Students and global health experts share their experiences working with communities.

Category: Brandon

BE KIND (to yourself).

This past week, I completed my practicum under the North Carolina Institute of Public Health where I received the chance to create three products as part of my practicum requirements. I hope my contributions prove to serve as meaningful additions to the Behind the Numbers project. It was a pleasure working with my preceptors, who created a fun and welcoming environment for me during these difficult times.

Although, I managed to complete quality work in a timely manner, admittedly a portion of my experience was bogged down by external happenings. With the consistent and open oppression of Black people due to racism, I honestly suffered from poor mental health this summer. During the early stages of my practicum, I possessed little to no energy, I hardly ate, living in a predominantly white area I constantly experienced paranoia throughout the day and night (despite public notices of Black Lives Matter signs), and I barely slept due to insomnia. Therefore, everyday posed an internal conflict. Should I give myself the space and time to process these intense emotions or put those emotions aside for the sake of productivity? At first, I always chose the latter given the pressure to perform well in a new organization. However, I noticed these attempts at work and emotion suppression produced the opposite effect, and caused me to procrastinate.

My energy and productivity remained in this problematic cycle for several weeks until I reached my limit in terms of dealing with my poor mental health. As a way to alleviate this, I tried embodying a “treat yourself’ mentality. I allowed myself to experience any and all emotions associated with Black oppression: anger, anxiety, fear, sadness,etc… In addition, I constantly reminded myself that it is absolutely OKAY to be in this state, and that it is okay to function with little to no energy. At first, I thought this would lead to overindulging and excuses to not do work, however as the days progressed, I found that my spirits began to ease and my interest in my work began to increase. By July, I felt like myself again and began to function at my normal and familiar levels. In the end everything turned out well, however it was certainly a journey.

Normally, I do not share my inner feelings to this extent nevertheless I aim to normalize the concept of balancing work and mental health. In my opinion, it is foolish to push yourself for the sake of productivity if you lack energy and the will to do so. The ultimate strategy is practicing and showing yourself kindness and grace. Hopefully, this post inspires others to do the same, because you certainly deserve it.

Brandon

Unprecedented Times

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