Category: Community Health, Health Magazine

Title:Musings on circles and contexts

Author: By Camille Scarborough
Date Published: June 1, 2022

When I was a young girl, I used to love finding hidden ponds where I could quietly skip rocks. I enjoyed the challenge of searching for a perfectly flat rock, practicing how to flick my wrist as I tossed it, and counting the number of times it skipped along the surface. But it was the aftermath that always captivated me. I remember standing still, watching the ripples they made. I loved the way each concentric ring radiated outward, eventually reaching the far distant end of the pond.

I thought about those moments of zen often as the stories for this issue came together. We decided to focus on Georgetown’s efforts in community health, an area of focus where the university draws from many strengths. For me, the concentric circles at that pond visually reflect the work that radiates outward from Georgetown.

One article from Preventive Medicine defines community health as “a multi- sector and multi-disciplinary collaborative enterprise that uses public health science, evidence-based strategies, and other approaches to engage and partner with communities, in a culturally appropriate manner, to optimize the health and quality of life of all persons who live, work, or are otherwise active there.”

The alumni, students, staff, faculty members, and leaders introduced in this issue are integral parts of these “collaborative enterprises,” these intersecting, ever-widening circles—like my circles at the pond. They are meeting people where they are, asking the hard questions, and taking the incremental steps that will make a difference in the long term. Many are also changing the future by bringing greater diversity and an equity-oriented mindset into the health care field.

Of course, as Dean Healton shared in our planning meeting for this issue, we must acknowledge that we don’t know what all the right answers are. “But as a university, we can provide a multi-pronged approach. We can be a sustained presence in our local communities.”

Dean Jones stressed the importance of listening. “Successful programs let the community lead the decision-making. To improve health disparities, we need to really engage and listen.”

Our newest school leader, Dean Waite, is attending D.C. community meetings even before she relocates from Philadelphia, her home for most of her education and career. As part of her work at Drexel, she served as executive director of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services, operated in partnership with The Family Practice and Counseling Network. A model for comprehensive care, it’s designed to “serve people in the context of their community, family, and culture.”

I think the word “context” is at the heart of what we seek to do at Georgetown. We are trying to understand the big picture so that we can truly be people for others.

Reading these stories, I’m reminded that the things we do for a person can have a greater effect than we realize. We are all connected. We are all ripples in that pond.

Photo: iStock

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