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Aiyana Braswell was a studying in Houston when COVID-19 reached the United States in the spring of 2020. Aiyana, who is black, began working as an EMT, saying she wanted to work on the front lines and “stand up for people like me.”
“It was clear that the virus was hitting some communities, like mine, harder than others,” says Aiyana. “And I wanted to get involved.”
Fast forward 18 months later: Aiyana is now a student at the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) at CUNY pursuing a Advanced Certificate in Public Health. She plans to eventually complete a graduate degree in epidemiology. “That’s why I wanted to do public health,” she says, “because there is a difference in how you are treated depending on your economic status. “
It doesn’t surprise me that Aiyana’s strong desire to make a difference brought her to CUNY SPH, one of CUNY’s seven graduate, vocational and specialist schools. As the pandemic has reshaped our world, the school is uniquely positioned to meet the rapidly evolving challenges of this time.
Health equity approach
Since its foundation in 2016, CUNY SPH has become an invaluable resource for academic research and community engagement at a time when New York – and the world – needs it most. Under the leadership of Dean Ayman El-Mohandes, a pediatrician deeply committed to public service, the school has become a formidable advocacy institution for eradicating inequalities in the public health system.
In just five years, the school has doubled the size of its student body to a record 949 students enrolled this semester while tripling its research funding to over $ 17 million for the current academic year. This year, CUNY SPH and the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene received a five-year, $ 3.3 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to help people living with with HIV to suppress the virus. The school also received a $ 500,000 grant to launch the CUNY Food Security Campaign, a new initiative to help CUNY students tackle food insecurity, a problem that was growing long before it was exacerbated by the pandemic.
This is undoubtedly part of the reason why CUNY SPH was recently ranked 16th out of 123 graduate schools of public health across the country, as well as the highest ranked public school of public health in the New Tri-State region. York, by US News. & World report.
Local focus, global reach
With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the school has become a valuable source of expert perspectives with its world-class faculty and staff regularly cited in the national and global media. School is regular surveys New Yorkers’ opinions on all things COVID was an important source of information for health officials and policy makers. The school’s Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) guarded the pandemic response and antibody test results followed in nearly 7,000 people nationwide, which helped schools better prepare for distance or in-person learning during the pandemic.
CUNY SPH’s research is created locally, but its reach is global. The school published a international study in Natural medicine assess the potential acceptance of a COVID vaccine, which was one of the first to tackle vaccine reluctance. And through their CONVINCE THE UNITED STATES initiative, CUNY SPH promoted vaccine awareness and increased confidence in life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.
Public service fold
This dedication to public service is reflected in the articulate ambitions of the students it attracts. Students like Kevin Chin, who, after working for nearly two decades as an IT consultant in the healthcare industry, decided to take a break from his high-pressure work. He returned to New York in early 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and the extra free time gave him a chance to reflect.
After much soul-searching, Kevin signed up for CUNY SPH to pursue a MPH in Health Policy and Management. “After I graduate, I want to look for jobs where I can help adopt better health care policies that improve everyone’s lives,” he says. “Not just the life of a few. “
It fills me with pride to hear how these students have been motivated by the important role CUNY SPH has played over the past 18 months. This pandemic is far from over. But each month, we grow more optimistic as we seek to build a more equitable post-pandemic future, and New Yorkers know that CUNY and its students are helping to make that future a reality.
Félix V. Matos Rodríguez is Chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban public university system in the United States.