November From The Director post – So what do they want to know?

Hello MPH Students!  Wow, it’s November already!  Hard to believe the end of semester is now in sight!  I want to briefly point attention backwards a bit to two wonderful visitors that we had visit our College in October–Dr. Camara Jones and former United States Senator Tom Harkin.  While the visits were very different in many ways, I came away from each of the sessions I attended with these two people with a great deal of excitement for the importance and value that public health has in 2017, a renewed commitment to the work that we do every day in public health,  and the aspiration to keep moving health and health equity forward.  This was in a way a great set up for a guest we had last week on November 1. Mary Woolley is the President of Research!America, a grassroots public education and advocacy organization focused on teaching the public about the importance of health research.  She made a very convincing plea for us as scientists to get beyond the Ivory Tower (my words, not hers) and think about how we can more effectively share the work that we do with the public and with decision makers at all levels of government.  She spoke about the role each of us can play in public health advocacy and the collective impact that can come from each of us reaching out to learn about what people know and want to know and how we can make the general public more aware of what science is, where it is done, and how it impacts their lives every single day.  I was especially intrigued by Mary’s thoughts on how to engage students and the importance of teaching them the skills to do this kind of work.  Advocacy is the theme of the month for me as I will have the pleasure of welcoming Jeneane Moody, the Executive Director of IPHA, and Cara Hamann, an Associate in the Department of Epidemiology, to my Introduction to Public Health class to talk about public health advocacy later this month.  I can’t wait!

Before signing off, I’d like to give a big shout out to all our public health colleagues from the College of Public Health and from around Iowa who will be attending APHA this week!

And finally, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I only recently became aware of a very important annual public health event–on the Monday before Thanksgiving, APHA and Research!American as well as other public health organizations (including the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa) take time out to celebrate Public Health Thank You Day.  Remember, public health touches all parts of our lives and when it is working it is invisible.  Public Health professionals on the other hand should not be invisible–send a note, share a hashtag (#thankyoupublichealth), and otherwise celebrate the work done by practitioners all over the country and the world.

Have a good month!