SPHHS Commemorates National Public Health Week
The School of Public Health and Health Sciences hosted a week’s worth of events in honor of National Public Health Week this past April. The events highlighted the school’s message of education, research, outreach and practice.
“Focusing a whole week on public health meant more visibility from the whole campus,” said Lynn Koerbel, undergraduate program director of the Public Health Sciences program. “It elevated the field and the important work public health does in the eyes of many students who might otherwise say, ‘Um...what’s public health?’”
Among the student-centered activities held during the week were the School’s annual Research Day and the Public Health Club’s Open House Internship Poster Fair. On Research Day, students from all departments within the SPHHS presented posters of their work. Over 50 student entrants were judged based on research content and presentation. (Click here for a rundown of this year’s Research Day winners, and here for a photo gallery from the event.)
The Internship Poster Fair showcased the internship experiences of public health students, and was designed to provide their peers with an idea of what internships are available, what students learn, and the value of practice-based learning. (For a photo gallery of the Internship Poster Fair, click here.)
During National Public Health Week, the School also held a series of lecture events designed to promote healthy eating habits, HIV and AIDS awareness, and sexual health. The Department of Nutrition held its 23rd Annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture & Dinner with a program titled “Reducing Hypertension: Are Americans Ready to Shake the Salt Habit?” Guest speakers included Dr. Lawrence Appel of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Kathleen Foell, Director for the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and Control Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The lecture is named in honor of Professor Emerita Virginia A. Beal. (For more information on Professor Beal and the Virginia A. Beal Scholarship, click here.)
The Public Health Sciences program and the Public Health Club co-sponsored a screening of the documentary film “PROTECTION: A film about men and condoms in the time of HIV and AIDS.” Filmed in South Africa, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, the documentary stirred discussion about sexual well-being and safety. The film offered glimpses into attitudes and emotions of men of different backgrounds and ages, in rural and urban contexts, and provided insights into perceptions and debates about condoms that resonate across African countries and place men and boys at risk of contracting HIV or of being ill-prepared to manage their HIV positive status. PROTECTION called attention to the importance of sexual protection for boys and men in African countries where millions of men, women and children continue to be affected by HIV and AIDS.
“I was deeply struck by the film,” said Kelly McCarthy, a Public Health Sciences major entering her sophomore year this fall semester. “While I would like to think that things are different in the United States, in truth, there is still a stigma in most societies in openly discussing the necessities of contraceptives to protect against the dangers of STDs. I hope that this will change with future generations.”
The film’s executive producer, Jill Lewis, introduced the film and held a Q&A session immediately following the screening.
Joyce Joseph, certified sex therapist and former Clinical Director of the Human Sexuality Institute in Washington D.C., also appeared courtesy of MPH candidate Carmel Kelly. Titled “Sex: Getting It Right,” the event was an informal dialogue focused on sexual health and sexual pleasure versus pain. Ms. Kelly, who has been specializing in the vulva pain disease vulvodynia, has taught a number of discussion groups in public health with an emphasis on sexual health. Her master's project examined the use of community health channels via online/in-person support groups and public lectures for the dissemination of knowledge and treatment of vulvodynia in the Pioneer Valley. Joyce Joseph’s lecture came as part of Ms. Kelly’s final MPH project.
To conclude the week’s events, the School recognized the many preceptors who provide invaluable guidance and practice-based training to SPHHS students throughout the course of the year with a Preceptor Recognition Breakfast.
“The preceptor breakfast is a great opportunity to honor our practice colleagues in the region,” said Risa Silverman, Coordinator of the Office of Public Health Practice & Outreach. “These individuals generously mentor our students, providing them with the critical real-world experience needed for them to successfully complete their education.”
The breakfast, held at Pages Loft Restaurant and Events in Northampton, MA, featured a keynote address from Massachusetts State Representative Ellen Story. Representative Story’s talk was a hit among the many public health and health science professionals in attendance. (For a photo gallery of the Preceptor Recognition Breakfast, click here.)
The week was successful, Koerbel notes, for the variety of events. “We covered everything from healthy eating habits to sexual health and HIV/AIDS in Africa to a showcase of research and local internships. This meant that students saw the depth and range of public health and health sciences in action.”