Navigating Difficult Times as Future Public Health Leaders

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay 

If someone would have told you our current situation back in January 1st, 2020, would you have believed them? Personally, I probably would not have done so.

As public health students preparing for leadership roles, we are trained to analyze disease and behavioral surveillance data, use epidemiologic techniques, understand health systems organizations, support state and local agencies, and serve when public health threats arise. However, although we have been trained for years to face public health crisis and difficult situations, many of us were not physically nor emotionally ready for a global pandemic. Am I wrong? 

The past few days and weeks have been everything from worry to uncertainty to advocacy. As public professionals we understand the measures taken by our university, local and state agencies, and the preventative measures we need to take to flatten the curve. However, the current situation may also carry a bigger burden on us because we know what is going on, we know it will be awhile until things get better, and we know all the current and future work required to combat the pandemic. 

You are not alone. Many of us are in the same situation. We are worried about the future. We are tired (but will not stop) of telling our friends and family to stay home. We are trying to figure out how to do an entire term of online coursework. And yes, we are disappointed but understand the measures taken for our commencement ceremony. 

Amidst everything, we have to make time and take care of ourselves. We are navigating something new to all of us that could take a big toll on our physical and mental health. Below are some resources that will hopefully help you through this difficult time:

1. Mental Health: SilverCloud is an online, confidential mental health resource free for all full-time students and trainees. It offers a personal train supporter that will help you make progresses through interactive learning modules that teach cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques.

2. Physical Health: I started taking my fitness journey seriously at the beginning of my graduate program to be physically and emotionally healthy. With our current situation, I recently discovered that home workouts are not as bad as they sound, especially with great coaches. Peloton is currently offering a 90-day free trial with different workout exercises including cardio, meditation, running, strength, and yoga. It’s a great package deal!

3. Emotional Wellbeing Although you may be tired of ZOOM after the first week of 4th term, it is actually a great online platform to host meetings with multiple people at once. Remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation. You can engage with others, just virtually. Check on your loved ones through ZOOM, a phone call, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, or text.  

As evidenced by the outbreak of COVID-19, we need your expertise and passion more than ever before.  The world is counting on your unwavering commitment to the power of public health, protecting health, saving lives—millions at a time.

-Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie

Remember to make time for yourself. Take care of your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. I promise to do the same. 

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