Notes from the Dancing Dean
(Felicia Mebane – Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at the UNC Gillings School of Global Health)
One of the lessons I taught students in my classes on health care policy and politics is that attention to issues, problems and crises comes and goes. Eventually, journalists, celebrities, politicians, the general public and even health care professionals return to the ongoing issues that affect them personally or are highest on their list of ongoing priorities. This morning was the first time since the Haiti earthquake that my favorite morning news program did not lead with the aftermath of last week’s earthquake in Haiti . Where will the donations, volunteers and attention be one month from now…one year from now?
My corresponding lessons on the issue attention cycle were for supporters of particular issues, policies or crisis responses to take advantage of peaks in attention (before they inevitably fade) and to create infrastructures that would help sustain their efforts.
A great example of this advice in action is the UNC-CH Engineers Without Borders’(EWB) collaboration with the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA). UNC EWB leaders (current students Liz, Shannon and Patsy), Reverend Robert Campbell from RENA and recent SPH graduate Dr. Chris Heaney met with Dean Rimer (me and others) this afternoon to discuss ideas for how they can expand and sustain their service-research contributions aimed at helping this community. One of their strategies is to build collaborations that would expand the network of groups and agencies who are committed to supporting this issue. Another is to “create” attention with a documentary (which is in progress), seminars and other communications. And, of course, they are pursuing funding via grants and donations.
All of these approaches can be used by student organizations and students who want their projects and issues to have support year-to-year.
EWB Partners with Local Communities
Our chapter is working with the UNC Department of Epidemiology to support the Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA) in Chapel Hill. EWB-UNC partnered with RENA in spring and summer of 2009 to test drinking and surface water and survey well and septic systems in the community and will be partnering with Orange County health department in the coming months to conduct a further study.
RENA’s President, Minister Robert Campbell, was recently invited to brief EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on November 20th, 2009 in the West Wing of the White House.
Read more in the Daily Tar Heel and Herald Sun. This partnership was previously featured in Carolina Public Health Magazine. You can read about EWB-UNC’s commitment to service, both locally and abroad, in the Spring 2009 Issue.