Well, the day finally arrived. Today was my first day of class at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. I was a nervous wreck. It means a lot to me to finally be able to go there after all of the things that happened in the last few years. To be honest with you, I never thought I would make it in. A lot of people believed in me, and they collectively believed in me more than I believed in myself. But that whole thing is best left for some other time.
Today was an awesome days in more ways than one. I hadn’t felt like I did today since summer of last year. That summer, I went to San Francisco to meet with a bunch of infectious disease epidemiologists from all over the world. They, and I, were there to try and come up with new ways to do disease surveillance. I was invited because of the “Maryland Resident Influenza Tracking Survey” that I started (just in time for the pandemic) in 2008 at the Maryland dept. of health. As I sat in that room full of people who love what they do, like I do, I didn’t feel so lonely.
There were many days at the health department when I felt lonely. I felt like I was the only one looking to do things better when it came to disease surveillance and response to outbreaks. A time came when nothing I proposed came to fruition. It was more of the same. I don’t know if it had anything to do with me “embarrassing” the bosses with my social media anti-anti-vaccine activities or what, but I just felt like I was doing things inefficiently. But, when I met all those wonderful people from all over the world, I felt reinvigorated and ready to try again to apply to the DrPH program (after being rejected a few months earlier).
That feeling came back today. I was immersed in a classroom with a bunch of students from all sorts of backgrounds, and we were all studying about genetic epidemiology in the first class and biostatistics in the second class. Did you know that we share 99.99% of genes with each other, and that corn has more genes than we do? But that the 0.01% that we don’t share turns out to be about 3 million nucleotides (the ATCG in DNA) and that we all carry about two mutations in those nucleotides, resulting in all the genetic variability you see in humans all around you?
Mind. Blown. I also took some notes:
After class, I hurried upstairs to meet a group of students who, again, share my same aims in the world of public health. We were taken on a tour of Baltimore. It’s changed a lot since I ran the Baltimore Marathon back in 2005, and a lot of those changes have been for the better. There are still old, dilapidated houses that have been abandoned and serve as nests for crime and poverty, but there are fewer of them. The city really does seem to be on the return from the multi-whammy of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 90s, the ensuing emigration of people to the surrounding counties in the early part of the 2000s, and then the economic meltdown of “The Great Recession.”
Once the tour was over, it was time to take some pictures. I can’t fill you in completely on what the pictures were about because I want to play this one close to the chest and then make a bigger deal out of it than it is once it hits the newswires. But, trust me, it’s big.
Finally, after the photo session, I headed over to a local park for a picnic with new and existing students. It was nice to network and get to meet, yet again, so many people that have a lot of common with me when it comes to what we want to do for the world. One thing, though… They’re all so young! Well, the MPH students are young. The PhDs and us couple of DrPHs are older.
Overall, this was a really good first day back, and I hope the rest of my days there are just as good… Within reason.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
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