I NEVER IMAGINED I WOULD BE WRITING my final “Letter from the Dean” under these circumstances. All of our lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and so many have suffered devastating losses. I have not been surprised however, by the way our community has responded to this unprecedented situation.
Online learning is now underway, and our faculty and students are adapting to remote teaching and research. Hundreds of staff and faculty members are supporting these efforts and finding new, creative ways to maintain community connections, including though Zoom lectures and panels, social media, and our digital newsletter. Many of the School’s faculty are lending their voices and expertise to the public though the media, and we have forged ahead with a virtual version of Public Health Research Day.
I am especially proud of our alumni, many of whom are working, often at great risk, on the front lines of this public health crisis. From the tirelessness of the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, MPH’11, to the emergency room efforts of Dr. Megan Ranney, MPH’10, there are countless School of Public Health faculty and alumni working in clinical settings and in communities near and far.
The aggressive containment measures we are living through are required to fight the coronavirus contagion and minimize loss of life, but we must also recognize the need for preserving and protecting mental health and well-being in the face of these challenges. Fear, which is a natural reaction to a pandemic, combined with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, can lead to anxiety. With our work and social patterns upended, anxiety can lead to panic, which often triggers preexisting mental health issues, such as depression or substance abuse.
“I know that the public health community at Brown is resilient. Despite the challenges we face, and the physical distance between us, we remain a community.”
This issue of Continuum Magazine is focused on mental health, resilience, and mindfulness, one of the four priority areas of the School of Public Health’s strategic plan. The work of the Mindfulness Center at Brown, which has responded to the coronavirus crisis by providing free, daily, mindfulness moments online, is featured in this issue. You will read about their many educational initiatives and about mindfulness research that holds promise for lowering blood pressure and reducing substance use.
Also highlighted in this issue are researchers investigating resilience, which is positive adaptation despite life’s adversity. I know that the public health community at Brown is resilient. Despite the challenges we face, and the physical distance between us, we remain a community.
Though I am stepping down as Dean, I will remain a member of the Brown School of Public Health community and I look forward to working with our new Dean, Dr. Ashish K. Jha, M.D., MPH, and with all of you, to respond to and learn from the current crisis we face and the future challenges to public health I have no doubt the School will meet.
Bess H. Marcus, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Public Health