After a long day of travel, we have finally arrived in Michigan, where there are squirrels, snow, and not one beach in sight.
This week has been the experience of a lifetime. Not only did I build new relationships with my colleagues from U-M SPH, but I also gained the tremendous experience of working with an international government on a project that will affect the lives and health of thousands of students. As we conducted interviews with students, principals, and counselors, I truly learned how passionate Grenadians are about the topic of drug and alcohol use among students, and these interviews broadened my perspective of just how important this project is to the people of Grenada. I feel so privileged that I had the opportunity to contribute to this project, and our preceptor, Mr. Dave Alexander, repeatedly told us that we should not view this past week as merely an exercise that helped us learn about government health work, but rather we should understand that we made significant contributions to a Policy that will affect the entire country and improve the health of Grenada’s youth.
On Friday, Adrienne and I presented our findings from the week to the Ministry of Education, and to our surprise, representatives from the local news were there to film our presentation! One reporter also interviewed Dr. Rohan Jeremiah (PHAST director at the University of Illinois-Chicago) about the work that we did in Grenada. Adrienne and I felt very humbled to be able to share our work with the Ministry of Education and to hear their perspectives on the proposed revisions to the Policy. This presentation provided yet another opportunity to learn just how passionate Grenadians are about the topic of drug and alcohol use by students and by the public at school-related events. We also learned about the complexity of this issue and how difficult it is to consider and balance all stakeholders’ perspectives when creating one final Policy.
Image 1: The Ministry of Education, where the Office of the Drug Secretariat is housed
In addition to the lessons I learned and perspectives I gained while on the job, I also learned how kind and welcoming Grenadians are. From our drivers to the people at the market to the locals we met on the beach, everyone was extremely nice. I will never forget the generosity of our taxi drivers – one loaned us his extra phone so that we could call him later, one insisted we did not pay for the ride to the beach until he picked us up from there later in the day, and one pulled over on our way home from a school visit so that I could meet a monkey. I will also never forget the kindness of a woman we met at the market or the kindness of our preceptor, Dave, who had our entire PHAST group over to his house for a homemade dinner.
I know that the experience I gained this past week in Grenada will contribute to my future career as a public health professional by allowing me to be flexible, to consider all viewpoints and approaches to solving a problem, and to recognize and utilize the strengths in my community. Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible, particularly Dr. Meadows, Ms. Thomas, Dr. Jeremiah, Ms. Neale, and Mr. Alexander. An additional thank you to my U-M SPH colleagues Adrienne and Thembekile for their collaboration on this project. Lastly, thank you in advance to our colleagues at the University of Illinois-Chicago for going to Grenada in a couple weeks to continue where we left off on this project. I cannot wait to see how this project progresses and to hear about the final revised Policy next year!
Image 2: A painted mural at a school in Grenada. After spending a week in Grenada and building many new relationships, the world now feels smaller and more connected than I previously thought.