It was the day before SPH Orientation in August, and I woke up early to get to SPH to catch the bus to Detroit for the Practice Plunge. This is a day-long activity for students across the five departments to get to know each other while learning about public health in a community setting. We started in the school’s largest auditorium for a welcome and breakfast (and to get our free T-shirt!) from the sponsoring office, the U-M SPH Office of Public Health Practice.
We were split into two groups and took busses to the locations we’d be visiting that day. I was with the group who went to the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion (the city of Detroit’s health department). The other group went to the Washtenaw County Public Health Department. On the way to Detroit, Dana Thomas, one of the staff members from the Office of Public Health Practice, narrated some things we should know about Detroit and we took a fun quiz (who knew that Detroit has more bowling alleys per capita than anywhere else in the US?).
Those of us who went to Detroit had an introduction to the city health department, and then a short tour of parts of the Hermann Kiefer
building, where the entire city health department is housed. We heard from many program directors about various activities at the health department and also about some internships they might offer over the summer. It was fun to get to know people from all the different departments, because I now know people from across SPH, not just my department.
After learning about the health department, we went to a local elementary school for lunch and to hear about a community issue from members of the neighborhood where the school was. We learned about how many vacant lots and uninhabited houses in the neighborhood can put the children at risk for possible violence as they walk to school (if there are squatters using mind-altering substances or groups of people hanging out at the lots). I was with a small group of a few student who did an assessment of some of the houses that might be up for demolition in the near future. I had never done that type of an assessment before, and it was an interesting process. At the end of the day, we took the bus home, looking forward to orientation instead of dreading it, because we now had friends to look for!