Thursday, April 16, 2020

COVID-19 moves National Public Health Week online for students

Members of the Public Health Interest Group at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine had planned several activities for National Public Health Week, April 6-12  a lunch walk, panel discussion, a social, a service project and recycling challenge.

Then, COVID-19 cancelled in-person classes and events. “We decided to move everything online,” said Jordan Smith, a third-year medical student who serves as vice president for the group. Jacob Williams and Libby Beddingfield, both first-year medical students, and Aaron Chinners, a second-year medical student, were also on board with the idea.

The group turned to social media and Zoom to keep fellow students involved. The goal was the same. “For our organization, this week provides a way to connect and participate in national dialogue pertaining to the intersections of public health and medicine,” Smith said. “The mission of our local group is to equip students to be aware of and involved in addressing the health needs of our community. As physicians, we will have important opportunities to advocate for all our patients’ health needs, which often goes beyond just access to insurance and medications, but also to safe housing and education.”

On Monday, which has a mental health theme, students were invited to tune in to social media to see featured students share about their hobbies. Tuesday focused on sharing articles and social media posts about the public health infrastructure and its role in situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday’s planned panel discussion on violence prevention moved to a Zoom format that featured local experts. These included Linda Ding, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the USA College of Medicine; Ashley Williams, M.D., chief resident in USA's department of surgery; and Beth Huffmaster, a nurse practitioner at USA Health University Hospital, who has conducted research in post-traumatic stress disorder related to violence.

On Thursday, students were asked to share social media posts about their efforts to help the environment while also quarantining. Friday brought a billion steps challenge, with the winner receiving an Amazon gift card. In between, there were trivia questions on social media daily.

“We had students from a variety of classes participate, and for the Zoom panel, we had a participant from every single class,” Smith said. “It’s hard to find an activity that attracts every single class. That, to me, says a lot about the overall success and appeal for the content presented.”

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