The COVID-19 Pandemic: Education is remote, but the Colorado School of Public Health is notSep 15, 2020
The fall semester has launched, but with remote instruction. We remain a school and a community, not a collection of online courses. I empathize with our students who are new to the school and who cannot meet their classmates and instructors face-to-face. But, each program has taken steps to facilitate opportunities to meet and engage. These steps can work.
I first learned about remote- or distance-based instruction, as originally termed, while I was at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, chairing the Department of Epidemiology. I was skeptical. In the late 1990s, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the school implemented a training program for CDC staff that began with an on-campus introduction that was followed by distance-based courses. As the course evolved, I participated as an instructor, recording asynchronous lectures in a suffocating, black foam recording booth. I remained skeptical, convinced that my droning lectures were recorded while I slept. To my surprise, the program was well-received, including my somnambulist lectures, and continued, becoming the start for the pioneering remote MPH degree offered by Johns Hopkins.
Some years later, I participated in a team developing a remotely taught public health course for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Working with a PAHO colleague, we put together a regionally tailored, introductory epidemiology course in Spanish. The course participants, who came from throughout Latin America, had an initial in-person meeting and then spent a year apart, taking distance classes and working together remotely on projects. At the program's end, they again met in-person and presented their findings. Inevitably, I was impressed by the bonding and relationships that had developed over the year. They had become colleagues and friends. I am anticipating the same for the students of the Colorado School of Public Health.
This week, we kick off the Dean's Speaker Series — a set of four presentations by public health leaders that will address topics relevant to all. The lead-off presentation by Johns Hopkins Dean Emeritus, Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, is also the inaugural Richard Hamman Lecture, an endowed lecture named for our founding dean. Al was the dean at Hopkins for most of my 14 years as chair of Epidemiology. He transformed the school and academic public health, including expanding the scope of the (then) Association of Schools of Public Health. His seminal contribution to global health was the discovery that a small dose of vitamin A dramatically improved childhood survival: a discovery acknowledged by major awards in public health and medicine — the Albert Lasker Clinical Medicine Research Award, the Fries Prize for Improving Health, the Prince Mahidol Award, the Dan David Prize, and more. Al is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.
His talk, "The Public's Health: Past, Present, and Future?", is this Wednesday, September 16, at noon. Students will have the additional opportunity to meet Al in a small group setting on September 23, from 12-1 p.m. The session is planned as a conversation based around his book: Ten Lessons in Public Health: Inspiration for Tomorrow's Leaders. There are 25 slots and 25 books available. This is an opportunity to meet a global leader — don't miss it! Students can register for this session here.
The next three speakers in the Dean's Speaker Series are also not to be missed:
October 21, 2020
"Racism is a Public Health Crisis: Opportunities and Challenges for Schools of Public Health"
Cheryl Anderson, MS, PhD, MPH
Professor and Dean
University of California San Diego
Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity
November 18, 2020
"Real-time Analysis of COVID-19: Epidemiology, Statistics and Modeling in Action"
Christl Donnelly, CBE, FRS, FMedSci
Deputy Head of Department, Professor of Applied Statistics
University of Oxford
December 16, 2020
"Revisiting our strategies in road safety: Looking forward to the second Decade of Action"
Maria Segui-Gomez, MD, MPH, MSc, ScD
Adjunct Associate Professor
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Looking beyond the school, last week was concerning for public health: unprecedented wildfires continued to burn across the West Coast, blanketing the region with dangerous levels of air pollution; schools, colleges, and universities opened with mixed results; and politics and the pandemic continued to collide. Colorado’s epidemic curve stays flat, but its future course will reflect the consequences of the threats posed by the opening of educational institutions, a return to closed indoor environments with colder weather, and the extent to which Coloradans remain adherent to social distancing measures. The state stands at a tragic landmark—nearing 2,000 deaths from COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci has told us to “hunker down” for the fall and winter. He is probably correct.
Do the right things,