YSPH students tour New Haven’s public health pillars

First-time event takes students to three agencies that provide essential health services.

Incoming School of Public Health students learned about the challenges and rewards of public health during a tour of three city agencies that provide essential services to New Haven residents.

Nearly 25 students took the tour Friday that included stops at the New Haven Health Department, Fairhaven Community Health Center and Liberty Community Services, Safe Haven Program. At each destination, students met with lead administrators, learned about the agency’s role and had the opportunity to ask questions about issues surrounding health and health care. 

They learned that the health department provides an array of services that protect and improve health, including programs for maternal and child health and infectious diseases; Fairhaven provides vital health care to the city’s Fair Haven neighborhood, including prenatal and pediatric care; and Liberty seeks to end homelessness in the city by providing shelter for people with HIV/AIDS, mental illness and addiction. 

The School’s Office of Public Health Practice (OPHP) organized the first-time trip.

Elaine O’Keefe, executive director of OPHP, said that the four-hour tour was conceived with a dual purpose. The idea was to immerse incoming M.P.H. students in “live” public health practice early on in their educational experience, right here in Yale’s host city by visiting a variety of local agencies representing different aspects of public health and community health care, and to plant seeds for internship and practicum course projects that the students might engage in during their course of study.

“Another benefit of the tour was the awareness and interest it generated for volunteer work that students might undertake with these and other local public health agencies while they are at Yale,” she said. 

The students had the chance to meet with some of the city’s public health leaders, including Mario Garcia, M.P.H. ’02, director of health for the New Haven Health Department, Suzanne Lagarde, Fairhaven’s new CEO and Michael Hall and Silvia Moscariello, program directors at Liberty.

Kimberly S. Vasquez, a first-year M.P.H. student who took the tour, described it as a valuable experience.

“I truly admire their [the three agencies] contributions to the New Haven community,” she said. “I hope I can one day be involved in amazing projects, just like they are. This tour also helped me get a better sense of the dynamics and socioeconomic disparities present in the New Haven community. It is essential to understand this in order to create effective programs to uplift this community.”

Meghan Hughes, another first-year M.P.H. student who went on the tour, said that while the student participants have widely different backgrounds and goals for the future, they share a common goal of improving health. 

“Where better to start than in our new backyard of New Haven?” she said. “This tour was a great introduction to the different public health related opportunities that New Haven has to offer as well as providing a glimpse into future career paths.

This article was submitted by Denise L Meyer on September 4, 2013.

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Elaine O'Keefe

Executive Director, Office of Public Health Practice and Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS