Students to examine past, current and future public health issues on trip around the Southeast

Students will visit a site where nuclear weapons were once tested, the nation’s first quarantine station, the lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and many other sites around the Southeast.

deep south course webA nuclear site, a tuberculosis sanitarium and a quarantine station designated in the late 1800s are a few of the stops students will make on a two-week course that looks at historical and contemporary public health issues across the Deep South.

Fifteen students will travel from Birmingham to Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia to study population health and how social determinants of health and inequities are affecting health outcomes. The trip is led by Lisa McCormick, DrPH, associate dean for Public Health Practice and associate professor of environmental health science in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“The purpose of this course is to explore issues affecting population health in the southeastern United States,” McCormick said. “The sum of this experience will illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of public health practice and introduce students to the value of working in rural, medically underserved communities and/or on behalf of medically underserved populations.”

travel progam studentsThe course will enable students to look at issues around poverty, pollution, infectious disease outbreaks, chronic diseases, natural disasters and mass casualty disaster response. Officials from local, state, tribal and federal public health agencies will meet with students to discuss programs and infrastructure in place to advance health equity and address the social determinants of health impacting the populations they serve.

The sites include Baxterville, Mississippi, where nuclear weapons were tested in 1964 and 1966 as part of a governmental project at the Salmon Test Site; Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island, Mississippi, where one of the nation’s first quarantine stations was located; the lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, where effects from Hurricane Katrina can still be seen today; Tuskegee, Alabama, to learn about the legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study; and the Carter Center in Atlanta to learn about President Jimmy Carter’s initiative to eradicate Guinea Worm across the world.

Students will meet with public health officials, UAB alumni and community members along the way.  

“Students will learn about how governmental and tribal public health agencies are structured and their service delivery models, how community-based organizations play a role in responding to public health issues, and the importance of building a strong professional network across multiple disciplines and sectors,” McCormick said. “We want our students to develop leadership skills so they can become the next generation of public health strategists, paving the way for collaborations that will promote healthier communities.”

The students will leave May 13 and return May 25. You can follow the students while they are on this adventure at their blog, Blazing the Trail: UAB Exploring Population Health.