Caleb Ward

Caleb Ward, EPID Student

It was difficult for me to write about this experience. In our current climate, everything you say and do (no matter what you say and do) can be construed to push a different agenda. We came down to South Texas in a very tense moment. We could have just come down a week later and played beer pong on the beach, but we came down to talk about an issue that everyone wants to stay away from: The Border. What immediately comes to your mind when you read, “The Border?”. That is what made this blog very difficult.

There were so many aspects of life I had no idea about. The border community is very fluid. Children cross everyday to go to school, and people on both sides cross to go to work on the other. Even members of the healthcare community in the United States go to Mexico for treatment because of the cost and convenience.

We worked with the Cameron County Health Department to develop an emergency preparedness exercise surrounding border health. It turns out that I really loved this project and found a field that I am very interested in. To make a realistic exercise, it was important to talk to the various parties involved. That includes the public health department, local governments, education specialists, customs and border security, community members, and border patrol. My team had extensive interviews with members from each of these areas and learned a lot. It was very impactful to hear the different perspectives.

If I could describe emergency exercise planning in one word, it would be: loopholes. I had to find loopholes in each of the systems; a way for disease to spread from one area to another. I had to make up a scenario where it was feasible for an outbreak to affect so many different parts of this community. It was very interesting work and I enjoyed trying to fit all the different pieces together (especially when some of those pieces are tightly-secured facilities). I really enjoyed my experience in Texas and would love to go again. Hopefully I can return when the final full-scale exercise is taking place.

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