Friday, January 22, 2010

Welcome to my newest adventure: becoming a "public health leader"!

Hello out there, whoever may be reading this!

After a winding career path thus far, filled with twist, turns, and mostly pleasant surprises, I am happy to report that I find myself at an exciting point in my schooling. I've completed three semesters of a dual Master's program in City & Regional Planning and Public Health at UC Berkeley, with another three to go.

Because the MCP/MPH is a rather small and undefined program, I have fumbled a bit, trying to figure out where I fit into BOTH programs and sometimes feeling like I fit in neither. But all of a sudden, as I am starting Spring classes this week, I feel like something has finally "clicked" - I am truly excited about my classes, and I finally feel like I have a grasp of what is possible for me to achieve in the next few semesters, as I build my professional network and make decisions about what I want to do after this whole experience is over. (Admittedly, everything is rosier at the start of a semester -- ask me how I'm feeling again when I'm swamped and cranking out biostatistics problem sets!)

Another big component of why I am so optimistic is that I am about to embark on an exciting adventure: I have been selected to participate in the Center for Health Leadership Fellowship, part of Berkeley's School of Public Health! Together with nine other public health students, spanning wide-ranging disciplines, I will be a "guinea pig" in this newly-minted, three-semester "boot camp" in leadership development. This intensive and personalized program will include, among other things: workshops, case studies, reading groups, service learning projects, individual evaluations... and ultimately, personal reflection and growth. I am truly grateful for this opportunity. I don't pretend that it will always be fun or easy. Still, I do know that I will only get as much out of the experience as I invest in it, and I'm hopeful that I'll emerge with a better sense of self and of my goals. (As well as a "30-second elevator speech" that is a lot less rambly than the one I currently use.)

Which brings me to the ultimate purpose of this blog: to document my thoughts, questions, worries, joys, and so on as I work through this process. Yes, this blog is technically "required" as part of our program - but I will do my best to be honest about my thoughts and I'll try to make it fun. I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to talk later about what I'm discovering in both public health and urban planning, at which point I'll trouble you with my internal debates (What does city planning have to do with health, and vice versa? Why study these topics together, when in most cities these departments barely talk to each other?!).

For our introductory post, however, we have been encouraged to share an example of leadership that we have found, and talk about why it moves us. In remembrance of MLK Jr. Day, there are a wealth of inspiring examples I could talk about, but I'll share one that's especially relevant to public health. A few days ago, my friend sent me a video of a talk by Hans Rosling, a Professor of International Health at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet. In his quest to make vital social, economic, and health data accessible to people and organizations the world over, he founded the Gapminder Foundation, a clearinghouse for information presented in easy-to-understand formats. (Check out the video below - he makes great "data cartoons"!)

Watch Hans Rosling's talk at TED here.

Now, he makes analyses that not everyone will agree on (as evidenced by the vigorous debate in the video's comment section), but I think that is the point. His intention is to provoke us with data, start conversations, challenge our assumptions, and make us want to dig deeper and get to the roots of social inequities. All of which require tremendous leadership skills: the ability to communicate your points, understanding where people are coming from, and being strongly committed to your values.

His work also recalls that of Edward Tufte, another "data artist" who I just <3. Here's his website... though oddly, for someone who creates such stunning books and graphics, this site is a jumbled mess. Check out his book, Envisioning Information, for a better introduction. I've heard that Beautiful Evidence is similarly mind-blowing.

That's all I've got for now. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to taking you on this adventure with me!


Sarah-py...therapy through Sarah said...

Hi Lisa! I look forward to being in your reading group and getting to know you better over the next 3 semesters. I am interested to hear more about your travels and definitely about the bacon (I am from the South, so I completely appreciate it!).

Lauren Baehner said...

Wow, sounds like your break was full of great experiences! I'd love to hear about them, as well as your time in Ecuador. Also I think its really interesting that you are pairing urban planning and public health, as I have often wondered why there isn't a joint program. I think that place is so important and entwined in our health.