Good things happen when people work together. With that spirit in mind, the LEAP Center partnered with the Department of Population Health to attend the World Affairs Council’s panel on health, fittingly, on World Health Day, April 7, 2022, in Houston, Texas. The panel, featuring heavy health hitters such as Dr. Deborah Birx (Former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator); Dr. Brett Giroir (16th US Assistant Secretary of Health), Michael Mizwa (CEO Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative), and Dr. Patricia Brock (Founder, Medical Bridges).
With majors from population health, political science, criminal justice, and history, the students were able to learn not only from the panelists, but also from each other.
According to Yvette Mendoza, a LEAP Ambassador and a veteran of many World Affairs Council panels, “getting other students’ perspectives, especially from those students who study health, allows us to see larger parts of the puzzle. It was interesting to see how all of our majors, in their own way, share the goal of making their communities healthier and stronger.”
The concept of collaborative service that was discussed impressed the SHSU students, and it has long resonated with Dr. Rosanne Keathley, Associate Chair of the Department of Population Health. Indeed, in the spring of 2020, Keathley tuned in to a press conference in which Dr. Birx discussed the importance of masks, and heeding the call to service, promptly mobilized a dozen SHSU volunteers. Working in the FACS Clothing Construction Lab, Keathley and her team collectively sewed and crafted more than 5,000 masks, providing them to campus staff, the local community, the hospital, and to others assisting in the effort to fight COVID. “We wanted to help, and we wanted people to remain healthy, so we went to work,” noted Keathley.
Such service has long been a part of SHSU, central to the institution’s mission and its motto. Events like these, observes Mike Yawn, Director of the Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics , “are integral to providing students professional contacts, role models, and education outside the classroom.” For their part, the students seemed to agree: “It was incredible,” noted Mendoza, “to see so many highly-educated public officials collaborating to make the world better.”
According to the panelists, much of the progress that has occurred in medicine in the past four decades has been the result of research, development, and collaboration. Their stories—combining outreach and innovation—were alternately touching, inspirational, and sobering. Dr. Brock spoke glowingly of American medicine, but also described going to far-flung areas of the world to train in hospitals so short of resources they were forced to reuse gloves and sutures.
Dr. Birx—who, in addition to her work on COVID-19, also served as the White House’s global AIDS coordinator for both Presidents Obama and Trump—emphasized the importance of data-driven decision making. Such analysis, she argued, should allow agencies to work together rather than devolving into political squabbles. And by “talking with one another” and working together, “we can save lives and make the world healthier.”
“It was an enlightening panel.” noted Yawn. “The panelists’ message of collaborative service translates very well to education, and I think it resonated deeply with our multi-disciplinary group.”