It’s hard to believe that this is the final public health column of the semester. Our historic spring semester has come to an end and the 2020-21 academic year is in the books. While we still have a few end-of-the semester events to navigate like finals, move-out, and commencement, our campus community has much to be proud of in the face of a very challenging set of circumstances. It feels great to be writing this column knowing that we were not only able to make our return to South Hill “happen,” but that we accomplished it with some flair and with as little disruption as possible.
While the pandemic is not over, we have grown significantly as an institution both in our understanding of public health and the sophistication of our emergency preparedness infrastructure. We know that we must continue to evolve and adapt to be effective.
There isn’t enough room in this column for me to thank everyone who has been involved in our COVID response. There are very few units or departments on campus that I haven’t met with this past year, and I have had the pleasure of interacting with many students as well. One of the most difficult parts of my job were the many days where I had to ask people to turn this campus upside down and inside out to respond to COVID. The depth of talent, dedication, problem-solving ability, and pride that exists on South Hill cannot be overstated. I have learned a lifetime of information this year, experienced tremendous personal growth, and worked alongside true heroes who were always able to find a pathway to success even where it didn’t seem possible.
I would like to acknowledge the incredible support of the 17-member Public Health Task Force composed of leaders from across campus, who served as a sounding board and provided me with guidance every week. My deepest and most heartfelt gratitude is reserved for a subset of the task force, the five members of the Health and Safety Advisory Group. These individuals – Kari Brossard Stoos, Dave Gondek, Bill Kerry, Tim Ryan, and Ellyn Sellers-Selin – met with me an additional three days a week to dive deeply into the details of our public health response. These five were such an indelible, behind-the-scenes force in our work, and none of it would have been possible without them. They provided encouragement, strategic advice, and a few laughs that were especially welcome on some of our more challenging days.
This journey’s beginning for me, brought on by COVID, would not have been possible without the support of Linda Petrosino, Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance. Linda prepared me well for a leadership role and did not even blink (well, maybe a little) when asked to release me from my associate dean role to assist with this broader college need.
Under the tutelage of Vice President Rosanna Ferro I came to better understand the critical role of campus life and student affairs, not to mention how to remain calm and level-headed while making difficult decisions to balance many different institutional needs. Rosanna has incredibly complex responsibilities within this institution that are nearly impossible to grasp watching from afar.
Our institutional response to COVID has similarly been a journey full of starts and stops, successes and setbacks. Thanks to all who made this semester happen, either directly or indirectly through your support of the many COVID-related protocols that had to be in place.
My last public health recommendation for our campus community is to please choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19 disease if you have not already done so. This is a choice that we can all make to control the pandemic, protect your own health and the health of others around you, contribute to life returning to normal by the fall, and minimize the disruption that isolation or quarantine brings to our lives. If you are feeling unsure, speak to your health provider and review the science-based information that explains the different types of vaccines and the benefits of vaccination.
Congratulations to our 2021 graduates and may everyone have a relaxing summer.
Christina Moylan, Ph.D.
Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness