Students Launch ‘This Is Public Health’ Campaign

If you’re not sure what public health encompasses or what its workers do, you’re not alone, and an awareness campaign from a Kalamazoo College class aims to change that.

“This is Public Health at K,” adapted from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, is being launched by K’s Issues in Public Health class, taught by Dr. Khadija Brumblay.

Students in the class said jointly, “Dr. Brumblay’s class has impacted our perception of public health and public health workers. We hope to expand that understanding to K students to help them realize how public health impacts their daily lives.”

Public health promotes well-being through education and advocacy, protects health through policy and legislation, and prevents illnesses, diseases and injuries. It includes things as varied as speed limit signs, ergonomic chairs, trash cans, sewage systems, vaccine developments and campaigns, water sanitation, mental health prevention, diet and physical exercise education, tobacco taxation and national surveys that monitor health.

Its workers are community workers who visit homes to engage with people, their families and entire communities. They organize education campaigns, develop sexual-education curriculum and cancer screening campaigns. They collect pond and rain water, soil and animal droppings to identify the causes and risk factors for diseases, while predicting and modeling the occurrence and trends of diseases, illnesses and injuries. They promote planting trees and encourage people to use seat belts while driving and helmets while biking.

No matter who they are or what they do, “public health workers are advocates for various communities who work in pursuit of a healthier, more equitable society that prioritizes the well-being of all,” the class said.

About 100 years ago, about half of all the babies born in the U.S. didn’t live past their first year. A century of interventions as simple as hand washing have pushed overall life expectancy from 40 to 78 years in the U.S. That is the might of public health.

Issues in Public Health class
Cameron, Danielle, Lizbeth, Jessica, Emma, Sofia, Sophia F., Sophia H, Jonathan, Amelia, Mahum, Vanita, Elizabeth, Sophia L, Onora, Lindsey, Addison, Leslie, Thea, Megan, Nate, Rachel and Hana are students in the Issues in Public Health Class.
Image provides a QR code for K's 'This Is Public Health' campaign

These positive trends are observed worldwide. But significant inequities between countries and between communities in the same countries remain due to the socio-demographic, economic and political hierarchies in our societies. In Kalamazoo, infant mortality is much greater for Black children than white children. Equity and access to opportunities are therefore at the center of all public health efforts.

Unfortunately, for the first time in human history, life expectancy is declining due to a combination of deaths of despair such as opioid overdoses, suicides and the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of recent developments, including vaccine hesitancy and reduced trust in science and the medical profession, it is important to pause and appreciate public health for its central role in human health and well-being.

You can help by spreading the word. Talk to your friends, share links and hashtags (#ThisIsPublicHealthatK) from the campaign, and like and comment on social media posts.

As the College’s motto is lux esto, or be light, “public health is the light leading us to a brighter future,” the class said.

From the Class

Health is more than just a hospital with doctors and shots. Please take a moment to skim this information and gain a better understanding of both the different forms that public health takes on and how they have manifested on our campus. It should be said that you can advocate for further efforts toward supporting any of these forms of public health on our campus. To make changes in the health of this campus, you must first understand it, so we hope this infographic and other supporting information provides some of the knowledge to support utilization and even expansion of public health care at K. 

Our Why 

This campaign’s goal is to increase awareness and understanding of what public health is and how it impacts all facets of daily life. Public health is the promotion of healthy living by education to prevent injuries and illnesses. How can we impact the attitudes of K students to identify what makes public health important to them at a personal level and then at the community level? Furthermore, this campaign will generate critical thinking of where Kalamazoo College may need help. This will benefit the College’s public health approach. We want to be a part of the larger picture and be a model institution.  

The Original ‘This Is Public Health’ Campaign 

The This Is Public Health Campaign divides the campaign into three areas: prevention, impact, and equity & justice. Impact is one of its standout qualities and it speaks to the CGHL 210- Issues in Public Health class. Preventing disease and injury starts with education and acknowledging where the inequities occur that lead to health disparities. This Is Public Health campaign is run by Association of Schools and Programs of Health to raise awareness and meet students where they’re at. Various modes of technology and advertisement includes news articles, social media, books, and podcasts. Most resources on the campaign websites are created and promoted by student teams and classes. This Is Public Health centers self-advocacy and agency of students to gain a stronger presence in all areas of public health. 

'This is public health' graphic lists categories including reproductive health, mental health, injury, equity, health ethics, misinformation, environment, spirituality, physical health, emergency, individual action and policy and built environment

Payne Fellowship Sets Up K Alumna for Foreign Service Work

A Kalamazoo College alumna is being honored with a prestigious fellowship that helps people interested in pursuing careers in the foreign service follow a path toward work in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Aramide Apo-Oyin ’22 will complete graduate school through a Payne Fellowship, named to honor former U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne, and then work on the front lines of pressing global challenges such as poverty, hunger, injustice, disease, climate change, conflict and violent extremism with USAID.

“I knew that this fellowship was perfect for me because of the partnership with USAID, which does invaluable work around the globe,” she said. “The Donald M. Payne Fellowship gives me an opportunity that combines my interest in public health and public service on a global scale.”

The Payne Fellowship this year received more than 500 applications and only 30 fellows were selected. Apo-Oyin applied when she recognized the value she could bring to the fellowship, including her own background as a Nigerian American woman and the diverse experiences she had through the liberal arts at K.

“Initially, in college, I was on the pre-health track as a biology major, but I discovered my love of public health and service through my internship with the Advocate Aurora Health Transition Support Program,” Apo-Oyin said. “Through this public health internship, I was able to assist people from under-resourced communities in the Chicagoland area to help them overcome barriers to care that they were experiencing. These barriers included finding transportation to their next appointment, applying for Medicaid/Medicare, scheduling follow-up appointments, and educating patients on discharge instructions to reduce their risk of being readmitted to the hospital. In doing this work for over a year my passion for public health and service grew.”

Such experiences led Jessica Fowle—K’s director of grants, fellowships and research—to see Apo-Oyin as an ideal candidate for a Payne Fellowship as the two worked together throughout the application process.

Payne Fellow Aramide Apo-Oyin at Commencement in 2022
Aramide Apo-Oyin ’22 will complete graduate school through a Payne Fellowship and then work on the front lines of pressing global challenges with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“It was a true joy to work with Aramide as her fellowships advisor on the application process for her Payne Fellowship,” Fowle said. “Applying to this type of program requires reflection on and synthesis of scholarship, internships, co-curricular involvement, and life experience—articulating a vision for the future that captures the goal of the program. Aramide took full advantage of the opportunities at Kalamazoo College and is poised to fully engage with the educational and experiential foundations as a Payne Fellow, graduate student, and foreign service officer.”

The Payne fellowship provides up to $104,000 over two years toward tuition and fees in completing a master’s degree in international development or a related field; room, board, books and education-related expenses; and a stipend for housing, transportation and related expenses for two summer internships. Apo-Oyin is currently deciding which international development program she will be attending later this fall.

Her adventure will begin this spring when Apo-Oyin participates in an orientation at Howard University; there she will become familiar with all the aspects of the fellowship and enhance her understanding of and skills for an international-development career. She then will work in her first internship this summer, tending to international issues at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Her second internship will be overseas on a USAID mission next summer.

All of it represents a challenge Apo-Oyin is happy to accept as she takes her next step toward a career in the foreign service.

“I spent part of my formative years abroad in Nigeria and London,” Apo-Oyin said. “It was then that my interest in international work was ignited. Growing up in these places, I could see the difference between high-income and low-income countries. This experience widened my perspective of the world from a young age and planted a seed for my interest in international development. Now, If I have any advice for anyone who is interested in applying for this fellowship or other international affairs fellowships, it would be not to doubt yourself. Trust that your story of who you are and why you’re interested in this work is unique to you and it’ll only allow you to stand out in this process. Do your best to surround yourself with people who believe in you and trust in yourself.”

Alumna Provides a Trusted Voice in Science, Health

Jill Weatherhead and her science mentors in a lab
Jill Weatherhead ’05, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist and Director of Medical Education in the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, works in a lab with her mentors, Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi, who are co-chairs in the Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine. Photo credit: Baylor College of Medicine.

A Kalamazoo College alumna, key to Baylor College of Medicine’s fight against COVID-19, set a goal of communicating more effectively and regularly with the public about science and health in 2020.

“Little did I know this pandemic would come and science communication would be so critical,” said Jill Weatherhead ’05, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist and Director of Medical Education in the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Over the past year, I’ve wanted to discuss the pandemic with the public honestly and openly with transparency. I’ve wanted to share scientific knowledge with the community to make sure people are safe and have a better understanding of what’s going on.”

Weatherhead has been very successful with that goal. Even a simple glance at her Twitter handle, @JillWeather, shows evidence of that. Recently, she’s been a resource for scientific publications and Houston-area media outlets regarding subjects such as COVID-19 trends, and the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. She even details her own experience with receiving the vaccine in pictures, video and personal reports.

Jill Weatherhead women in science
Jill Weatherhead ’05 has been a resource for scientific publications and Houston-area media outlets regarding subjects such as COVID-19 trends, and the vaccine’s efficacy and safety.

“Transparency and media communication are really important to show I’m not only talking the talk, but walking the walk,” she said. “I want people to know that I’m doing the same thing and that I’m holding myself to the same standard. Seeing the positives and the negatives of those recommendations are critical to instilling trust in what you’re saying. That doesn’t mean the vaccine process is perfect or that I didn’t have some small side effects. But when the vaccine comes to you, please take it. Then, please continue to wear a mask and social distance. I’m trying to exemplify that.”

Such spotlights make Weatherhead an ideal example of someone the United Nations celebrated on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, along its theme of “Women Scientists at the Forefront of the Fight Against COVID-19.”

U.N. statistics show that fewer than 30 percent of scientific researchers in the world are women and only about 30 percent of all female students select fields in science, technology, engineering or math to pursue in their higher education. Representation among women is especially low professionally in fields such as information and communication technology at 3 percent; natural science, mathematics and statistics at 5 percent; and engineering at 8 percent.

To change such numbers, the U.N. General Assembly established its international day to celebrate women scientists and build equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. Weatherhead is doing her part as an Infectious Disease expert at Baylor to encourage and support women entering into science especially those starting their educational journeys.

“I think one of the biggest lessons I learned is not to be afraid to challenge yourself and try new things,” Weatherhead said when asked about advice for women interested in scientific disciplines at K. “There are things that are going to be comfortable and things that are going to be uncomfortable at K, so challenge yourself. It’s important to grow and figure out where you see your career going.”

When Weatherhead attended K, trying new things meant a study abroad experience at the Universidad de San Francisco in Ecuador.

“That experience alone really shaped the trajectory of my whole career,” she said. “I worked at an inner-city hospital, and I wrote a thesis on the health inequities caused by poverty in Ecuador. That was the first time where I saw the impact of access to health care, health communication and community outreach. It really opened my eyes to a whole different side of the world that I didn’t know existed. I honestly feel that I came back a different person.”

That experience inspired her interest not only in infectious disease, but tropical medicine, a subspecialty within infectious disease research, focusing on afflictions that most commonly affect people living in extreme poverty within certain climates.

“In order to have these diseases, you need to be living in poverty in areas where there’s poor sanitation and waste management; areas where the diseases can flourish in warm, humid climates,” Weatherhead said. “We see a lot of these infections here in Texas, as well as in other areas along the Gulf Coast where the climate and pockets of poverty support them. My lab focuses on how these infections of poverty lead to long-term, detrimental health consequences in children and adults and aims to develop new interventions to prevent these infections.”

Weatherhead’s efforts and sacrifices clearly benefited Baylor and the Houston area last year and will continue to do so as the pandemic progresses through her direct care of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and through her community outreach and service.

K helped cement that deep commitment to service.

“I would say my K-Plan was the foundation of my current career,” Weatherhead said. “Without my K-Plan I would not be where I am.”

Convocation 2020: Bronson Healthcare VP to Deliver Keynote

Convocation 2020 Keynote Speaker Beth Washington
Kalamazoo College trustee Beth Washington, the vice president of community health, equity and inclusion at Bronson Healthcare, will be the keynote speaker at Convocation 2020 on Thursday, September 10.

Kalamazoo College will open the 2020-21 academic year at 2 p.m. Thursday, September 10. That’s when the College will welcome 393 first-year students to the K family through a virtual Convocation, formally launching their undergraduate years.

Convocation is the first of two bookends to the K experience with the other being Commencement. The event will feature addresses from President Jorge G. Gonzalez and Provost Danette Ifert Johnson, an invocation from Chaplain Elizabeth Candido ‘00 and a keynote speech from College Trustee Beth Washington ’94.

Washington, a Kalamazoo native, has been the vice president of community health, equity and inclusion for Bronson Healthcare since 2015. Before that she worked as an educator and as the director of Jeter’s Leaders, a high school leadership program sponsored by Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation.

In addition to being a K trustee, Washington’s community work extends to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where she serves on the Career and Community Training Advisory Board. She is also involved with the Southwest Michigan Perinatal Quality Improvement Coalition and serves on the board of Cradle Kalamazoo, which aims to reduce infant death rates.

As a student at K, Washington earned a degree in human resources and relations, and a secondary teaching certificate in social studies and English, while representing the College on the women’s basketball and softball teams.

All students, faculty and staff are invited to view the Convocation ceremony. For more information and a video of the feed on the day of Convocation, visit

Conference Honors K Student’s Research

Sarah Bragg discusses her research during a poster session at the inauguration of President Jorge Gonzalez.
Sarah Bragg discusses her research during a poster session at the inauguration of President Jorge Gonzalez.

Sarah Bragg ’17 won an award for her poster detailing research on barriers to HIV testing. She presented the poster at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Tampa, Florida, this month. Her work was awarded in the conference’s Behavioral Science and Public Health category.

Sarah conducted her research during 12-week summer internship at Morehouse College and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. She plans to expand the project she completed (titled “Barriers and Solutions to HIV Testing Among College and University Students”) and make it the basis of her Senior Individualized Project. That project will compare the prevalence and contexts of HIV testing at public and private institutions of higher education. During all four years of her undergraduate experience at K, Sarah has served as a Civic Engagement Scholar in the College’s Center for Civic Engagement. She has worked in a weekly mentoring program with young women. She also has worked with Assistant Professor of Psychology Kyla Fletcher on her three-year NIH study on daily HIV risk reduction behavior in African-American partner relationships.

Sarah is earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in community and global health. She plans to pursue a career in public health and, after graduating this June, to apply for a one- or two-year fellowship with the CDC. About the work she did during her summer internship, Sarah wrote: “I was able to use the skills that were cultivated at Kalamazoo College, especially through my work at the Center for Civic Engagement.” The CCE stresses the connection between effective social change and work that applies a social justice perspective. “We do not strive to save the world,” explained Sarah. “We collaborate with communities in an effort to find solutions that are suitable and that ensure the dignity and respect for the community.”

Decolonization is a Medical Necessity

Associate Professor of Anthropology Adriana Garriga-Lopez
Associate Professor of Anthropology Adriana Garriga-Lopez addresses a plenary at the 20th United States Conference on AIDS

Adriana Garriga-Lopez, associate professor of anthropology, attended the 20th United States Conference on AIDS where she was interviewed by MD Magazine on the response to HIV/AIDS in Puerto Rico.

That response has long been the focus of her research. Specifically she studies the social ramifications of epidemics and how those ramifications influence the public health system in Puerto Rico. Although she finds much to criticize about the public health response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the island where she was born and raised until the age of 16, she is quick to note the debilitating influence on that response of the mitigating circumstance of the unjust power dynamic between the United States and its “unincorporated territory” of Puerto Rico.

Her work also studies the responses of the marginalized communities most affected by the epidemic, and there is much in those responses that have overcome the challenges presented by the inadequate public health response and, despite those challenges, been highly effective.

Garriga-Lopez’s interview was divided into four chapters: What is the Focus of Your Research?; Did Your Heritage Influence Your Decision to Pursue Anthropology? (which explores how colonialism manifests every day and an approach to decolonizing public health); What Challenges Do You Face? (which includes a focus on States, Bodies, and Epidemics [the title of a class Garriga-Lopez teaches at Kalamazoo College] and the fact that because social injustice affects everyone, everyone has a responsibility to understand and address it; for example, an effective response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic begins with understanding that it is in fact comprised of multiple epidemics; and What Are Your Thoughts on Some Researchers Considering Zika as the New STD?, in which Garriga-Lopez articulates the need to inextricably link public health and a social justice conscience. The former must go much further than emergency management and act on the complex issues of the latter, such as lack of access to basic rights and basic needs as well as an unbalanced power structure that denies democratic participation in distribution of resources to persons in greatest need of those resources.

Call for Response to Zika in Puerto Rico

Associate Professor of Anthropology Adriana Garriga-LópezAssociate Professor of Anthropology Adriana Garriga-López is a member of a group of experts that co-authored an essay and call to action titled “Public Statement on Zika Virus in Puerto Rico.” The essay appeared in Savage Minds (15 March 2016) with the Spanish language version forthcoming in a few days. The authors are members of the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Zika Interest Group. Among other courses at K, Garriga-López teaches “Medicine and Society.” She is an expert on the intersection of politics, societies, social justice, disease and epidemics and completed her doctoral work on the confluence of these forces in the HIV epidemic in Puerto Rico.

The essay on the Zika virus notes the influence of water and waste management, church proscriptions, the corporate use and development of experimental insecticides, and U.S. Congressional policy on the advent and future course of the epidemic in Puerto Rico. Zika is a public health emergency, and the essay calls for Zika prevention actions to benefit the people of Puerto Rico. Those actions include: “provide and install window screens in homes and businesses, assist in water systems management, and distribute vector surveillance and control strategies  In particular, public health authorities can assist with disposing of any waste that might collect water in order to minimize mosquito populations.

“The CDC has a Dengue station headquarters in San Juan, PR and should use that station as a base to conduct Zika prevention and mosquito mitigation campaigns. All prevention and research activities on the island should follow the principles of open access and collaboration appropriate for a public health emergency.  Furthermore, given the strongly suspected association between Zika, microcephaly, and Guillain-Barré syndrome, the CDC should be on high alert for these cases in Puerto Rico and prepared to deal with these diseases as they arise.

“Finally, care and support must be provided to pregnant women and their families who have or will experience Zika infection. Puerto Rico birth outcomes have been worsening since the advent of the economic crisis. The infant mortality rate climbed to 9.5 per 1000 live births for 2012. This burden is exacerbated by the large number of health professionals that have recently emigrated from the island.

“It is imperative that the Medicaid cap be removed for the island and resources mobilized immediately to fight this public health emergency, particularly in terms of prenatal and reproductive health care. Prevention of transmission, expanded medical care, reproductive rights, and long term sustainability of the water infrastructure should be the priorities, beyond the tourist and hotel areas. We call for assistance to local initiatives and support for already existing community structures, and affirm Puerto Rico’s right to defend the health of its population.”

Ebola Responders

Greg Raczniak at the Sierra Leone Kailahun District Medical Clinic
Greg Raczniak at the Sierra Leone Kailahun District Medical Clinic

Greg Raczniak ’96 is working in Sierra Leone as part of the Ebola response team of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. Navy veteran serves as a preventive medicine resident at CDC. His work in Sierra Leone involves contact tracing (finding and monitoring people who have come in contact with persons displaying symptoms) a key tactic in controlling infectious disease epidemics. An article on Greg appeared in Task & Purpose, a news site for veterans, by veterans. Greg majored in biology at K and studied abroad in Muenster, Germany. He was a standout swimmer on the Hornet Men’s swim team. After graduation her earned his medical degree at Eastern Virginia Medical School and a doctorate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. He entered an internship program at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, followed by a tour at the Navy’s research station in Ghana. During his service with the Navy, Greg obtained certification in tropical disease and traveler’s health, and decided to complete training in undersea and submarine medicine. Greg is completing a master’s in public health at Tulane University as part of his medical residency in preventive medicine. Nor is he the only K graduate working in Africa to help contain the Ebola epidemic. Paloma Clohossey ’11 is in Monrovia, Liberia, part of the U.S. government’s Ebola Disaster Response Team in that country. Paloma works for the United States Agency for International Development and has lived and worked in Africa often, beginning with her study abroad experience in Nairobi, Kenya. Liberia and Sierra Leone are the two countries where the outbreak of the virus has hit the hardest.