Meet the Social Media Team- Jordan!

Hello everyone!

My name is Jordan Deitch and I am so excited to be a Public Health ambassador once again this year! I am currently a third year B.S student from Corpus Christi, Texas studying Public Health on the Pre-Medicine track and recently picked up a Nutrition Science and Physical Activity minor. While this is my second year as an ambassador, this is my first year on the social media team, and I am so excited to be apart of it!

While my classes have been rather difficult for me this semester, I can’t believe it’s almost over! A class I will definitely miss this semester is Global Public Health with Dr. Story. Before taking this class, I never had much of an interest in global health in general, but after being lectured by Dr. Story and other amazing guest lecturers about important topics such as refugee and immigrant health, mental health, and reproductive health on a global level, I developed a new passion for these issues regarding global health. On top of this, I am still finishing up my Pre-Medicine requirements and working on finishing up my minor by taking interesting classes such as Nutrition and Health and Physical Activity Psychology.

With the transition from fully online classes to mostly in-person courses this semester, I was definitely nervous, however, it has been rather smooth and easier to not only meet more Public Health students, but become more active in my classes, as well as begin research in the UI Endocrinology department and shadow a cardiologist. Last year, I spent most of my time back home in Texas, but this semester I stayed in Iowa City, which allowed me to meet so many people, cheer on the Hawkeyes at football games, and discover more of our amazing campus!

With finals week quickly approaching, it is important to remember to always take care of yourself, prioritize your mental health, and take plenty of study breaks! Good luck on finals and have an awesome Winter break! Check back here soon for more exciting events our ambassadors and the College of Public Health are taking part in!

-Jordan

Meet the Social Media Team-Parker!

Hi Everyone! 

My name is Parker Harlow, and I am a second-year B.S. student at the College of Public Health. I am from Peoria, Illinois, only about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Iowa City. This is my first year as an undergraduate ambassador and I am super excited to be on our social media team!  

This semester has flown by so quickly! I am taking lots of fun classes this year to continue working towards my degree in Public Health, and to satisfy my pre-medicine requirements. I am taking a core Public Health class this year in addition to the Second Year Seminar. I am in Social and Psychological Determinants of Health with Dr. Johnson. I love this class and it has given me an excellent basis in how health is shaped by many factors. Most of my other classes are prerequisites for medical school, such as chemistry and biology courses. I am excited that next semester I will be taking more Public Health classes! 

My second year at University of Iowa has been a major change from the first year. The biggest change was the shift from online classes to being fully in person. I am really enjoying experiencing my first in person semester, the campus seems much fuller and there are always events that seem to be happening. Some of my favorite things that I got to experience for the first time this year were going to football games and meeting classmates in person! I am excited to discover more about the campus during the rest of my time as a student at Iowa.   

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving break!! 

See you all soon- 

Parker  

Meet the Social Media Team- Gracyn!

Hello All!

My name is Gracyn and I am a fourth-year B.S. student and am excited to able to write and share some of my love for public health and the program here at Iowa. I am part of the UI College Public Health Undergraduate Ambassadors again for this academic year, and I am excited to help with the social media team and manage the blog!

So, what does my final fall semester as an undergraduate look like? Well, it is very unique and quite different than my past semesters on campus. We are back in person (yay!) and I am starting my first year as a graduate student in our college’s Department of Epidemiology as well as wrapping up my undergraduate studies in order to graduate in May of next year! I am taking mostly public health courses, such as Applied Public Health Methods with Dr. Sharma and a graduate course, Introduction to Epi Data Management and Analysis with Dr. Hamann. Now that I am both a fourth-year student and a graduate student, it is exciting to be able to take higher level public health classes that are targeted to my specific interests in epidemiology and the methods we use to see big data on a smaller, more digestible scale. In addition to the public health side of my coursework, I am also taking Biogeography and a basic anatomy class to satisfy my other requirements as a pre-physician assistant student.

This year has given us back some sense of normalcy, even though we are still trying to navigate COVID-19 and what role it will be potentially playing in our futures moving forward. I am excited to finish up my undergrad degree in-person and to meet everyone in my new cohort who loves epidemiology as much as I do! I have also started a new job at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as a nursing assistant, so that has been a great way to enjoy both healthcare practice and see public health in a clinical setting firsthand.

I am so excited to continue to be involved in our undergraduate community here at the College of Public Health! I hope everyone is recovering from midterms (break is almost here!) and I cannot wait to keep you all updated via the blog and other social platforms we have! Check back later for more ambassador introductions here, and I will be back later to talk about more fun things happening at the college!

Until next time!

-Gracyn

Eliza’s Experiential Learning

Hi Everyone! I hope you all have been able to stay warm over the past couple of days.

As both Jada and Gracyn have mentioned, Experiential Learning is part of our curriculum for College of Public Health students. Undergraduate students can choose to pursue an internship, research, service-learning, or global learning opportunities. I was very fortunate to have been offered an undergraduate research assistant position with Dr. Natoshia Askelson’s team. I started a couple weeks before this semester and have learned so much already!

What I enjoy most about my research job is the ability for me to jump in on multiple projects and learn about many aspects of public health. Our team operates on a project-based system which allows you to understand the full scope of the project before you move on to another task. While our tasks are individual at times, they often feel group oriented because of the culture Dr. Askelson has created. 

The first project I was able to work on was a literature review for the Iowa Department of Public Health. We were looking at past literature to see if there were certain communities that would benefit from a different approach to vaccination campaigns. I was able to understand the importance of looking at all communities you are planning to address or target for an intervention. With the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaign, we found it important to refer to past campaigns with the polio, smallpox, and HPV vaccinations. 

One of the projects I have been most excited to work on is a qualitative research project where we are interviewing ENTs to see if it would be feasible for them to promote the HPV vaccination to their patients. This requires my team to submit an IRB application, so I am looking forward to learning more about that process. HPV vaccination rates are down in Iowa while the numbers of preventable cancer are only increasing. If you are under age forty-six, consider talking to your doctor about the HPV vaccine. 

In addition to the literature reviews and ENT project, I have also been able to work on surveys regarding micropolitan communities and adolescent mental health. My opportunities to participate in survey response have emphasized the importance of collaboration with my fellow team members. 

I am so grateful for this experience because without it, I would not have discovered my passion for research. I have been taking advantage of this opportunity and soaking up all of the knowledge of my peers. It is one thing to learn about how research operates through your courses but a completely different one to jump right in and actually complete tasks and participate in research.

Most of all, I love our team dynamic. Everyone is so positive and uplifting! It can be difficult to onboard a team member virtually, but Dr. Askelson, Becky Bucklin, and the rest of the team have made me feel so welcomed. I am comfortable asking questions and my co-workers are more than willing to answer. In our team meetings, we laugh and build a sense of camaraderie through team-building activities. Later this month we are planning a team game night, which I am really looking forward to! I have had a lot of fun discovering the research topics I am passionate about and can’t wait to learn more! 

– Eliza Steere

Gracyn’s Experiential Learning

Hello All!

I hope everyone is having a great start to the Spring 2021 semester!

For this post, I would like to take some time and talk about a really important component in the public health major here at Iowa- Experiential Learning! Just like the previous post by Jada, I want to discuss what I did to fulfill this requirement and stretch beyond the standard university classwork.

When I was first told about the experiential learning requirement for the public health major (BS and BA), I was honestly very worried about being able to 1) Find opportunities and 2) Work the requirement into my schedule. However, I was surprised about all of the ways in which the information about finding an opportunity was presented to us as undergraduates. For example, professors are always talking about things that they did as undergraduates to get more acquainted to public health practice, making it easy for students to ask them more questions about an interesting experience. Presentations about the experiential learning requirement were always popping up in undergraduate seminars and advisor meetings, allowing for a wide range of ideas to help direct my search.

I, however, happened to gain my credit for experiential learning during a very unconventional time in public health. I completed my internship during the summer of 2020, but originally did not have one lined up prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the university asked students to stay home and do class virtually in the spring of 2020, I returned home to my hometown of Ottawa, Illinois. As it became more clear that everyone would be staying home during the summertime, I decided to reach out to my local county health department and see if there were any contact tracing positions available. After a few emails, I was so happy to find out that I could instead work as an intern for both COVID-19 contact tracing and for other communicable disease investigations.

For this internship, I worked mainly as a COVID-19 contact tracer, which entailed lots of phone calls, reading lab results, and mounds of paperwork. A typical day at the health department for me started out with a quick staff meeting to hear updates from the state health department that were being handed down to the county departments to implement. I would then log into our COVID-19 electronic reporting system and review new cases (meaning a confirmed positive test result) that had been added into the database overnight. These cases included both COVID-19 cases in addition to more commonly seen communicable diseases such as Hepatitis C, Salmonellosis, Cyclosporiasis, and potential rabies cases. As COVID-19 cases were increasing in volume at the time, I would start by creating a case file for a specific COVID-19 patient, obtain contact information (phone number), and attempt to reach the patient. After connecting with a patient, I would then begin my interview and ask questions about past travel history, close contacts, symptoms, and other questions that were formulated by the state health department and CDC. This same type of process was how I went about investigating other disease cases, but with different questions depending on the disease type. Additionally, the county health department was responsible for notifying any close contacts of cases that we received and issuing quarantine and isolation orders. We would frequently check in on our active COVID-19 patients to see how their symptoms were progressing, as well as issuing release letters for those who were considered to be recovered.

This contact tracing and disease investigation internship was one of my favorite experiences in public health that I have had so far. Actually getting to see how public health practice worked during an emergency like a global pandemic is an opportunity that not everyone will get to experience, and am thankful for the support of my professors and advisors here at Iowa that supported me in finding this internship. I immensely enjoyed working on my interpersonal skills, seeing how different departments work together, and learning about the epidemiology of diseases in my community. I learned how the line of communication works to send information from the CDC to state health departments to local county health departments and finally to the citizens of the state. This is a very crucial aspect of health departments on a smaller scale because until they get the go ahead from state health departments, new information and policy cannot be enforced at the local level.

I hope that this little dive into my experiential learning opportunity was helpful in showing that you do not always have to have a perfect plan with a timeline to find internships and other community engagements. Please feel free to reach out to me or any other ambassadors as we continue to navigate experiential learning during these pandemic days!

Until next time,

Gracyn

Jada’s Experiential Learning

Part of our curriculum here at the College of Public Health is to complete something called Experiential Learning. What is that? Experiential learning includes completing either an internship, research, service-learning, global learning, or independent research, or a combination of these as long as they add up to at least 80 hours. The 80 hours is equivalent to 1 semester hour and the experience can be paid or unpaid. Undergrad students have a course that is ongoing throughout our time in the program called Experiential Learning Preparation for Public Health Majors. The course is constantly updated with potential opportunities that would count toward this requirement. All though the task may seem daunting, it is really to help you as a student apply what you’ve learned in a real-world setting. My advice would be to try and find research or an internship related to where you eventually want to end up career wise so you get some first hand and relevant experience!

I will be honest in saying that I was scared to complete this requirement! I didn’t complete this until this past fall, my senior year!! Fear not, it will get done and you will do great! Johnson County Public Health Department works closely with the college and provide a lot of opportunities for students to come help out with various projects. I filled out an application to be a Contact Tracer as part of the ongoing pandemic, however this is not what I ended up doing. I recieved a call about my application and was told they had something that would be a better fit, based upon my previous experience working in the healthcare setting. I figured why not? I’ll listen to what this is, so I set up a phone interview.

I interviewed and accepted their position as a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) for the upcoming open enrollment period for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace Health Insurance. Big words and many abbreviations…I was already nervous! I began my online CAC training through the Marketplace’s website, which took around 7 hours. I took notes and dug up my old notes from the class I took last year, The US Healthcare System in a Global Context, definitely one of my favorite classes in the curriculum! After training and reviewing notes, I felt much more comfortable with what the job entailed. My duties included responding to calls on the CAC line and either providing guidance on the health insurance application or setting up an appointment and going through the application with people via zoom. Pre-COVID the CAC would sit in the public library or other public places and help people there, so using zoom for this was a first.

I would average at least three phone calls a day and three-four hour long appointments a day during the open enrollment period of November 1st – December 15th. The Federal Marketplace was put into effect with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is in place to provide other options for insurance for those who do not have it readily available to them, easily compare plans, determine eligibility for tax credits that help pay the monthly premiums, and screen for eligibility for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP).

In doing this internship, I learned a lot about the technicality of health insurance but most importantly how expensive and excluding health insurance can be. For example, there were words I did not know as a college student who has had courses on insurance on the application. So imagine how someone with minimal access to education feels? On top of this, the Marketplace takes into account your income. The less you make the more affordable it becomes, and those are typically the people that need health insurance the most. However, low income usually equates to limited access to technology or transportation to somewhere with computer or internet access. There were multiple people who tried to fill the application out on their phones or who had to just give me the answers to the application questions over the phone. These types of disparities to obtaining health insurance are extremely disheartening to me, but knowing I helped even just a few people really made me feel good.

This internship ignited the fire within me to close this gap in healthcare coverage. I knew there was an issue with the system before coming to the University of Iowa, but this experience along with my Public Health courses have really given me the tools and motivation to make changes to this. I want to live in a better world and help as many people as I can, this is just the beginning.

Semester in Review: Fall 2020- Eliza

Hey everyone – It’s Eliza again! I wanted to take time to reflect on the Fall 2020 semester as a public health student at the University of Iowa!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of my courses were taught virtually this semester. Fortunately, I have taken online classes previously which has helped me immensely during these unprecedented times. Though I was sad at first to not physically be in the College of Public Health Building every day, this semester has had its perks such as having more time to spend in extracurriculars and other professional development activities. There is also the added benefit of not having to rush across campus in the morning to get to class. If there is one thing from Zoom University that should be a permanent part of higher education, it is Zoom office hours. Not only does this make learning more accessible, it is also a much more laid-back environment, which helps students be open with their questions.

Regarding academics specifically, this semester has been my favorite thus far! I have really enjoyed engaging in topics such as health promotion, maternal and child health, refugee health, and basic infectious disease principles. Another highlight of this semester has been applying textbook knowledge to the real world in terms of COVID-19. I have analyzed graphs of Iowa COVID-19 incidence and prevalence along with looking at how pandemics wreak havoc on hospital systems and change the demand for health services and basic hygiene products.  

In other news, I started working for Dr. Askelson as a research assistant this month! I am looking forward to applying my public health knowledge in the terms of vaccination campaigns, health beliefs regarding COVID-19, and health behavior change.

As I am sure we are all too aware, now is a very interesting time to be up and coming public health professionals as we are in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. With this I have been able to not only validate the importance of my studies, but I have also been able to envision myself working in the field of public health. I know that these times are scary, and that our work often goes unnoticed, but the world is changing, and we all are doing great things. As we prepare to enter into the next semester let us remind ourselves of the sheer nature of public health, to help our communities. As we often hear in the CPHB, we know public health is working when it seems like nothing is happening. 

I hope you all are having enjoyable and safe winter breaks. I am looking forward to what lies ahead, and of course Go Hawks!

– Eliza Steere

Fall 2020: A Semester in Review- Gracyn

Wow! Can you guys believe that our Fall 2020 semester is over already?

This semester somehow flew by and also felt like it took forever to get through all at the same time, you know?

Starting with coming to campus in August, it was quite an adjustment to return to my resident assistant position in the university dorms. New regulations with mask wearing, attempting social distancing enforcement, and adjusted protocols were the new headlines in our training sessions. Looking back, we were really going into this new situation blind. No one knew how this attempt at returning to the dorms was going to end, and I for one whole-heartedly believed I would be back home before the first round of exams would start in late September. However, we were able to make it through. I am extremely thankful that my floor was able to pull through without any severe illness, and hopefully we can continue this going into spring semester.

Though being a resident assistant during a pandemic seemed quite daunting, I was most concerned about how my courses were going to play out as we got the semester rolling. Thankfully, I only had one class that met in person for the first half of the semester, and then after that was finished, I was able to work remotely and have all my classes online fully. My public health classes were extremely enjoyable and I was exposed to a wide range of topics, including injury and violence prevention and biostatistics. One of my favorite classes for this semester was Introduction of Public Health Methods with Professor Jeffrey Dawson (CPH:2600). This was my first exposure to how public health researchers conduct their projects, with the class being broken down into two categories of study: quantitative and qualitative design/analysis techniques.

In addition to my own coursework in public health this semester, I also began my graduate school application to UI’s Master in Public Health (MPH) program. After sitting in on a few overview sessions about the MPH program here at Iowa, I decided that this would be a great opportunity to focus in on an area of public health that I am passionate about (Epidemiology). I have immensely enjoyed every experience I have had through the College of Public Health, and hope that this program will help me to connect public health expertise with my goal of becoming a Physician Assistant. I personally think that medicine would benefit immensely from having more students coming into programs with a foundation based in public health, allowing for issues to be addressed that medicine alone cannot always remedy.

Overall, this semester has been quite a mix of ups and downs, full of uncertainty at times, but also with hope and unity. Thankfully, we were blessed with fairly decent weather all the way up to finals week, so I was able to enjoy running outside (see our beautiful campus pictured above!) and having socially-distanced picnics with friends! It was hard to get out and safely go to public spaces that I love in Iowa City (JavaHouse, the IMU, the Rec), but by getting creative with when and where I went, I was able to study and leave my room in a low-risk way. A big tip I learned was to try and get up early and study if I wanted to go to a library (the Sciences Library and Hardin are some of my top choices), though I know it is easier said than done.

Congrats to everyone who finished out this semester! It was hard and filled with huge uncertainty throughout, but you did it! Hope you use the break to relax and catch up on some fun activities!

See you next year!

-Gracyn

Meet Your Ambassadors- Cameron!

Hello! My name is Cameron and I am a new edition to the public health undergraduate ambassadors blog this year. I got admitted to the College of Public Health over the summer, and I am happy to be here. I was a Biology major, but after taking Fundamentals of Public Health, I knew I had to change my major. Currently, I am a second year student in the college pursuing a B.S. degree. For classes this semester, in addition to Spanish, I am taking Finding Patient Zero, Social & Psychological Determinants of Health, Public Health Methods, and a Second Year Public Health Seminar. Just like our other writers, I would say that I have enjoyed Finding Patient Zero quite a lot because it has shown me how interesting virology is. 

All of these classes are online, so I have been off campus since March. I am currently back home in Illinois, so I have only seen my teachers and classmates through zoom, which is just as draining as you might imagine. On the bright-side, staying at home is decreasing my chances of contracting Covid-19, so I will be taking as many online courses as I possibly can. It is definitely not the college experience that I thought I would have, but what can I say, it’s a pandemic. Plus, I get to see my miniature schnauzer, Winston, everyday so it’s not so bad.

On another note, despite classes taking up most of my time, I still partake in other extracurriculars along with the public health undergraduate ambassadors.  Just like it says in my email signature, I am a senator and committee chair in the Undergraduate Student Government at Iowa. USG has been a great way for me to continue feeling connected to campus even though we are meeting online these days. During our meetings we vote on legislation that benefits the student body and we work on our own projects as well. My current project is a website called Complain for a Coupon, in which we email students coupons in exchange for complaints about campus (I will let you all know when that is up and running).  In addition, I am also a volunteer at UIHC in the STEM education unit, but unfortunately we cannot volunteer through zoom, so it has been delayed for the time being. 

All in all, I hope that you all enjoyed my very first post for the blog and got a good introduction to who I am and what I am doing these days. I hope to share more about the College of Public Health in my future posts so that our readers can see how supportive and inspiring the staff and students in the college are. With that, good luck on finals and keep taking care of your minds and bodies.

 ¡Hasta luego!

-Cameron

Meet Your Ambassadors- Eliza!

Hey everyone! I’m Eliza and I’m new to the public health ambassadors this year. I’m a third-year B.A. public health student from Rancho Palos Verdes, California. I am one of the College of Public Health undergraduates who will be posting on this blog. My interest areas in public health include global public health, maternal and child health, community interventions, and vaccination campaigns. One thing I love about public health is how broad the field is! 

I am involved in many organizations and clubs on campus outside of being an ambassador for the College of Public Health. I volunteer with Iowa Admissions, helping recruit and answer questions for out-of-state students. I really enjoy being able to share my experiences as an undergraduate student with future Hawkeyes! Healthy LifeStars is a public health organization I recently joined in February and has amplified my passion for community and behavioral health. With Healthy LifeStars, I am a treasurer and graphic designer. We work with local kids in the community to encourage healthy habits and lifestyle choices. Prior to the pandemic, I volunteered with Aramark Football Concessions during the Hawkeye Football games to raise money for Salt Company, a local ministry. I am also a member of the Celi-Yak Club on campus! We raise awareness for celiac disease, gluten allergies, and intolerances, while advocating for and empowering students with dietary restrictions who live in the residence halls. In addition to all of my extra-curricular activities, I hold a part-time job as a tutor! I love being able to help students gain confidence in their coursework. 

I’m currently enrolled in the following courses: 

CPH: 2050 Second Year Undergrad Public Health Seminar 

Every fall, public health undergraduates take a 1 s.h. seminar course! Second-year seminar prepares students for their experiential learning requirement for the College of Public Health. If you didn’t know, experiential learning is where students get to take the skills they have learned in the classroom and apply them into a real-world setting. To fulfill this requirement, you can participate in research, an internship, service-learning, and global learning. This course also teaches students how to develop resumes and cover letters.

CPH: 2230 Finding Patient Zero 

Finding Patient Zero is one of my public health electives. I have learned a lot about virology and how zoonoses occur. As a class, we have evaluated past pandemics like the 1918 Spanish Flu and compared the response to our current pandemic. My small group is currently working on a video project supporting the argument that the Rift Valley Fever Virus could be our next pandemic.

CPH: 2600 Introduction to Public Health Methods 

This course has given me an introduction to both quantitative and qualitative research methods. I learned how to use Stata this semester to organize, analyze, and interpret data. This class builds heavily off of the course material from CPH:1600 Public Health Science. I love that this class facilitates discussion and uses examples from current research projects. I have learned a lot about focus groups and participated in one during our lab section this semester. Study designs, in-depth interviews, participant observations, document reviews, screening tests, and displays of data are just a few of the many topics we have covered this semester.

CPH: 3100 Health Economics 

This is an introductory course in the principles of applying basic microeconomic theory. The instructors have talked a lot about health insurance, how the healthcare industry operates, and the role of government in healthcare. I have learned how to anticipate supply and demand based on barriers and outside factors. I also learned to use cost-effective analysis as an economic evaluation tool.

CPH: 3500 Global Public Health 

Global Public Health is my favorite course so far! I absolutely love the content being presented and we have had many guest speakers throughout the semester. The most important thing I have learned so far in this class is that as public health professionals, we need to look at the environment as a whole when implementing interventions. The people who best know what is needed in a community are the community members! This class built off of principles from CPH:1800 Social and Psychological Determinants of Health. I have learned about the major global public health challenges facing the world today and what contributes to the disease burden in those situations. Dr. Story has also talked about the ethical implications of working with vulnerable populations in a cross-cultural context.

GHS: 4002 Working in Global Health 

Working in Global Health is all about discovering the many different realms of global health in which you can work. Dr. Brunner-Luse has provided so many resources for jobs I can pursue after graduation and beyond. I really like how she uses current news topics in her class material. This course involves not only working on developing the skills you need for a job but making sure you can promote health globally. This is my third class with Dr. Brunner-Luse and I highly recommend her courses!

I hope I was able to show the numerous opportunities for education and involvement at the University of Iowa. Throughout the semester, I hope to write more about my experiences here, including how I am able to stay involved despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to follow along with all of our blog posts!

– Eliza Steere

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