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Applying Occupational Health and Health Communications Principles Outside the Classroom

 

January 11, 2021

Originally from Narragansett, Rhode Island, Victoria Gallogly was intrigued by Drexel University due to its urban setting. "I'm from a small New England beach town and was looking to expand my worldview and experience city living," she said. "Dornsife and Philadelphia in general had a very welcoming energy when I toured the university, which ultimately persuaded me to commit to Drexel University."

During her freshman year, Gallogly became interested in studying public health due to its focus on population health. "While the work of physicians is vital and important [especially during the pandemic], their work is largely focused on one individual at a time," she said. "I want my career to be focused on improving people's health and well-being at a broader societal level."

 Enrolled in the Bachelor of Science (BS)/Master of Public Health (MPH) 4+1 accelerated program at the Dornsife School of Public Health, Gallogly pursued public health practice opportunities outside of the classroom early on in her education.

At Dornsife's Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) Gallogly applied occupational health and health communications principles taught in the classroom in her sophomore year as a part-time student research assistant in May 2019.

She then spent her full-time spring/summer 2020 public health co-op with the Center. During this time, she was integral in planning, drafting, and disseminating research recruitment campaign materials for the COVID-19 RAPID Mental Health Assessment (RAPID).

The purpose of the RAPID project was to track and assess first responders' mental health throughout the pandemic. This enabled the FIRST team to track their ability to respond to emergencies and their capacity to maintain optimal responsiveness in this unprecedented environment. Using this data, they prepared unique resources which are needed in subsequent waves of the pandemic and for future outbreaks.

Gallogly worked with participating first responders to collect their feedback on these materials during monthly meetings over a six-month period and implemented constructive critiques. "These materials are for the fire and rescue service, so it is incredibly important to me that each and every poster, press release, or other communications materials are best-suited for their wants and needs, down to the last letter," she said.

Now Gallogly serves as the Center's Health Communications Research Assistant. She assists the Outreach and Communications Manager with the FIRST Center's website content, social media, public relations, and assist the project managers with the Fire Service Organizational Culture of Safety (FOCUS) and Stress and Violence in Fire-Based EMS Responders (SAVER) initiatives.

In this new role, Gallogly is driven to bridge the communication gaps that often exist between public health researchers and their subjects or target populations. "I approach my everyday work with the over-arching motive to build that researcher-participant relationship between the FIRST Center and the fire and rescue service," she said.

In her future career, Gallogly hopes to be a part of effective public health communication responses from wherever she works. The pandemic has demonstrated in real time the vital role that public health professionals play.

"I'm always aware of the ways that talking to people and spreading information can affect their health and well-being," Gallogly said. "COVID-19 has really brought the issue of widespread misinformation and miscommunication to light, exacerbating mistrust of the public health system. It is my hope that, as we move forward and learn from the challenges we have faced, health and risk communication can be taken more seriously so it can be used to protect and promote the health and well-being of the public."

In fall 2021, Gallogly will begin her MPH coursework in the department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Dornsife.

Click here for the original article from the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University.