I kept trying to come up with a better name for this post, but the alliteration just stuck it for me. Oh well, that’s what you get when you’re a bit of a nerd for literary devices…
So here’s the point: I’m a trained historian. Musician, too, and that gives me a whole different skill set, but the history degree I earned in undergrad is really showing it’s colors as I work my way through MPH@GW classes. In the middle of one of my rants about how I loved one class and was kind of “Meh” on the other due to how the class was structured, Jill popped up and said “That would be a great series on the blog. A historian goes to health school!” So let’s blame Jill.
Putting unflattering pictures of each other up on the internet is what best friends are for, right?
ALRIGHT. So here’s the first of the installments about my experiences going through the curriculum as an MPH@GW student pursuing my Master of Public Health degree… as a historian.
The first two weeks of my first semester (quarter? It’s only 10 weeks long…) are over at this point, and looking back, I’m quite firmly rooted as to which classes I can say that I “like” and which ones I don’t “like.” And honestly, it really shows my previous experience as to which ones I’m thriving in. Here are the three classes I’m currently taking:
- Social and Behavioral Approaches to Public Health
- Biological Concepts in Public Health
- Environmental Health in a Sustainable World
Obviously, I love the Social and Behavioral class. It’s social science applied to Public Health. I get to look at the big picture, bask in the study results that show over arching patterns, and discuss actual action and policy with my classmates. Last night two of my classmates and I practically had an action plan for bringing healthy foods to lower income parts of the city along with exercise programs and nutrition counseling in a manner that would remove the… for lack of a better word, the economic stigma attached to them. We were rolling towards changing the world, and just in a class discussion! It’s my favorite class, I love the subject matter, and it goes to show that this is quite definitely the area of Public Health that I want to work in post graduation. Anyone surprised? Nope. Didn’t think so.
Big book. Maximizing study time reading for Enviro at the doc’s office.
Environmental Health kind of falls in between Social and Biology for me. It looks at a lot of big picture elements like climate change, the social reaction to it, and other elements, but it gets really bogged down into the whole details of it. It takes me close to 8 hours of prep work to get ready for this class session, and the discussion sessions don’t even begin to touch on the majority of the subject matter we’ve prepared. It’s frustrating because I do so much work (my little over achiever brain has to do the prep, read all the material, and just know it all before I get there, even casually) and then it doesn’t even get used in class. Sure, I’m likely to be glad that I know a lot of the details, but right now I’m just feeling clogged with information that I’m not sure I’m going to need, and don’t seem to need to know immediately. But then again, it’s only the second week. Who knows what might happen before the end of this quarter?
Stalking the paper writing Mom.
And… Biology. That’s really what Biological Concepts breaks down into. It’s biology for the Public Health student. I don’t think there is anything that could be farther away from Social and Behavioral in terms of “Big picture” vs “details.” Biology is a detail. It’s cells. Diseases. The technical mumbo-jumbo that the physicians in my class are absolutely rolling in and I’m sitting there kind of getting a headache. The structure of the course is brilliant: we start at the smallest part, and start tying it all together into bigger constructs of health (Cells – Microbiology – Immunology – Genetics – cancer – treatment for cancer – HIV/AIDS) and I LOVE THAT. I can’t say it enough: I love the structure of this class. I love that it was built for people like me who like connections, who see the strings tying the rest of the world together.
Only way I stayed awake for Bio class on Wednesday.
I’m honestly glad that my classes have such a diverse group of people in them. I have at least half a dozen physicians with varying specialties who can give the definitive medical answer to all the questions that are raised about diseases, problems, what a patient would present with, etc. But man, the difference in our training shows up in classes like Biology and Social. In biology they give these long technical answers and they rock the house, and in Social, they don’t quite see past the study results to the big picture. I feel like I want to stand up and say “Guys, it’s a great leaf on the tree. The single cell you’re looking at on the leaf is fascinating. But look, there’s a tree attached! A whole one! And that tree is part of a forest! THE FOREST IS PART OF A WHOLE WORLD.”
What a world it is. (Courtesy of my longer walk/run this morning)
I guess that’s why I’m there. To balance out their technical minds and bring concepts and big picture elements to the table, to make the connections. And they’re there to help me out when I have no idea what kind of casing the leprosy virus cells have. I’m learning as much from my classmates as I am from the professors, and we create this balance in the discussion sessions. If the class gets too technical and I can’t quite stay awake, I pipe up with a connection and watch the class spin away onto that connection. Same thing with the doctors clarifying technical elements that some of us aren’t as familiar with.
I may have made up a way of remembering the different types of cells where prokaryotes are skanky because they have their genetic information just floating anywhere in the cytoplasm for anyone to see… and eurkaryotic cells are prudes because they keep it all tucked away behind a membrane. This is what happens when I do my class readings on slow days at work.
So there. An introduction into what it’s like to be a historian in health school!