A 1940s public health message from the British Ministry of Health.

The field of medicine typically deals with the individual: how a single person succumbs to disease, and the pathophysiological battle that thereby ensues. Medicine is exemplified by CAT scans and chemotherapy, surgery and psychotherapy. The field of public health, however, typically deals with the collective: how a group of people can prevent disease, thus avoiding that pathophysiological battle from ever occurring in the first place. Public health is exemplified by iodized salt and flouridated water, safety belts and smoking bans. Historically, these have been entirely disparate disciplines: physicians toil in the field of medicine, while the work of“public health” generally falls to governments and social workers.

Working for Health Horizons, I suddenly find myself at the intersection of medicine and public health. As a medical student for the last three years, my world has revolved much more around individual patients than collective disease prevention, so the fusion of these two disciplines is fairly new. HHI’s medical service trips offer one-on-one appointments with a primary care physician as well as public health initiatives led by MPH students. HHI’s cooperadores de salud are responsible for following up on patients as well as teaching monthly health education workshops in their communities.

Part of my job is to prepare our cooperadores for those monthly workshops. This leads me to do things like stay up late on a Friday night, cutting out colored paper into the shape of pills… which med school definitely did not prepare me to do. And yet, as I sat in an overheated classroom yesterday, watching the cooperadores use those paper pills to teach each other about allergic reactions and antibiotic drug resistance, I couldn’t help but smile. Because this work, at the intersection of public health and medicine, is exciting, and innovative, and significant. This work might just make me a better doctor, and it might just change the world.

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  1. Anya
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    just discovered the website, great way for me to see what you guys are up to! sounds like you’re learning so much, very jealous, missing it all a lot!!!! good luck!! x

  2. Cliff Rosenberg
    Posted August 26, 2010 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Dear Meg,
    Sounds like you are off to a great start. With Laura and Angie to guide you I know you will do a great job. I look forward to meeting you.

    Cliff Rosenberg, M.D.

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