It feels strange to be back in Ann Arbor, and it’s not the leftover piles of snow that make me feel this way. While we were only in Texas for a week, I already felt an established routine. I felt so involved in the project that we were working on, so invested, that it feels strange to have left. I was so excited each day to get to the Cameron County Department of Health and to work with our awesome supervisors. The week flew by faster than I could have imagined, and I gained so much more from the week than I could have ever dreamed.
As Tiffany mentioned in her post “Meeting people where they are”, we were working with the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services to understand perceptions of the recently implemented smoking ordinance in Brownsville. While smoking was already banned in restaurants, the new ordinance now bans smoking in bars as well. To quickly summarize the numbers for the week, Tiffany and I completed 175 surveys in 17 restaurants and bars. It’s awesome to think that we were able to engage in conversation with so many people about this public health issue. Hopefully the data generated from our surveys will be helpful to the city commission as they evaluate the impact of the smoking ordinance.
I felt adequately prepared for this trip, but it was almost overwhelming to see the area in real life. A few times, we were driving along and then realized we could see the border fence, which was surprisingly eerie. Seeing children begging on the other side of the Rio Grande felt almost like a hallucination. These were things that I were aware of, but seeing this situation with my own eyes gave me a completely different perspective.
I thought that I [kind of] knew what I wanted to do with my public health degree once I graduated. However, this trip has instilled in me new interests and new passions. I find myself wanting to know more about the border region, its state of health, and what is currently being done to ameliorate health issues. While I feel overwhelmed by these new interests and the uncertainty of my path, I am grateful that this experience showed me that all of the doors are still open. Many thanks to everyone who put this trip together, worked with us, and gave me more of a formative experience than I could have asked for. I’m excited to see where this public health journey takes me next.