ALLIANCE — The University of Mount Union’s Regula Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement hosted a panel discussion on September 23 entitled, “Community Health: Challenging Times.”
Panelists focused on the impacts of the pandemic on their various areas within healthcare and
shared some of their greatest challenges related to the Coronavirus pandemic, ranging from a decline in jobs for graduates as the virus pushed aside surgeries and procedures deemed non-essential, to pivoting to online education in hands-on health fields, to trying to keep up with the latest information about the virus. Discussion also included the ways in which student practicums/clinicals changed, the community response to COVID, and the strengths of the Alliance and Stark County collaborations in combatting the virus.
The panel featured local experts including:
- Beth Canfield-Simbro, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Education, University of Mount Union
- Betsy Ekey, MPAS, PA-C , Professor, Chair and Program Director, Physician Assistant Studies, University of Mount Union
- Randall Flint, REHS, MPH, Health Commissioner, Alliance City Health Department
- Sheryl Holt, PT, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, University of Mount Union
- Timothy Meyers, Ph.D., RN, Professor, Chair and Program Director, Department of Nursing, University of Mount Union
“Stark County is just a phenomenal place and the collaboration among agencies is incredible,” explained Flint.
Throughout the discussion, panelists referred to the changing nature of the pandemic and the constant adjustments and lessons learned.
In talking about the early days of the pandemic, Holt said, “We didn’t know what was transmission…what do we do because we all wanted to be in the right place but we felt vulnerable.”
All stressed the importance of correcting misinformation, taking necessary precautions, getting vaccinated and supporting the healthcare industry in moving beyond the pandemic. Panelists are working to educate their students and the public about the benefits of being vaccinated and asked that others continue to do the same.
When asked about personal choice, Canfield-Simbro said, “We wouldn’t ask you to give up personal freedoms if we didn’t think it was the best for your community.”
“There’s always a balance…personal freedom and public health,” explained Ekey.
Ekey went on to say that students in healthcare are always taught to respect patients’ choices but have an obligation to model the behavior they expect of patients.
In closing, the panelists discussed the burnout among healthcare providers as they continue to be dedicated to taking care of all patients.
“When we care for a patient, we care for the family and when we care for the family we are caring for the community,” said Meyers.
“We can’t give up, we’ve got to keep pushing on,” concluded Flint.