As we celebrate National Public Health Week, we recognize the Herculean efforts of everyone in the field and in our school over the past couple of years. As a country and globally, we have been in crisis mode. We have had to be reactive, putting out fires as they flare up around us. While in the field of public health we excel at putting out fires, we also recognize the importance of being able to take time to step back and think strategically—so that we can better advance knowledge.
The SPH-B Office of Public Health Practice has organized several exciting events to commemorate National Public Health Week. Learn more about participating:
If you have questions about any of the events, please contact Ta-Kisha Jones, Associate Director of Public Health Practice.
You might remember these words from Rev. C. L. Franklin, which I’ve referenced before: “…in every life some rain must fall. ... In every life some wind must blow and in every life some storm must ride. … in every life fear and hopelessness will arise… but I made a resolution in my life, I’m going to stay on the battlefield.” Over the last two years, we have stayed on the battlefield, valiantly. In the movie Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholom Aleichem’s stories, Tevye says, “…every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.” I don’t know about you, but that description feels apt to me. We have been in survival mode, just trying to get by, like the fiddler on the roof. Now, we are regrouping looking forward.
As public health scholars, we are like sailors at sea. Like the fiddler on the roof, sailors need to both not fall (and not drown). Sailors must be nimble and adjust ballast and sails. Yet, they must do more than the fiddler. Sailors must progress to a destination.
We, too, must be nimble and have a destination. We must consider carefully where we are aiming our ship. Our ultimate destination is not grant acquisition or credit hour production or building a lab. Our ultimate destination is the advancement knowledge of health through science and therefrom increasing the quality and quantity of life for all. For some, that may mean reducing the stigma around sexual and gender minority identity. For others, that may be protecting soldiers, workers, and athletes from kidney damage while performing intense physical activity at temperatures well outside the thermoneutral zone. And for others, it may be reducing the ravages of tobacco addiction.
We have all heard the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Before you can stand for something, you have to know what you stand for. Advancing knowledge of health for the benefit of all is what we, as a School of Public Health, stand for. Now is the time to take a step back and reflect—to get your bearings and make sure you are aimed at your destination’s coordinates— and get ready to face the challenges and seize the opportunities as they arise. Carpe diem!
The winds and waves come, and we adapt. We keep our hand on the rudder and our eye on the compass. And when trade winds arise or a gentle zephyr blows, we seize the day.
We have a new president and a new provost, and that is a sea change that creates opportunities for all of us. The Presidential Diversity Hiring Initiative funds are helping us increase the strength of our camaraderie of scholars, and for that we are all the richer. There’s a huge upswing in interest in aging research and geroscience, an opportunity that Dr. Richard Holden, Dean’s Eminent Scholar and chair of the Department of Health & Wellness Design, is helping us catch that wave. We are riding the trade winds in the scientific and funding communities and benefitting from support from such companies as Eli Lilly and Pfizer for our new Biostatistics PhD program. This is giving talented students opportunities they might not otherwise have had—they, too, are riding the trade winds. And we will do the same with our new Nutrition PhD program. Carpe diem!
We are riding the trade winds of rigor, reproducibility, and transparency (RRT) in science. This is an area that has always been important to me, and I am honored to be co-chairing the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust with Marcia McNutt, president of the NAS, and Dr. France Cordóva, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and former director of the National Science Foundation. Dr. Cordóva was our Distinguished Colloquia speaker on March 30. Within our own school, Stephanie Dickinson, executive director of the Biostatistics Consulting Center, Jasmine Jamshidi-Naeini, postdoctoral fellow, Student Annie Yu, and many other fine scholars are working with many colleagues in and beyond the SPH-B to use rigorous methodology and produce reproducible results. I am filled with pride by the excellent work they do, detecting and correcting errors within the literature, assessing statistical methodology, and developing practical tools to detect errors and design insufficiencies during the editorial process.
As public health scholars, you are all top in your field. I hope you will take time this week to pat yourselves and your colleagues on the back for a job well done. We weather the ongoing storms and emerge stronger every day. Now it is time to take what you have learned and think strategically about the path you will take to arrive at your destination. With our collective hands on the rudder, we will ride the trade winds and get there together.
David B. Allison, PhD