By Abbi Monssen
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our students continue their Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Practice Fellowships remotely at their respective placements. The MCH Fellowship is one of the cornerstone programs at the Boston University Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health - offering a field-based experience to MCH trainees. We interviewed two current MCH Fellows and Master of Public Health candidates - Elizabeth Wolff (SPH ‘21) and Kate Conquest (SPH ‘20) – about their fellowship experiences during COVID-19 and the impact of the epidemic on people and communities they work with.
The Fellowship Experience: While some Fellows have not seen their scope of work drastically change, others have experienced a complete shift in their focus areas. For MCH Fellows Elizabeth and Kate - both of their fellowships swiftly pivoted in order to support the Massachusetts state-wide COVID-19 response. Elizabeth Wolff is an MCH Fellow at the Massachusetts Department of Health (MDPH) working with a pilot racial equity initiative - the Racial Equity Strategic Pathway Implementation Team (RESPIT). “MDPH is now at the forefront of addressing the impacts of COVID-19, which has put my initial project on hold until the pandemic gets under control,” Elizabeth explained. Her fellowship has transitioned to working remotely on new projects to identify how COVID-19 has impacted maternal and child health.
MCH Fellow Kate Conquest is conducting her fellowship through the Mental Health Advocacy Project (MHAP) for Kids. At the time of our interview, Kate shared that she was already conducting her fellowship remotely. However, she has also experienced changes to her scope of work to support and evaluate the state-wide COVID-19 response.
One of the biggest changes for MCH Fellows was the abrupt transition to a completely remote workflow with their placement team and preceptors. For some Fellows it has been a challenge maintaining efficient communication with their placement sites, as both Fellows and the preceptor sites grapple with the shared environmental stress caused by the pandemic. For other students and professionals, remote work has led to increased communication and productivity. Kate said, “[Virtual meetings] actually allow me to meet with my supervisor more consistently than I was before the transition.” Elizabeth shared a similar experience and said, “My preceptor has been more than supportive. My preceptor has taken extra time to assist me with identifying and transitioning new projects that can be worked on remotely.”
Impact on people and communities: While it is unclear what the long-term impacts are that COVID-19 will have on various vulnerable populations, Fellows have already gained first-hand experience on the short-term effects of the virus on maternal and child health. Elizabeth commented, “Racial disparities have been evident among the populations affected by COVID-19 and MDPH is dedicated to ensuring that these disparities are addressed. A new project at MDPH has brought together local health boards and Massachusetts public health schools and programs to build capacity and support the COVID-19 response within the community.”
Kate’s fellowship work focused on young children and parents in Massachusetts, She explained, “COVID is having an undeniably negative effect for the families that MHAP for Kids works with. Many of our youths are on Individual Education Plans (IEPs), which are difficult to execute in an online format. Many of them also have services like mentorships, after school groups, and therapy...It has also been hard financially for our families...One mom rented out a room on Airbnb for supplemental income but that has [ended] since people have stopped traveling...other parents have lost their jobs altogether.” It is clear that COVID has highlighted and exacerbated deep-rooted infrastructural problems in our society impacting mothers, children, and families especially.
Despite uncertainties and rapid adjustments experienced by the MCH Fellows, one benefit is apparent: fellows have gained invaluable experiences grappling with the unique set of ever-evolving challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students and Fellows: for more information about navigating the workforce during COVID-19, please visit the BUSPH Career & Practicum Office.
At the Center of Excellence, we would like to take a moment to recognize our graduating MCH Communications Fellow - Abbigayle Monssen:
Abbi joined the MCH Practice Fellowship Program in 2019 as the very first MCH Communications Fellow for the CoE. Abbi paved the way for streamlining CoE social media communications - of note, Abbi operationalized our social media content calendar (spotlight efforts included 2020 National Public Health Week, and emerging COVID MCH communications); co-managed the 2020 joint webinar with the Harvard CoE; and consistently shared innovative approaches to expanding and improving our online presence and communication efforts.
Thank you, Abbi!
Congratulations on earning your MPH and joining our strong community of former MCH trainees!
We wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors!
The mission of the Period Project at BUSPH is to ensure that students have equitable access to hygiene supplies on campus by providing free menstrual products.
Connect with The Period Project!
"Changing the world one flow at a time!" What began as a pilot last spring, The Period Project has become a larger discussion at BUSPH and the Medical Campus community. Co-founders and BUSPH students Caroline Ezekwesili, Kimberly Blair, Ebosetale Eromosele, Hannah Simon, Hithu Kodicherla, and Makeda Negash-Alemnesh, presented The Period Project the September School Assembly for Faculty and Staff (photos below). The project aims to provide menstrual resources for students and bring attention to the importance menstrual health management (MHM) equity. As Activist Bucks Innovation Grant recipients, the Period Project is hoping to expand its efforts in providing menstrual products beyond the Medical Campus. In addition, they are aiming to become a student group on campus!
The positive birth experience that everybody deserves.
A new doula startup that multiple Boston University School of Public Health alumni and current students.
"Birthing is one of the most impactful experiences in a person’s life. It transforms you, awakening a profound sense of self and fulfillment. However, for many people in marginalized communities, it is often the opposite. A traumatic experience with detrimental side effects."
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Our work focuses on improving birth outcomes, especially where inequities and disparities are higher. We serve birthing people that otherwise wouldn't have the means or support during this significant moment in their lives. Offering cultural and linguistic appropriate services that address communication and cultural barriers.
|Abbi Monssen, MPH '20|
|Fellowship Placement: Maternal and Child Health Center of Excellence
April 2019 - December 2019
Describe your Fellowship
As a fellow for BUSPH’s Maternal and Child Health Center of Excellence (MCHCoE), I am responsible for managing the Center’s social media, website, and various outreach activities. In this position, I write and create content for Facebook and linkedin, and have started the Center’s twitter account. In addition, I am currently designing a new website for the Center of Excellence to describe the Center’s work, post job opportunities, provide information about fellowships, and highlight maternal and child health research, networking, and opportunities at BUSPH, in Boston, and nationally. Lastly, I will get the opportunity to advertise the Center’s upcoming annual Webinar with Harvard.
What has been the best part about working with MCHCoE?
The best part about working with the MCHCoE is having a lot of responsibility. As the manager of the Center’s social media and coming website, I have had the opportunity to work on these projects individually with the support of Center faculty. It has given me a chance to be creative, learn new things, and constantly work on new ideas!
What has surprised you most about working with MCHCoE?
I was most surprised by the amount of thought and effort that goes into creating social media content. While I’ve posted photos and tweets on my personal accounts, its very different to navigate creating and writing content for an academic center-- still trying to figure it out.
What has been the most meaningful thing you have learned at MCHCoE?
The most meaningful thing I’ve learned as a fellow for the MCHCoE is how to develop a 'voice' in social media posts when working for an academic center. I think this is a great skill to have that I will be able to use and apply to future communications positions. Additionally, learning is how to problem solve and use WordPress to design a website has been a very valuable skill I’ve learned.
Anything else interesting about your summer?
This summer I also interned at the Population Health Exchange office at BUSPH. I was able to gain experience in both communications and program management. By working with PHX and the MCHCoE at the same time, I was able to learn new skills and apply them to both positions.
Maternal, Child Health in Action is a collaborative leadership initiative to engage and connect Maternal and Child Health (MCH) students, non-MCH students with a passion for MCH, and alumni from across the nation through education, service, and advocacy.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to connect with us on social media for more updates and events!
|Lauren Thomann, MPH '20|
|Fellowship Placement: Boston Public Health Commission
Boston Healthy Start Initiative/Community Action Network Fellow
January 2019-June 2019
Describe your Fellowship
Advocated for the Community Action Network (CAN) - within the Boston Healthy Start Initiative (BHSI) - which aims to reduce racial inequities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes in Boston through community and policy level changes. Amongst other things, I coordinated CAN and Preconception Health (PCH) Workgroup meetings, communicated with CAN members regularly, supported staff with meeting content and the implementation of CAN activities for efficient work production, and assisted in facilitating PCH focus groups/interviews and synthesizing the collected data.
What has been the best part about working with BPHC?
The Boston Public Health Commission was a great place for me to experience the nuances and challenges that come with working in the public health field, and I’m not sure I could’ve gotten such an authentic and humbling look had I been placed elsewhere. I also really liked the individuals I got to work with, and met so many great community members.
What has surprised you most about working with BPHC?
Working at the Boston Public Health Commission, I was most surprised with how passionate so many community members were about participating in the work being done with the CAN. Their willingness to participate with either no compensation or very little compensation was extremely rewarding and solidified how important the work we were doing was.
What has been the most meaningful thing you have learned at BPHC?
Through my work with the PCH group within the CAN, I was able to take a deep dive into learning more about existing biases, social determinants of health, and racism, as well as actively participate in the creation of a preconception health intervention aimed at affecting the root causes of racial disparities in preconception health in Boston.
Anything else interesting about your summer?
While finishing up my fellowship at the BPHC, I was also taking the summer course MC705: Safer Sex in the City. I found the combination of the fellowship and this course so interesting because one focused largely on reproductive health and the other focused mostly on sexual health. It was great to learn about the similarities and differences of each.