all the different speakers that we had, and all the people that had come before them that helps build them up and their profession. And so, I just really enjoyed learning about public health people and how humble they are, and how not competitive they are, and encouraging they are to make sure that the new generation of public health professionals is just as successful as they are.

Stevland Sonnier:

That’s a wonderful insight. I think that we had a recent interview where I had one of our colleagues or interviewees was giving us a list of people that he looked up to in the field. And it was just tremendous to hear this from someone who had established such a long career process and hearing them be excited about their other colleagues and what they had done beforehand and how they had influenced them, even though they were towards the end of their career. It was just tremendously exciting to see the cohesion that’s inherent within public health and very much that team building aspect. Lexie, what about on your end? What’s something that you’ve taken away while being part of our podcast team?

Lexie Fahrion:

So something that I’ve learned throughout my time on the podcast is just how far reaching public health is. I mean, it’s really a part of every industry, every business, almost anything you can think of. And I think that you can see that in just the variety of episodes and guests that we have. So, that’s one of the coolest things that I’ve learned along the way.

Stevland Sonnier:

Great. And Megan, what is something that you’ve taken away while being part of this podcast team?

Megan Pospisil:

One thing I’ve learned is that as future public health practitioners, there are a lot of different ways to convey our message. I think that with COVID-19, I’ve seen that misinformation spreads more readily than correct information, and I think that can be a really difficult realization. From the Front Row has taught me that to reach different audiences, sometimes you have to be creative and concise in the way that you share your mind.

Stevland Sonnier:

I’d love to hear from you guys about your favorite episodes. I’ve got quite a few in my head that stand out to me, but Ian, if you want to tee us off, actually for this question.

Ian Buchta:

I have thought about this a lot, and I have not been able to come up with one. And the only one that comes to my mind that I actually did was the interview I did with William Moore on male doulas and how to improve male engagement in the family. I thought that was just a fascinating one, but the thing that really stood out to me more than anything I ever did was when people came onto the pod and let their visions run. So, Steve, your series on telemedicine. Oge, I’ve already shouted out the Racing to the Roots pod, which was absolutely fantastic.

Ian Buchta:

Hailey, I probably shouldn’t keep going because I might be taking everyone’s, but Hailey shot eight episodes in a row when we otherwise wouldn’t have made it when I was stuck doing a project for an internship. But then Raj Patel was one of those and that was just an incredible one to watch. Emma and I did a really cool series on COVID together. Luke had an awesome episode looking at athletes doing it. The thing for me wasn’t so much what I did, but watching other people pick up the podcast and build something out of it. I got to listen to it three, four, or five times as I edited it and really just sit with the amazing things other people were able to do.

Stevland Sonnier:

I would definitely echo that we’re doing a global health series right now, and we’ve got so many different voices coming onto the podcast and pitching ideas and hearing from different things. And it’s just a really great extension of our episodes as a whole and somewhere that we’re getting to branch out into. Oge, on your end, what is your favorite episode?

Oge Chigbo:

I would say my favorite episodes, my favorites. I love them because of the process actually that went behind them. I think those were the moments where I was really, really, really engaged in the podcast and the whole podcast process. And that’s also because I remember me and Ian either bouncing off ideas or Ian just puts me on the spot and he’s always like, “Oh, Oge, so what do you think about this?” And then you seat there like, “Um, yeah.” Just trying to come up with things right on the spot. And also I loved the COVID series that we made also just because the pandemic was starting then. We did not really know much about it, but we were working day and night just trying to find anything that we’d find and always providing updates like, “Okay, so this is the current update that we have, but as of two hours ago it’s changed.” So things like that. I think that was one of the most interesting pods that I got to be a part of.

Stevland Sonnier:

Yeah, that flexibility. I’m just remembering it too of this is early information or this is late information in the process of the podcast. Just a tremendous effort when we were covering COVID-19. Alex, on your end, what aspects of the podcast are your favorite episodes?

Alex Murra:

For one thing coming from one who didn’t know my own place as a student in public health or what role I could have played, I can say that as a listener those episodes that were recorded with other students in the college were very helpful that what I could do, what the experience as a student was, what kind of thing students were currently engaged with. And also I was thinking of specific episodes because there’ve been so many wonderful guests that we’ve had the opportunity to interview. This is a bit of a throwback because it’s from 2019 when I barely knew what this podcast was. It was an interview with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. And at the time I was just starting to get into maternal and child health. I just remember that that interview was like, “Wow, there’s so many different aspects of health, and social justice, and communication. And it just really stood out to me. So give that old episode of listen.

Stevland Sonnier:

To be honest, if you didn’t really know what the podcast is all about back then, well, neither did we. That was when we were just getting started, and yeah I feel like that was like really when the team started clicking. That was one of our best episodes. So, I’m glad that you really liked that one.

Hailey Boudreau:

And I’ll just go. So, Alex, that was my favorite episode too just because I think, like you said, the podcast was so new and Ian and I were really close then, and it was just such… I almost was like fan girling because it was our first year in public health and I had come from a place where I didn’t know much about public health, but then you hear about obviously this huge thing that’s happening in Michigan and then to read her book and then Oge talked about the process and then actually getting to meet with her in person was awesome. So, yeah, I think that was great.

Hailey Boudreau:

And then I just really loved the episodes where we interviewed Iowa alumni. Ian, and I got to do that a couple times, and it’s just so cool to see what people that have the same degrees as we have, have done, and started doing the same things we did in grad school, and then went on to become these great professionals and accomplish some really great things for our state that we get to experience. And so, yeah, I think those were my two favorite.

Stevland Sonnier:

I totally agree with seeing yourself in those footsteps, eventually. Just Emma and I had the opportunity to interview two of our alums, and that was just exciting. You get to see exactly what you’re talking about, Hailey. You come into grad school, and you’re like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with this degree.” I am just here. I’m thrown into the mix. This first year is really confusing, and you meet people along the way, and the podcast really does give you that opportunity to see your future career self, potentially. The excitement that is out there and the great things that people from our college set to go off and do. Luke, on your end, what is one of your favorite episodes, or do you have any other favorite aspects of the podcast?

Luke Sampson:

Personally, as a listener, I would echo what Ian said about Oge’s segment on race relations within the college and talking to other students in the college. Because for me at that time, I think there was a lot of… There’s a tremendous amount of tension. You have a social justice movement that is at the peak of itself. And then you have a pandemic and you have these two gigantic public health issues colliding. And then for me personally, listening to episode and hearing voices of students who I’ve been in class with talking about something so incredibly important to their identity and really their day-to-day life and understanding where maybe I have some work to do as a person. I think that was… And it was, I think one of our longest episodes, if I’m not mistaken. I was engaged the entire time. There is not a moment of that, that I was not totally and completely on the edge of my seat, I guess. So that was just… I mean, if you haven’t listened to it already, here’s my plug to go listen to it. But yeah.

Stevland Sonnier:

It’s a tremendous episode and really hearing those student voices, especially during that difficult time, it’s still a difficult time really just bring so much to that experience. And hearing what it’s like to be a public health student amid all of these converging difficult problems. How do you navigate that as a young career professional and receiving so much different information at that time. Alexis, on your end, what do you think has been one of your favorite podcasts? What makes them your favorite or any other aspects?

Alexis Clark:

I think Oge’s episode was excellent and coming into the College of Public Health right at that time, and listening to that as an incoming grad student I was like, “This is something I want to get involved with,” because the College of Public Health was giving her an outlet to speak about such a controversial topic. But just to tie onto that, Steve and I did a podcast with someone that I had met about three years ago when I was in Ecuador doing an internship and we were able to interview him for our international series. So, I think just getting to see how much I’ve grown since I was originally acquainted with this gentleman to now being able to interview him professionally was a really cool way I could reflect on, wow, a lot’s changed, but also a great way to tie in. I feel like I came full circle. So that was a cool episode too just on a personal note.

Stevland Sonnier:

I definitely echo that. I had the opportunity to have an interview with an organization I worked at HIV Alliance back in Oregon, and it was great to come back and just talk with people and see how much I’d grown, and how much that had influenced my public health experience without even recognizing it over time. I didn’t have an idea about what public health was when I was underneath the bridge, trying to figure out how I hand out safer injection kits. I was just there. And just seeing that experience cascade till now. It is just that utmost appreciation from where we’re all able to come from as a whole. Lexie on your end, what’s one of your favorite episodes from our podcast series?

Lexie Fahrion:

The Racing to the Root of Disparities episode that came out this last summer where a group of public health students just had an amazing discussion on race and America and the systemic disparities that are throughout. And it was my favorite just because it was such an amazing opportunity for me to listen and learn and reflect. And I just really respect all of the people that were at that round table and all the ideas that they had.

Stevland Sonnier:

Fantastic. It’s wonderful to hear everyone say how much that episode Racing to the Root of Disparities meant to all of us on the podcast team. Megan, how about yourself? What’s one episode that you appreciated the most?

Megan Pospisil:

The episode I co-hosted with Oge and Toluwani was one of my favorites just because not only was it the first episode that I was able to co-host, but it really opened my eyes to global health issues. I really didn’t know anything about the End SARS Movement, and I think to be able to learn more about that as well as do my own research for that episode on what was happening in Hong Kong, it was just really eye-opening. I think that sometimes when you are in school and you live in America and stuff, it’s really easy to just focus on what’s happening around you and not realize that there’s a ton of other stuff happening in the world, but it still is extremely relevant to public health.

Stevland Sonnier:

When you’re looking at your experiences at the College of Public Health and even beyond for Ian and Hailey, where do you think the podcast fits into it? How has it molded you or shaped you or influenced you as you’ve gone on to your careers now that you’re CPH alums. Let’s go with Ian.

Ian Buchta:

So, I think for me, one of the things is that I’ve already had to do. This is not the first podcast I’ve had to do in my role with Salt Lake County. And so now getting media requests or offering to go on shows really isn’t as scary because when you’re talking you don’t represent yourself anymore. When you’re talking on a podcast at the University of Iowa, you’re representing the University of Iowa. And so, being able to translate that skill into my new role makes me feel a lot more comfortable that I don’t have to… Of course, you have to prep, you still have to do the due diligence, but at least you don’t have as many of the nerves.

Ian Buchta:

Yeah. At least, and then in my time at Iowa, I think in both cases, it really, I always would think about how do I apply the knowledge that I’m learning right now, both in my job or back when I was a student, how do I take that information and explain it to a normal person? And I think that’s fundamentally the most important thing we have to do in the field of public health. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but not everything in public health is widely accepted. There’s a lot of controversy. There’s a lot of right now, let’s talk vaccines. Their hesitancy is something we have to fight and being able to translate in plain English why I can trust a vaccine and I understand the process, and why other people can understand it themselves, and trust the process is one of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned.

Stevland Sonnier:

I would agree that you have to tune that craft really distilling those big picture ideas into a simple sentence or an explanation making it so the concept is easily understood is a really valuable skill that we come away with at the College of Public Health and as a result of the podcast too, and practice makes perfect. Getting to do this over and over again, especially with folks who are at the top of their game or are career professionals, having that expertise is really essential. Hailey on your end, what did you come away with, with the podcast when you were both at the College of Public Health and beyond?

Hailey Boudreau:

Our health communication is definitely something that was strengthened with the podcast and how to say something succinct and be able to move on. And so, I think the other thing is just when to use my voice and when to use those active listening skills. So, when is it someone else’s turn to speak and how can I respond to that? Or maybe not respond in that moment and take the time to think and come back and put together a better response to that, or find more information about that, and look more into detail about that project or the program or that person. And so, yeah, I’ve been able to take those skills and put them into place in my professional life as well.

Stevland Sonnier:

I think that’s a super important skill. Having that ability to pause and take that moment, and not have the answer immediately. I’d rather get it right and take a couple minutes or however much longer time I need to answer you effectively, and appropriately, and correctly, instead of having a rapid fire response, just going in guns blazing. It’s a little bit concerning because sometimes we want to do that. We want to have it done quickly and have this happen and be done with it and worry about it and figuring it out over time, takes a little bit of practice and effort.

Stevland Sonnier:

With that, it brings us to one of our favorite questions that wonderful Ian has brought us to in this podcast which is what is one thing that you thought you knew, but were later wrong about? And so, we’ll just do a quick round run for it. I’m going to pick on Luke and have him start off on that side of things. Luke, what’s one thing that you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Luke Sampson:

Okay. So I’m going to go meta, kind of broad scale on you. So, I think as I’ve grown up I’m starting to realize that there are very, very few things in life that are black and white. And most of what you have to encounter in life is treading through this odd gray area and making sense of these things that aren’t so clear.

Stevland Sonnier:

That’s very true. Lexie, on your end what’s one thing you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Lexie Fahrion:

One thing that I thought I knew that I was definitely wrong about is going into this I wasn’t sure how willing people would be to talk with us just because everyone’s so busy and people are in different states or different parts of the country, but you can really tell when people are passionate about something and passionate about their work that they want to share it and they want to educate people. And so, I think that’s what I was most surprised about is that people are just really willing to share and to educate and to spread their passion and their joy. And so, that was really exciting to learn throughout my time on the podcast team.

Stevland Sonnier:

Ian, on your end, what’s one thing you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Ian Buchta:

So, I didn’t realize that kolaches, which is a Czech-like dough roll are super popular out in the West. I mean, that’s not actually the serious thing, but it’s my… I’ve been seeing a lot. We live in Salt Lake, and it’s just, we stumbled across one of these stores and apparently there’s a huge Czech population in Texas.

Ian Buchta:

But anyway, no, I think the thing that I learned, and I’ve alluded to this before is just when to get the heck out of the way. I think the most important thing is when people are going to bring great ideas, you just need to sit there, shut up, listen to them, and ask them how you can help them. I think I didn’t learn that until probably the back half of my tenure as producer in the podcast and probably didn’t learn it all the way and have a long way to go. But being able to just look at somebody and say, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it. And how are you going to do it? Okay, cool. Let’s do it.”

Ian Buchta:

Being able to just sit back and let people take their vision in a way that isn’t your vision, but takes the podcast or takes the project in a way that you just were not expecting and is 100% better than anything you could have come up with. I think having that kind of ability to step back, that kind of peace with whatever your teammate is going to do was not something that I learned through group projects. That was the opposite of that, actually. But through this podcast, I think taught me that more than anything else.

Stevland Sonnier:

Think about that as an inflection point with Oge’s podcast and the first roundtable really coming out of From the Front Row and the excitement behind that episode and having that be a model for this year, and what we’ve been able to do is really let folks when they have the opportunity, take it and run with it. We’ve had so many different pitches and great ideas and just getting those voices out there in different formats has been tremendous. Alexis, on your end, what is one thing that you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Alexis Clark:

So, I thought I went into grad school knowing I was going to work with other public health disciplines. And I thought everyone would have the same perspective or same ideas, but I was totally wrong about that. And I think that’s such a cool thing about public health that everyone is bringing these unique perspectives to light, and there’s not a wrong way to do things. So just being able to have that outlet to learn from others, and I think that was a great surprise.

Stevland Sonnier:

I think it’s definitely the mixing pot of everything, right? This melting pot that we talk about America of the idea of now I’m not going to agree with everyone 110%. I work with many people who I do not agree with 110%, but it’s great to have those voices because then I check what I know. And then I also am open to seeing what other people are about and figuring out how we can have a lot in common and disagree on some things, but what we’re headed towards in the field of public health, right? We all want to help people. Well, I’ll make sure things are safer for folks as a whole. And we all are driven by that common goal. Sometimes it’s just figuring out where that communication piece is. Hailey, on your end, what’s one thing that you thought you knew, but were later on about?

Hailey Boudreau:

My undergraduate degree is in dietetics. I became a dietician and one aspect of being a dietician… Well, the main aspect is education. So, educating people about nutrition and teaching them the skills they need to know to be healthier. And so, to me after undergrad, and then in the beginning of my career as a dietician, education was the most important thing. And I almost had the mindset, and I think a lot of people have this mindset is if you teach them, then that’s setting them up for success, right? They should be able to now have the skills and the knowledge to live a healthier life or accomplish what they’re trying to do. And this goes beyond nutrition as well.

Hailey Boudreau:

I think then going into grad school and learning more about public health, which is why I came as I started realizing as a dietician, well, if I teach them something or recommend a certain food and they don’t have money to get that or access to get it, or even the tools to use it, then there’s really no point in my education that I’ve just provided them. In public health, I think of that even it goes broader into the social determinants of health. I work now with PSE changes or policy system and environmental changes. And so, just really looking at education as a whole and understanding the power of education, but also the weakness of education, and how broad and huge problems are way beyond education, I guess.

Hailey Boudreau:

I think that’s something that I struggled with before I went to grad school. And so then it was great when I got to grad school and learned that public health can help all those other aspects, those social determinants of health, but then even now outside of grad school, the program that I manage is actually a direct education program. So we provide education to people, but then now struggling and understanding that my program isn’t going to necessarily accomplish what I’m setting out to do. And so, how do I do that within my realm as a nutrition professional, and who can I involve in that process to help these different aspects beyond education related to their health? Hopefully that was succinct and understood.

Stevland Sonnier:

It’s definitely there because I had something similar happen where I came in with this narrow vision of I think telehealth is great. It’s going to help really care disparities, and I’m just going to go all forward with it. And talking through many other stakeholders and other people I was able to say, “Oh, my goodness, there’s this whole big issue of broadband access.” If I don’t have broadband, how can I connect to care? How can I connect to the internet and get education? And it was this really eye-opening thing that it was just, I needed the blinders taken off.

Stevland Sonnier:

I needed to talk with other people about this thing and public health, your education that really does that. It does show you that there are these structural, these social determinants of health, as we talk about, that really influenced a lot of things. So even having that healthcare professional aspect, marrying it with the policy and the educative context, you can do that with the public health background and that education outside of what you’ve already been able to practice, which is just phenomenal. For Emma, on your end, what is one thing that you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Emma Meador:

Yes, so going back to the COVID unit I did with Ian, we actually interviewed Robert Niezgoda on emergency response and preparedness for COVID. And at the time COVID wasn’t really in the United States. I wasn’t really thinking it was going to be impacting our society, community, and me that much. But I remember him saying that things have the potential to get really bad and that we could potentially not be in school and that businesses would be closing down and just our economy would be struggling. And I was like, “What?” That’s crazy. That would never happen. No. And that all did happen plus, and I just realized just the impact an infectious disease can have on our community. And then also just the importance of all the roles in public health that I didn’t originally know about. I didn’t really know what emergency response and preparedness was, but I learned how vital and how important it is. And then I’m just so thankful there are these roles in public health that know how to respond to these pandemics, and it’s just how important public health is and all the different roles that go into it.

Stevland Sonnier:

I remember vividly sitting in class and looking across at [inaudible 00:38:22], and we were scrolling through the news and seeing Coronavirus popping up in China. And I was like, “Oh, that’s really interesting to see.” And it was Coronavirus in a different country and Coronavirus in a different country and thinking, “Oh, it’s getting really close to the United States,” and then this big change. And really hearing from so many voices, even beyond this podcast of people being thrust into it, “Oh, my goodness, there’s a pandemic. I am, number one, very employable. But number two, I am getting really front row training in everything as fast as I can.” And just seeing that transformation to the United States to being aware of what public health does on a day-to-day basis.

Stevland Sonnier:

I think a lot about one of the mantras I’ve heard that is very echoed is public health has been visible when it’s not working. And I really want to combat that now and say public health is visible. We really need to establish that moving forward in saying public health is happening on a daily basis. It’s protecting people’s lives. You’re seeing it in action right now/ whether it’s folks handing out vaccinations, whether it’s folks protecting people from lead exposures, or improving nutritional context, it’s everywhere. And it’s working extremely hard and everyone in the field deserves that recognition, especially now and beyond our pandemic contexts. Oge, on your end, what’s one thing you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Oge Chigbo:

So, one thing I thought I knew, but I was later wrong about is myself. I know that’s a very weird response, but definitely coming into this program and now being almost at the end, I have learned so much about myself. I definitely see myself as being changed, really changed from who I was when I first came into this program before being on the pod, before having all the opportunities that I’ve had before, all the responsibilities. I figured out how resilient, how persistent I am, and how much I can work under pressure. But these are the good things I’m saying.

Oge Chigbo:

I also figured out how, my limits, how to say no and how not to take on so much workload, which is something that I thought I couldn’t do before, or I just felt like it was impossible, but yeah, it’s definitely possible. I’m still on the journey of discovering myself. It’s exciting. I’ve entered the excitement phase of it all outside all the distress that it brought to just trying to figure out who I am and where I’m going to go. I’m still on that journey, but now I’m excited for it. So, hope that answers your question.

Stevland Sonnier:

It’s incredibly exciting to hear, Oge. Megan, on your end, what is one thing you thought you knew, but were later wrong about?

Megan Pospisil:

Okay, so this is a hard question for me because I still feel so new to the public health field. So, I feel like I’ve been wrong about a lot, but I guess one thing I was wrong about is that I thought going into public health, it would be a lot more background work just with less recognition. I was 100% okay with that. But I think with the pandemic, it has really been brought to the forefront of the news, the media, knowing that I am in public health I definitely have gotten asked a lot of questions about the pandemic that I don’t necessarily know the answers to by just friends and family. And so, that’s been interesting, but also surprising, I guess. But I do just want to add that I feel like regardless it has been, and is really cool to have a platform and just an opportunity to share not only information about COVID-19, but just share a message about what public health is because I feel like otherwise people maybe either wouldn’t care to hear it or there wouldn’t be the exposure for us. So, I am really grateful for that.

Stevland Sonnier:

Alex, to round us out. What’s one thing that you thought you knew, but were later on about?

Alex Murra:

The thing that I thought coming into public health is coming from this more bench-top medical microbiology background health was very much on the individual level or on the health care system level. We had always been taught about like, “Oh, environmental factors to infectious disease spread,” or things like that. I thought I was aware of it. I thought I understood how these things worked, and I think that the more I learned about public health, the more I realized that I was just very naive coming into this whole situation. So, the impact that your network’s behaviors, health behaviors can have on the individual is something that I’ve really begun to be made very aware of.

Alex Murra:

So, either one of the things I’ve been looking at recently is the impact of relationships behaviors on STD screening rates, or even now with COVID mask wearing, the acceptance of it with all these mask mandates being put aside. I’m very hopeful that maybe depending on what network you’re in, and the health beliefs that you have that masks do work, that people will still continue to wear them because they’re effective. But we’ll have to wait and see. I’m hopeful and optimistic that maybe that will happen.

Stevland Sonnier:

I really enjoy that point. One of my favorite sayings is you are the five people that you hang around the most. And it really is true. It’s crazy how much your circle interacts, how you progress as an individual, the kind of public behaviors that you’re involved in, all those different things. It’s really interesting to see that evolve. I would not have heard that in college or whatever, and thought, “I really should think about this a little bit more.” But now it’s really like, oh, my goodness, this is really important, especially in the public health context of mask wearing and wanting to do what we can to ensure folks are healthy everywhere. And taking those necessary public health precautions, especially while the pandemic continues on.

Stevland Sonnier:

I want to thank everyone for coming on today. This has been fantastic. It is rejuvenating. It is exciting to talk with you all. It is one of my favorite things to do while I’m at the College of Public Health, virtually, obviously right now. But I want to thank you all, obviously, Ian and Hailey for setting this up and really create a strong foundation for all of us to excel in. And for our current iteration of our team right now. It’s been a pleasure working with you guys throughout the continuation of this year, and I am tremendously proud of the progress everyone has made.

Ian Buchta:

Yeah. Well, thank you for keeping it going.I mean, we had to move on, and I think the podcast is stronger than ever, and it’s really awesome to see that.

Hailey Boudreau:

Yeah, thank you for having us. It was so wonderful to be back and you guys have done great things. So, keep up the great work.

Stevland Sonnier:

That’s it for our 100th episode of From the Front Row. I am incredibly proud of all of our team has done and continues to do across the field of public health. It’s an absolute joy and a pleasure to be part of such a motivated group and I’m thankful for our alums Ian and Hailey who helped build this foundation for us to succeed upon. This podcast was hosted written, edited, and produced by Stevland Sonnier.

Your team for the fall and winter season From the Front Row are Lexie Fahrion, Alexis Clark, Alex Murra, Oge Chigbo, Luke Sampson, Megan Pospisil, and Emma Meador. Our podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and SoundCloud. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your colleagues. Our team can be reached at cph-gradambassador@uiowa.edu. This episode was brought to you by the University of Iowa College of Public Health. Keep on keeping on out there.