This summer I am working as a program intern for the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH). The primary aim of the NCIPH is to promote collaborative based solutions to population health issues within North Carolina and beyond. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCIPH is developing a curation project, Behind the Numbers, which focuses on the documentation and analysis of the lived experiences of frontline healthcare workers. The Behind the Numbers project serves to deviate from quantitative approaches and relies on qualitative techniques to effectively collect the stories and feelings from those affected by this unprecedented time.

Ironically, this specific practicum experience would fail to exist without the surge of this pandemic. I would have never guessed my practicum would be linked to the one of the most extraordinary and defining moments in modern human history. I am absolutely honored to be a part of an organization that recognizes this impact and chooses to center itself on a humanity focus. The objective and numerical data will always be there. However, if we do not capture the stories and collective feelings of those most affected, then we lose the spirit of public health: to improve the health and lives of people.

During one of my walks through Carrboro, I encountered a BLM poster. As a Black man, the Black liberation movement has always served as a central focus in almost every aspect of my life. I thought it would be important to share this as constant reminder of the appreciation and preservation of Black lives.

During one of my walks through Carrboro, I encountered a BLM poster. As a Black man, the Black liberation movement has always served as a central focus in almost every aspect of my life. I thought it would be important to share this as constant reminder of the appreciation and preservation of Black lives.

A typical day involves researching various hotspots in the United States with a relatively high number of COVID-19 cases. Once I pinpoint my desired location, I peruse social media and any relevant articles that detail the stories and accounts of frontline workers in healthcare settings (i.e physicians, physician assistants, nurses, surgeons, etc…).  Aside from my practicum responsibilities, I try to keep myself occupied in this new social distancing reality by checking in with family & friends (virtually of course), going for walks, binge-watching my favorite shows on at least four different streaming platforms, and meditating. As an introvert who prefers their own company, this quarantine has forced me to embrace the power, comfort, and necessity of community. Although this is such a destructive and unpredictable time, one can still seek the light of positivity in times of darkness.

Brandon