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Editor’s note: This story is part of our MC faculty and staff series in which professors and/or staff discuss relevant topics within their areas of expertise. Petula Alvaradous-Phillander MPH CHES discusses the role public health officials play in a pandemic and what MC offers for students interested in the field.

Professor Alvaradous-Phillander is the advisor for the public health sciences program at Montgomery College.

By Petula Alvaradous-Phillander

Safe and effective vaccines appear on the horizon, but in the meantime, following pubic health experts’ guidance can help save lives.

It’s been 10 years since I sat in my college epidemiology class listening to the professor explain the differences between an epidemic and a pandemic. I could easily conceptualize the different types of epidemic disease outbreaks, but I struggled to find a real-world example of a pandemic. Sure, I possessed in-depth knowledge of the polio epidemic that started in New York City in the early 1900s—27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths in the United States—but the concept of living through a global pandemic? That just seemed incomprehensible. But here we are, in the year 2020, living through what I had such difficulty imagining. Between the social distancing policy requirement to stay six feet away from others, and everyone wearing masks every time they leave their house, most days, I feel like I am in a never-ending Twilight Zone.

The saving grace is that public health officials, researchers, and scientists all predicted this impending global pandemic. While the magnitude of the worldwide effect of COVID-19 is unprecedented, beyond our public health infrastructure capabilities, public health professionals were diligently developing an infrastructure that protects people’s health and safety, providing credible information for better health decisions, and promoting good health through a network of partnerships.

While the magnitude of the worldwide effect of COVID-19 is unprecedented, public health professionals were diligently developing an infrastructure that protects people’s health and safety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines public health as the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. Public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood or as big as a whole country or region of the world. Public health professionals work in various capacities that promote healthy lifestyles, research disease and injury prevention, detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious diseases. I am honored to call myself a public health professional, especially at a time such as this one.

Photo Credit: Malte Mueller

Montgomery College offers a public health sciences major, which is at the forefront of workforce capacity and competency development. The public health sciences students at Montgomery College are very diverse in their professional interest. Each MC graduate is culturally competent, and understands the necessity of health literacy, community skills, and understands the community dimension of practice skills.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that over the next 10 years the job market will see increased growth for public health professionals, such as epidemiologists and health service managers. At MC, students can start their careers in public health knowing their work protects and enriches the lives of their communities.

Visit the Montgomery College website for more information about the Public Health Sciences program.

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