Pre Departure Jitters

Meghann Lewis

1st Year MPH Candidate - Health Behavior & Health Education

quitman county

We’re about a month away from our departure to Mississippi, and I’m alternating between feeling nervous and excited about the experience. Our class will be helping community partners explore the scale-up of a Food Rx program to Coahoma and Quitman Counties. We will be collaborating with partners and fellow students from the University of Mississippi to create products that will assist stakeholders in making informed decisions regarding the expansion of the Food Rx program. 

The nervousness that I’m feeling stems from my desire to enter and engage with the community in an appropriate, respectful, and productive way. It’s easy to be concerned about how community members might perceive students from Michigan coming into their community to do public health work. I appreciated a presentation given to our class by the Ginsberg Center, which went over strategies for community engagement in a community that is not one’s own. The 615 course has allowed students to work through elements of the Ginsberg Center’s pre-departure “checklist,” which includes tasks like learning more about the community and its historical contexts, and considering how our own social identities may affect our contributions to the project. These reflections have definitely helped me feel much less nervous about the trip.

While I have read about poor health outcomes in Mississippi in other public health courses, I was not very familiar with the culture or history of the state or the Delta region before taking this class. I had no idea, for example, that the Mississippi Delta is considered the birthplace of blues music. Having never lived or worked in a rural area, I’m looking forward to learning more about the community and culture outside of the context of health outcomes. After all, it’s not accurate or fair to identify an entire region by health outcomes alone, which is what approaching a community through an academic lens often leads one to do. Overall, I’m ready to overcome my nerves and engage in this very new and exciting experience!