2017: Activist Lab Year in Review.
From political turmoil over health care and immigration to Israeli scientists announcing a new treatment for ALS, from unprecedented natural disasters to 80 heroic bystanders saving a drowning family on a Florida beach, 2017 has been a tumultuous year across all sectors and all geographies. It felt like each day brought with it an inherent uncertainty; was our faith in humanity going to be depleted or renewed? At each turn, our school community did our very best to respond with compassion and, most importantly, action. This year we engaged with more students, faculty, staff, public health professionals, and community partners in our work than ever before. And despite all the bad, together we accomplished so much good.
Here are a few moments that stand out from the rest as a few of the dedicated Activist Lab staff members look back on our work in 2017:
Beverly Heinze-Lacey, Director, School Health Institute for Education and Leadership Development:
“School Health Institute for Education and Leadership Development’s (SHIELD) marked the completion of its first year as a new program in the Activist Lab on June 30, 2017. Funded by MDPH, SHIELD provides professional development training to school health professionals, particularly school nurses. When SHIELD was established on July 1, 2016, we were tasked with not only building a brand new infrastructure (hiring staff, building a website, creating systems for course registration, etc.), but we had to begin delivering programs starting on July 11! We spent the first twelve months literally building our ship while sailing it. We built an exceptionally talented team, delivered all programs on our calendar (115 workshops to 3,642 participants), designed new live and online courses, and made many new friends and partners both within and beyond the BUSPH community. We were also pleased to offer internship opportunities to six talented BU SPH MPH students and a part-time position to a DrPH student.
On July 26, it was with great pleasure that SHIELD program staff celebrated with our Activist Lab and BUSM colleagues. We have an amazing team! Not only did we meet the scope of work in our contract with MDPH, but we far exceeded expectations. SHIELD’s ship isn’t quite built yet, but because of our talented and dedicated students and staff, we’re sailing right along. We’re looking forward to another successful and productive year!”
Seth Eckhouse, Manager, Local Public Health Institute:
“The Local Public Health Institute of Massachusetts (LPHI) is the only dedicated training center in Massachusetts for local public health and boards of health. Our mission is to improve public health and preparedness capabilities and the health of the residents of the Commonwealth by creating, implementing, and sustaining workforce development activities for local public health and other public health system partners. The primary way we do this is through our catalog of On Your Time Trainings. These trainings, nearly 50 in all, are interactive, web-based learning tools that can be accessed at any time. Some of these trainings are new, and some were created as far back as 2012. We regularly update the materials, but we also recognized that a thorough audit of all of the trainings was needed to update content to reflect regulatory changes as well as to make the trainings Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)/508 compliant and apply the latest best practices in adult learning design.
With this in mind, the LPHI started an ambitious program to perform a thorough revamp of the entire On Your Time Trainings catalog. In 2017, the LPHI, along with the educational technology team housed in the Activist Lab, completed this process for 27 of our trainings. This is a tremendous feat; the content had to be updated by outside Subject Matter Experts and then brought in-house to make the functionality changes. The adjustments in the way that the trainings were displayed to make them ADA compliant added another layer of complexity to the project. As if this were not enough, we also made the decision to improve the way that learners accessed the trainings to make the process more visually pleasing and easier to navigate. This work, many hundreds of person-hours, was performed alongside the staff’s already crowded schedules. This was a near herculean feat and could not have been accomplished without the dedication and perseverance of such an excellent, dedicated team.
We often joke about “flying the airplane while still building it” at the LPHI; Looking back at the work on this project during 2017, I can say as manager of the LPHI that not only did we fly it with panache, but landed on time and didn’t lose anyone’s luggage. I could not be prouder of everyone who worked on this project during the year.”
Candice Bangham, Student Engagement Intern:
“I was fortunate enough to participate in my first Advocacy Boot Camp this year. Not only did I get to help in the preparations and execution as part of the Activist Lab team, I also participated as a student with my fellow classmates. The day was packed with lectures, presentations, and activities that helped students develop an activist toolbox we could employ as public health advocates, and by the end of the day, we were putting together cases to present to a mock legislative hearing!
For me, Boot Camp was not only significant because of the tangible learned outcomes; I was moved by how many students were so eager to participate in this workshop and how energized and passionate they were about the content. We were from diverse backgrounds and all brought unique perspectives and experiences to the table. To my surprise, there was an enormous waitlist for an event that lasted from 9 am to 4 pm on a beautiful, sunny Saturday.”
Kathleen MacVarish, Director, Practice Programs:
“For almost a decade, the Activist Lab has been successfully teaching Health and Housing Inspectors in Massachusetts to inspect various types of housing to protect the health, safety, and well-being of occupants and to conduct appropriate enforcement procedures until compliance with regulatory standards is achieved. One course that stands out, developed by Activist Lab faculty in partnership with city and state health department personnel, is called Massachusetts Public Health Inspector Training—Housing. In addition to classroom, online and field training, the course initially included a visit to an unoccupied house for Inspectors to improve and test their skills. This live visit was time, labor and travel intensive. Under the direction of Activist Lab Education Technologist Liam Hunt, development of a virtual housing inspection began in 2012. After two quality improvement cycles, a new, virtual house was launched in May 2017.
The virtual housing inspection is an ingenious tool for professional development, benefiting Inspectors by providing greater access and more controlled conditions. It eliminates the need for Inspectors to travel to a live house and allows them to enter the house 24/7/365. The technology allows any and all standards to be included in the training. One learner commented, ‘Fantastic Training Tool! Well Done!!’ The innovation of replacing a live environment with a virtual one is a leap forward in workforce education and training and the Activist Lab is considering how other regulatory programs that require inspection (i.e., restaurants, tanning facilities, and swimming pools) can benefit from this innovation. I am so pleased that Liam will be presenting a poster about the virtual housing inspection at the April 2018 Society for Public Health Education annual conference. He deserves the recognition and I’m excited to see the opportunities this new avenue opens for us.”
Kerry Dunnell, Manager, Urban Action Initiatives:
“On September 7th, the School of Public Health worked with The Names Project to host two panels from the AIDS quilt. The panels were displayed in the lobby of 670 Albany Street, and the first Deans’ Seminar of the 2017-2018 year was a panel of professionals.
The panels were beautiful, and this event was impactful for so many reasons. For me though, the event itself is just one part of my memory; there was so much planning and so many wonderful interactions related to bringing the panels to our community. As memorials, the quilt panels come with certain requirements for display and for security, and specific instructions for handling. We spent a lot of time explaining these requirements to facilities when we needed a place to display the panels, to security when we needed to be certain that the panels would be safe, to the riggers who came to hang the panels the night before and to take them down the next day. Each person brought their problem-solving skills to bear on the event.
Beyond that though, these people, as well as the many visitors, all paused to reflect, to share a moment, a memory, a thought or a feeling as a result of interacting with these beautiful memorials. Our intent for the event was to reflect on the progress that has been made by public health and medical professions in the treatment of HIV and AIDS and to honor lives that were lost, and we achieved that. At the same time, we fostered a myriad of small human interactions that reassured me at least of the fundamental goodness of people and of the power of public health to change the course of peoples’ lives for the better. “
Harold Cox, Director, Activist Lab and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice:
“I agree with Kerry. The event that stands out most to me was the AIDS Quilt and Dean’s Seminar.
During the early 80’s, AIDS changed my life and the lives of many others. We lost friends, family, loved ones. Retelling the stories of this complicated time was the true value of bringing several sections of the AIDS Quilt to the Medical Campus at the beginning of the academic year.
The AIDS Quilt is a memorial to individuals that have died from AIDS. Each panel represents one person and was made by friends and family who knew them and wanted to celebrate their lives. The quilt, which now weighs more than 50 tons, is much too large to display in one setting. We were honored to display several small sections of the quilt for a full day. I was particularly struck by the broad range of responses to the panels that I witnessed from our community. Some people had never heard of the AIDS Quilt so this was their first experience with it. For others, like myself, seeing the Quilt was not a new experience, but still a moving one. I remembered many friends that died. I remembered how scared we were about the HIV virus. I remembered how my own life, and that of so many others, was turned upside down and reshaped.
As part of this day of remembrance, we brought together a panel of individuals to discuss the impact that AIDS had on their lives during the early days of the epidemic. Panelists talked about people that they remembered as well as stories about stigma, complications of services, and the worldview of AIDS during the 80’s and 90’s. Our panelists reminded us that although many advancements have been made since the beginning, there are still considerable challenges in dealing with AIDS. BU Chaplain Robert Hill concluded the program with a powerful moment of reflection.
This event and the dialogue it created was hugely successful and I look forward to the programs and conversations the Activist Lab will bring to our community in the new year.”
This is just a quick glimpse into the immense amount of work and programming that went into 2017, but a few things are clear from these stories; First, our successes would not be possible without the limitless dedication of the people behind the scenes, and second, with each new opportunity for action and engagement, our school and local communities rise to the occasion and elevate the conversation to create real, lasting change for the health of all. It is with great hope and excitement that we look to 2018, and from the Activist Lab family to yours, we wish you a new year full of peace and joy.
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