Yale: Dean Answers Middle School Students about Public Health Issues
Yale School of Public Health Dean Sten H. Vermund was peppered with questions for a steady hour by New Haven public school students participating in the Ulysses S. Grant Summer Program run by Yale undergraduates. He was visiting the class to answer their questions about public health. And, they had many questions.“What is your favorite topic in public health?” asked the first student. Dr. Vermund said it was infectious diseases because he loves to wipe out the bugs that cause human disease. “What is the scariest infection today?” another student asked. Dr. Vermund replied that, in terms of virulence, it’s probably the Ebola virus, and he then added supporting information about the disease and its transmission. This prompted the question: “What is the worst common infectious disease?” Dr. Vermund said that it was probably influenza, which continues to take a heavy toll, particularly on the young and the elderly.And so it went, one question after another about the intricacies and challenges faced by modern day public health professionals, or epidemiologists, a term introduced by Dr. Vermund and picked up by the curious students. Worst parasitic disease? For sure, it’s malaria, he said. Does he travel much to promote public health? Dr. Vermund explained that he’s traveled extensively during his career, averaging about four months each year. Public health takes you everywhere.The discussion veered to the Black Plague in medieval Europe, smallpox, and the near global eradication of polio and Guinea worm. The U.S. Grant students have been discussing the social determinants of health, and it was “Great for them to learn about how this plays out in every day work and life,” said Ms. Sana Aslam, a Yale student and their program teacher.