Director's update: Spring 2018

“Right Foot, Left Foot, 1-2-3”: The Dance of Disciplines in Emergency Preparedness and Response

Jill DeBoer and UMPD officer

I just finished teaching an Honors Seminar on public health. One of my lectures is called “The Dance of Disciplines” and reviews how public health emergency response can be compared to a ballet or other large performance. Our carefully crafted plans are the scripts or choreography; our equipment and supplies are the props; our full-scale drills are dress rehearsals; and our after-action reports are the equivalent of a critic’s review. The most important comparison, however, is the cast: all of the partners from a diverse set of disciplines needed to execute the “show.” 

The lecture is a fun one to give and the students like it, but the key concepts are evident in my work — in subtle ways — every day.  For example, after one of our classes, I left the students and headed to the Washington Avenue Bridge. It was a cold and snowy afternoon — perfect for the annual hot chocolate event held by public safety partners and student groups on campus. It’s designed to show support during the stressful time leading up to finals, but it’s also a great way for law enforcement, public health, and student support partners to work together and form relationships. 

The importance of diverse “dance partners” was also evident in the students themselves. They have varied backgrounds and career goals, including:

  • Physicist
  • High school teacher
  • Medical laboratory scientist
  • Nurse
  • Social worker
  • Engineer
  • Physician
  • Genetics counselor
  • Biomedical researcher
  • Psychosocial researcher
  • Epidemiologist

Jill DeBoer and studends from the Battling the Bugs Fall 2017 classThroughout the semester, we highlighted how each one of their intended disciplines has a role to play in public health. Although not intuitive at first for those outside of the health arena, it took very little time to illuminate the connections behind the scenes for all of the diverse professions once we looked at some specific examples.

We are fortunate on this campus to have such wonderful relationships between “dance partners” for safety and response. We are also in a unique and important position to prepare the next generation to take up the dance and add their own rich choreography.  

Jill DeBoer, Director
Academic Health Center Office of Emergency Response

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