Four Lehigh alumni and a Lehigh Valley Health Network speciliast sit on a Careers in Health Panel on Thursday, April 4th, 2019 in Linderman Library. The panel was held as a part of National Public Health Week, which seeks to recognize developments in the public health sector and raise awareness for public health. (Miguel Cole/B&W Staff)

Health, medicine and society department celebrates National Public Health Week


Four months into the calendar year isn’t too late to raise awareness for the importance of maintaining good health.

During the first full week of April, the country celebrates National Public Health Week. The goal of National Public Health Week is to help recognize the developments in the public health field and to raise awareness for health issues that may impact local communities.

“I hope that students learn a vast range of factors related to health and the implications of health, whether they are social, economic, medical (or) political,” said Sirry Alang, sociology and health, medicine and society professor at Lehigh. “Just exposing students to health both nationally and internationally.”

Health, medicine and society department chair Jessecae Marsh, alongside Alang and bioethics professor Dena Davis coordinated a collection of events to help spread awareness relating to public health issues and public health careers on Lehigh’s campus.

To kick off the week’s events, Whitney Witt, inaugural dean of the College of Health, explained what is to be expected from the new college.

On April 2, Witt discussed her vision for the new college, including how it will be sustained, the focus of the students who will be enrolled; and how she plans on building on the experiential learning that Lehigh offers.

This was the first event in the three-part series spanning from April 1-7.

Careers in Health Panel Discussion on April 4 exposed students to Lehigh alumni in different health professions. The goal of this panel was to provide resources and perspectives for what different health-related occupations entail.

The panel featured four Lehigh alumni and one specialist from the Lehigh Valley Health Network. Their professions ranged from clinical applications to public health roles to therapeutic implementations.

The panelists explained what their occupations entailed through general description and answering a myriad of questions. Many spoke with students long after the panel discussion had ended, offering advice and guidance.

“It was inspiring to see that people who are currently successful in their health careers didn’t know what they were going to do when they were in my shoes,” said Ashley Paquin, ’21.

The third and final event featured a health equity live screening on April 5, during which students were welcomed to watch a recorded talk from the American Public Health Association’s most recent expo from their own Public Health Week.

In this talk, students got to hear professionals discuss their views on universal healthcare as well as practical examples of policy implementation. For those interested in public policy implementation, this was an inside look at how the heads of public health discuss issues encompassing the nation today.

A lot of cooperation and coordination goes into planning these events. Alang said she has helped coordinate Public Health Week events since 2016.

Alang worked with Davis and Marsh to co-plan the events. They also worked with the American Public Health Association’s student liaisons at Lehigh.

Each year, a variety of health professionals are invited to educate and advise students.

For the first event, the room was fully packed, but as the week went on the number of attendees at the second and third events decreased.

“Public health is something that should interest everybody,” Davis said. “You and I are part of the public and we are healthy or not.”

One of the points made by Witt was that 20 percent of people’s health comes from medicine, while the rest is found in what people eat, how they exercise, the general environment and other factors.

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