My name is Jordan Moberg and I am part of the Community Engagement in Public Health class with professor Elizabeth Dunn. This class has exposed me to a variety of public health issues and disaster relief programs in the Tampa area, while also providing opportunities to get involved with incredible organizations. All of the companies who partnered with our class provided unique perspectives on disaster management and were significant to this learning opportunity. The organization and experience that stood out to me most are the American Red Cross and the GIS mapping presentation with Ben Jacob.
The American Red Cross supports a positive and hard working community of people in its endeavor to support the public in disasters and crises through prevention, planning, mitigation, response and recovery. During the visit to the American Red Cross center, two representatives spoke to the class in regards to the mission and vision of the organization. Janet McGuire the Regional Communications Officer spoke about the role public affairs and social media play in disaster response. With technology advancements, people are beginning to depend on social media for relief during a crisis situation. Recent data shows an increase in the number of people who post on social media sites like Facebook during a disaster; nearly one third of these same people expect relief within an hour of posting. With this being the case, monitoring social media sites in order to stay informed is increasingly important.
Janet also taught the class how to appropriately conduct, as well as respond to an interview when speaking on behalf of the American Red Cross. For public affairs personal particular importance is placed on preparation and planning, telling the truth, listening closely, providing factual evidence, and getting photo release forms signed. As part of the public affairs team, it is your job to uncover the stories of victims from the disaster, then paint an accurate image of that story in the audiences’ mind. This motivates a call to action and sense of urgency in assisting the victims of disaster. Stories also help to inform the community of how severe the damage is, as well as the efforts being made by organizations like the American Red Cross.
The second Red Cross representative, Stephanie, informed us of a multitude of opportunities that are available to get involved with the Red Cross. Two specific opportunities that stood out to me are the disaster action team member and shelter volunteer positions. As a DAT member you sign up for specific shifts to be on call and go to the scene in the event of a fire or other local disaster. Once on scene, you fill out paperwork, conduct disaster assessments, and deliver emotional and financial support. In this position, I will be one of the first people on scene to provide support to those affected; what I do and say will have an impact. The shelter worker position also provides hands on experience at a local and national level when shelters are opened due to large scale disasters. Volunteering in a shelter can last for multiple days depending on the damage and duration of the disaster. The shelter worker has a variety of duties including but not limited to: distribution of supplies, health assessments, and checking individuals in. The American Red Cross facilitates relief in times of distress by connecting volunteers in the community to needed positions during disaster. The generosity of individuals’ time and money with nothing expected in return shows how a community such as Tampa can join together for the greater good of others.
I plan to volunteer with the American Red Cross as a disaster action team member, a shelter worker, or as a part of the public affairs and social media team. I love the fact that all of these positions offer hands on experience and leadership roles that will strengthen my confidence and problem solving skills. Not only will volunteering be meaningful and impactful to my life, but my hope is that what I do will make a positive impact on others. I want to be more involved with the community and give back to those in need during times of disaster and other unforeseen events. I believe that volunteering with the American Red Cross will be a life changing experience that will facilitate my growth as a person, my passion for working in the public health industry, and my innovation for developing more efficient and effective systems to aid in future disaster relief.
The other experience that really impacted me is from Dr. Ben Jacob, a Research Assistant Professor at USF, who taught our class the basics of Global Information Systems (GIS) mapping. His presentation on maps and satellites, and the hard data that can derive solutions to global issues completely captivated me. He spoke to us about a KRIGS system that is able to interpret measurable data and then search out those same characteristics in other geographical locations with over 90% accuracy. Through this technology he was able to identify a disease in one country, and then pinpoint predicted locations that the same disease was present in a different country. Once these predictions were confirmed, Ben was able to continue his research and begin implementing ways to cure the disease based on out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving. Ben looks at a typical situation, then through maps, analysis, and research is able to find commonalities that group a disease in a location in order to solve that issue in a non-typical way. His presentation sparked my interest in epidemiology and a desire to learn GIS mapping in order to think and solve public health issues in a new way. I have a strong passion to help people, and truly believe that the sky is the limit with this technology. I will be taking a class with Ben in the fall to learn GIS mapping and look forward to the future possibilities that lay ahead. Ben Jacob’s high energy and intense passion for disease eradication is truly an inspiration and a blessing.
Overall there are countless takeaways to be gained from the Community Engagement in Public Health Disaster Preparedness class. In addition to volunteering with the American Red Cross, I plan to learn GIS mapping in order to expand my knowledge so that I can create solutions to public health problems. Tampa has a tremendous task force that works strategically through plans and critical thinking to deliver the highest quality disaster management to its people, while also giving with compassionate hearts. I feel blessed to have had this life changing experience and look forward to volunteering my time to disaster management and other public health issues that range from the local level to a global one. Public health is on the verge of technology advances and I plan to be a dynamic part in that process. It is because of professors like Elizabeth Dunn who take a proactive role in their student’s education and the community that more connections are able to be made. This teaching style and community engagement will ultimately lead to innovation through creativity and strategy in the field of public health. A big thank you to Elizabeth Dunn and all of the organizations that made this Community Engagement in Public Health Class such an extraordinary learning experience.