California

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A little background

I am late writing this week. I got back from CDC meeting late last Thursday and left for the ASPH/APHA meetings in San Diego Saturday morning. The plane ride was interesting, because a number of people on it were going to the meetings, and we had a chance to catch up with one another. An extremely well-behaved detection dog had a seat a few rows back. I always love to be in the company of dogs!

ASPH meeting

I really appreciate the opportunity to meet with fellow deans. Although we compete on some levels, it also is an incredibly thoughtful, supportive group, and I look forward to seeing people who are colleagues and friends. We worry about a lot of the same things—bringing in money, recruiting the best students, and supporting faculty and staff. I’ve joined the diversity committee, chaired by Marla Gold, Dean, Drexel University, because the topic is so important, and I decided to become part of the solution. We had fascinating discussions in the overall session about global health and about the role of schools of public health in global health. Our School’s name change precipitated a lot of discussion about names. Clearly, a lot of people think we got it right in modifying public health with the word global.

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Serendipity at the gym

When I travel, I really like to go to local grocery stores and gyms. Makes me feel like I am not merely a visitor, and one really gets a better feel for places that way (plus saving money by shopping at the grocery instead of eating out all the time). I have a terrible sense of geographic direction, and I walked out at 5:30 a.m. in search of one gym and could not find it but saw a gym called The Burn Fitness and decided to see if I could get a day pass since time was moving fast. Well, it turned out to be a fascinating experience. It is a small, local gym with two great owner-trainers who let me work out there as a courtesy. Everyone who walked in was a regular, and it had the most amazing sense of intimacy I’ve ever seen. Already, I liked the place! I walked in and got on a cycle and a man across the way asked where I was from and my name. I told him and then he asked what I did which led to a spirited discussion about public health. He asked great questions about the role of policies and the potential value of closer collaborations with legal folks. Turns out he is the city attorney for San Diego and exuberant about politics. After I told him I was attending the ASPH meeting and we talked a little, he said, “So what is ASPH going to do to improve the health of the U.S.?” It was one of those aha moments that really concentrated my mind on impact. What are we doing as a School, what are we doing as an Association? I had a chance to raise the issue later in the day when ASPH had Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (Emeritus), Executive Director, APHA, as a guest speaker. And Jim Marks, MD, MPH, senior Vice President and Director, Health Group, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, unveiled a new program on public health and the law to spearhead more work in the policy arena.

We may be on the cusp of one of those moments of convergence when we actually could do something amazing to improve health if we all can get past our individual agendas and pull together for something greater and potentially much more long lasting. There was such a sense of excitement in the air as I walked through the Marriott last night on the way to the UNC alumni reception. It really feels like public health’s time has come.

UNC alumni reception

Thanks to Cutler Andrews, Steve Couch and others in External Affairs, we had a great turnout.  It’s always amazing to walk into a room of wall-to-wall UNC SPH alumni, faculty and staff. I met many people I hadn’t met before, and that was great. So many people doing really interesting things and students I’ve mentored are doing well. Multiple people came up and told me how good they felt about the School’s direction, and that was great to hear! And over and over, I heard stories about how important it was to our alumni when they applied to the SPH that one of the student services managers went out of their way to get them applications, be a sounding board and offer flexibility. Our alumni are an amazing force for good in the world and also a powerful social networking group to help one another and help the School. In my remarks, I mentioned that we are going to devote the first $40,000 from the Annual Fund to scholarships for our students, and the more we raise, the more we will devote to students.

That’s all for now. I’m on my way to San Francisco to meet with some alumni there. And, naturally, the plane’s delayed. Happy Tuesday. Barbara

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