Global public health during a pandemic

Global Public Health program changes with COVID-19

Kalleen Rose Ozanic, Associate News Editor

The Global Public Health (GPH) minor program faces difficulty this year due to COVID-19 restrictions and has had to suspend study abroad experiences for the foreseeable future.

“I was not able to study abroad in the GPH program because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ashley Deveau, a third-year biology 3+1 major and GPH minor. “I would have gone to the Philippines this past June and compared and contrasted the healthcare system in the capital city of Manila to the healthcare system on a remote island.”

The GPH minor usually requires a month of study abroad to supplement students’ education in global public health, according to Dr. David Hill, director of the GPH program, who is also a member of Quinnipiac University’s COVID-19 task force and professor of medical sciences.

Connor Lawless

Students must apply to the GPH program due to the process of providing funds for studying abroad as well as the amount of work students have to do within the minor, according to Hill.

The pandemic presented challenges in the learning dynamic of the program. The departments of political science and philosophy have changed the GPH curriculum to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.

While the program will see what next year brings in terms of study abroad opportunities, an alternative in place is students selecting the country they would have traveled to and completing a research project, Hill said.

When the GPH program was first created, Hill said, up to $2,500 funding was available to each student so that financial burdens would be less of a barrier. Now, COVID-19 restrictions are a barrier to students in the GPH program.

“I do see global public health differently in light of COVID-19,” Deveau said. “Through the COVID-19 pandemic, I have witnessed the difficulties faced due to politics and lack of resources when implementing health initiatives. Also, I have learned about how this novel pandemic has hindered the eradication and treatment programs for other diseases.”

This global awareness and understanding of global health is essential to the GPH program.

According to Hill, COVID-19 and recent social and cultural movements have put global public health in a tense position.

“You have this dichotomy of trying to keep this Quinnipiac bubble safe and then trying to burst it for global public health (studies),” Hill said. “But I think with COVID we just want to reemphasize … that we need to engage with the complexities of our society.”

Hill said that viewing the pandemic and global public health through the lens of social disparity is important.

“(COVID-19) has illustrated and shined a light on the greatest tyrannies we have in our country,” Hill said. “America is a great country but we have some of the many challenges that are experienced in low-income countries, and they have less resources to deal with it. We have all the same problems of violence and stigma and marginalization of certain groups, so I think that we can continue to learn about those (issues) and understand how we as individuals, as a country and as a university can learn to address those (issues).”

These interdisciplinary topics are incorporated into the classroom setting; according to the GPH minor summary, the minor curriculum emphasizes knowledge of human cultures through study in natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts, critical thinking skills and real-world application of knowledge.

“Even though I didn’t get to travel abroad with the minor, I still learned a lot about healthcare issues in other countries,” Deveau said. “We also had guest speakers in the class that talked about their experiences in the field, which was really interesting. These components also highlighted areas of focus we could study within the broad and interdisciplinary spectrum of global public health.”

The GPH program leaders will remain aware of COVID-19 to gauge future study abroad opportunities for students in the program.

“Hopefully next summer we’ll have a vaccine and, looking at the prevalence and incidents of COVID cases around the globe, we could send our students (abroad),” Hill said.

According to Hill, the GPH program admits approximately 20 students per year. The application is open until Sept. 27, at 11:59 p.m. For more information, visit myq.quinnipiac.edu/globalpublichealth.