Community Health and the Common Good

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“Are you the only person going on the trip that’s not pre-med?”

I received this question often when talking to family and friends about my spring break seminar. When I explained that Community Health and the Common Good centered on public health and that we would be interacting with alumni in the health care field, people immediately jumped to the idea of medicine. But throughout our immersion, my group members and I challenged the notion that public health is only a place for physicians.

Far from everyone being pre-med, the 11-person group contained a diverse array of majors and academic interests. Along with the handful of students who want to go directly into the medical field, we covered almost every field from history and political science to aerospace and chemical engineering. For me personally, as an undecided Arts & Letters major, I was grateful that there were other students in the group who did not fit into what is considered to be the typical public health mold. Because of this diversity, a common theme of our immersion became the idea that there is space for all in public health; everyone’s interests fit into the field in some way. There are so many different aspects of the health care field that we experienced during our seminar, from the clinical medicine side to policy, funding, history, and ethics. Alongside the doctor there is a place for the historian, the accountant, the political scientist, the engineer, and each of the other roles that we plan to fill in the future.

During our seminar we talked at length about the diversity of the people we would be interacting with as we explored the public health field. We discussed how race, socioeconomic status, location, education, and other factors influence health outcomes as well as perspectives. It is important to focus on how the perspectives of those we seek to serve can inform and help us, but I don’t think we should underestimate the value of what we can learn from the varying perspectives of our fellow students. The variety of interests and areas of study that our group contained brought so much richness to our discussions and reflections. The different lenses through which our members viewed the world and viewed public health allowed us to process what we did each day in a way that brought power and clarity to the often-heavy topics that we discussed. I learned so much from our travels and all the people we interacted with, but I learned just as much or more from the dialogue that our group shared each night. I was challenged to look outside of my own perceptions and perspectives to gain knowledge that I will carry with me for a long time. Although our group members came from a variety of academic backgrounds, I am so grateful that we were able to come together to experience something we are all passionate about, and that passion only grew throughout our week together.


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