As many students and fans of the WVU Football team traveled to Washington, D.C., to watch the Mountaineers face the James Madison University Bulldogs, students from WVU's new School of Public Health used the opportunity to achieve a little more. Knowing that many crucial decisions impacting public health happen in our nation's Capitol, the students met with several agencies and organizations spanning from local to international impact.
The group met first with the Chief of Staff, Frank Hearl, and Associate Director for Science, Dr. John Piacentino, of the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). NIOSH provides the leadership and research agenda for the United States and often engineers solutions for healthier working environments. NIOSH has a large laboratory facility in Morgantown with which several students in the WVU School of Public Health intern.
During the middle of their day, the students met with legislative assistants and policy advisors for Senators Manchin and Rockefeller and Representative Nick Rahall of WV's 3rd district. Faculty advisor, Toni Morris, highlighted the issue of social disparities for healthy eating as evidenced by recent shortages at Scott's Run Settlement food pantries. The Student Association for Public Health president, Lindsay Beery, asked what percentage of the policies were bottom-up versus top-down. It became clear that the representatives were very keen on maintaining open lines of communication and fighting for West Virginian interests on the Hill, as they found out that, in fact, every letter that is sent to a congressman is read and responded to.
The final visit of their trip was with the World Health Organization's regional office: the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). PAHO is responsible for the surveillance, policy recommendation development, research, and leadership for the public health of all countries in North and South America - "From Canada to Argentina." Dr. Alberto Barcelo, the Advisor for the Prevention and Control of Cronic Diseases, organized a presentation and gave the group a tour through the organization. The tour ended in the Emergency Operations Center, where PAHO leaders provide technical support to countries during public health outbreaks and disasters.
The students from the WVU School of Public Health did join their fellow Mountaineers at FedEx field the following day and cheered them to victory, as well as cheer for fellow classmate and cheerleader, Clayton Allison. If interested in participating in future public health professional development opportunities, please visit our website at http://publichealth.hsc.wvu.edu/saph/ or contact Kate Flack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The students who traveled on this trip were: Kate Flack, Lindsay Beery, Clayton Allison, Alyson Johnson, Saba Ashfaq, Kate Siegrist, Meagan Stabler, Rachel Stone, Chelsey Tressler, and Parul Agarwal. Toni Morris is the faculty advisor of the Student Association of Public Health (SAPH) and traveled on the trip as well as co-organized with V.P. Kate Flack.