Adams records experiences from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

November 2, 2020

Brandon Adams

Brandon Adams

Brandon Adams is a current student seeking a Master of Public Health degree in global health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He spent the summer documenting experiences of public health and health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All MPH students at the Gillings School engage in a practicum. These planned, mentored and evaluated work experiences give students an opportunity to integrate and apply their Gillings MPH training in a professional public health setting, allowing them to explore areas of professional interest, apply and gain new public health skills and contribute to organizations advancing public health.

We recently caught up with Adams to ask about his practicum experience and find out what drives his interest in this work.

Q: I understand that your summer practicum involved collecting data on public health and health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic in a novel way. Can you tell me more about this project?

Adams: This summer I worked as a program intern for the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH). The primary aim of NCIPH is to promote collaborative based solutions to population health issues within North Carolina and beyond. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCIPH is developing a curation project, Behind the Numbers, which focuses on the documentation and analysis of the lived experiences of frontline workers. The Behind the Numbers project deviates from typical quantitative approaches and relies on qualitative techniques to collect the stories and feelings of those affected by this unprecedented time.

Q: What sparked your interest in this work and public health more generally?

Adams: My passion for public health relies on the many opportunities within public health to improve and positively impact communities, the environment and even the world. The field of public health is inherently multidisciplinary and multi-faceted and refuses to remain in a silo. I love working in an environment where solving issues is based upon the understanding that everything is connected and affected by multiple dynamics. Numerical data will always be important, but if we do not capture the stories and collective feelings of those most affected, then we lose the spirit of public health: to improve the health and lives of people.

Q: What are some challenges you faced?

Adams: One of the challenges I faced was a lack of a centralized source that serves as a repository for frontline public health and health care workers to share their experiences treating those affected by COVID-19. It proved to be difficult gathering different and varied sources for qualitative data analysis.

Q:  How has your time at the Gillings School helped prepare you for this practicum and informed your career path?

Adams: Gillings has prepared me for my future career goals by exposing me to different fields in public health: epidemiology, biostatistics, global health, health behavior and health equity. This exposure developed and strengthened my interest in public health, because it gave me the chance to decipher which areas I want to make an impact in. I would like to thank Dr. Suzanne Maman for giving me the opportunity to take part in this practicum. Furthermore, I want to acknowledge the N.C. Area Health Education Center for funding staff support for the students involved in the practicum.

Learn more about NCIPH and the Gillings MPH practicum.

Read about other Gillings students and alums who are contributing to the COVID-19 public health response!

Kimberly Clement (’15 MPH Public Health Policy and Management), Program manager of North Carolina’s Healthcare Preparedness Program: ‘Clement helps coordinate health care and emergency response to COVID-19 across North Carolina.’

Edwin Mercado (Master of Health Administration student): ‘Mercado builds systems to make care more affordable and confront the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.’


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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