Making a Difference

By Gabriel Stahl
April 4, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrior to embarking on my postgraduate studies in public health, my experience in the field was limited to literary research, and data entry for public health professionals as a research assistant. At that time, I dutifully completed the tasks at hand and did not consider the comprehensive domain that is public health.

Several months removed from my first term in postgraduate studies, my sense of public health is a driving factor in many of my daily activities as well as my life. For the greater part of a semester, I had been learning about the core functions of public health, epidemiology, policies, and the concept of One Health, One Medicine involving the interconnection of humans, animals, and health. As the semester progressed, our class was provided with several opportunities to apply our public health skills in the community. The classroom setting is highly beneficial, but applying the knowledge and seeing the immediate effect it can have on a community takes the value of a public health degree to another level.

As a student, my colleagues and I were given the opportunity to create a television segment for breast and cervical cancer awareness in Grenada. We also removed 40 bags of waste (some hazardous) from a public road, contributing to a less polluted environment on a small scale. Many students worked with public schools to present aspects of public health to students such as fitness, the importance of hygiene, and sex education. While these topics may seem like innate subjects, they are all vital to decreasing the disease burden and increasing the overall health of a population.

Today, I have completed three quarters of my first term of medicine at SGU. I consistently integrate my knowledge of public health with the topics I am studying in medicine. As my second semester of public health courses approaches, I know I will further benefit from my expanded understanding of health and the multitude of factors involved in the overall health of an individual, their community, and a population. As an aspiring physician and public health professional, it is well within my skill set to increase awareness. While the ability to practice medicine will take several more years to achieve, supporting public health is immediately attainable.

Beginning with my immediate social circle and community, I have increased awareness of opportunities to minimize outbreaks of zoonotic diseases such as Dengue and Chikungunya fevers by discussing the detriment of standing water and utilization of screens in windows. Additionally, health screening and cancer awareness are not a major focus of the Grenadian population, despite the high prevalence of cancer in the population. Utilizing free online resources, I have developed a website, and work to increase awareness of women’s health at events and through the website. Awareness is an important aspect of public health that can be increased with very few resources. Public health is a noble profession, ingrained in the fabric of lives worldwide. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the population is completely unaware that public health is within their control. While my unique situation plays a small part in the scope of public health, it has helped me realize the positive effect one person can have in their community.

For more on the PHSA’s efforts, click here to see two students’ appearance on Spice Morning.

Gabriel Stahl is a first-term Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health student at St. George’s University.

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