Leading in the community

Michigan Public Health Dean F. DuBois Bowman

When I think of words that define the field of public health, one in particular is top of mind: community. 

For many, when they think of health, they think of the doctor’s office. But for those of us in public health, we know it’s so much more than that. Health starts in your community. It’s about the housing and schools we have access to, the safety of the neighborhoods we live in, the water we drink, the air we breathe and so much more. While access to doctors and healthcare is important when we’re dealing with medical issues, these community factors impact our health and well-being every day of our lives. 

Because our health is so deeply intertwined with our communities, that’s where our work is rooted. The foundation of our field is service to others, and in order to make a positive impact, we must understand and work with the communities we serve. Public health isn’t about coming into a community and suggesting the solution or intervention that we think is right. It’s about spending time with a community, listening and ultimately working together to bring about a change that the community feels will best meet its needs. 

Throughout this issue of Findings, you’ll read stories of Michigan Public Health students, alumni and faculty who are deeply dedicated to the communities they serve. 

Alumni Abdullah Hammoud and Ali Abazeed are working to transform the well-being of their hometown through the creation of Dearborn’s inaugural public health department. And graduate student Davontae Nathaniel Foxx-Drew talks about his passion for public health, driven by the shortcomings in healthcare delivery in his hometown of Compton. 

You’ll also read about the next iteration of our school’s Public Health IDEAS initiative (IDEAS stands for Interdisciplinary Discovery, Engagement + Actions for Society.). This is an initiative to focus on and invest in a few key research topic areas where our school has the expertise to make a big impact and address some of society’s most pressing public health issues. In the Spring 2022 issue of Findings, we explored the first two topic areas—Preventing Firearm Injuries and Creating Healthy and Equitable Cities. Now, we’re launching two new areas of focus—Combating Infectious Diseases and Building Health Equity. One of the key reasons why each of these topics was chosen is because there’s a real opportunity for our school to make a meaningful impact by working closely with and serving communities to address these issues. I’m excited to see where this work takes us.

Often, the issues we work on in the field of public health can be complex and challenging. But as I read stories about alumni like Abdullah and Ali, and students like Davontae, I feel hopeful about the future, and that’s because I know there are many public health leaders, scholars and professionals working tirelessly to create a healthier, more equitable world for communities across the globe. As you read this issue of Findings, I hope you feel the same.

—Dean F. DuBois Bowman