COVID-19 shuttered many longstanding community activities at Western University of Health Sciences. Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS) students turned one cancelled event into a new opportunity to educate the public.

MSHS students in the College of Health Sciences (CHS) hold Health Sciences Day every year in April. Reach Out brings about 120 students from high schools in the Inland Empire to WesternU’s Pomona, California campus to learn about careers in the health sciences and to inspire them to pursue science education. Reach Out is a youth development program that creates positive opportunities for youths in San Bernardino County, including mentoring, counseling, and career guidance.

MSHS students decided to deliver inspiration and information via a video that features interviews with MSHS faculty and students who talk about why they entered the health sciences and how WesternU’s program can help students reach their goals.

Click to watch video.

“Our MSHS students are using social media in addressing global health care events including COVID-19. The video affords our students the opportunities to display their leadership, creative and original thoughts, and oral expression of ideas to keep the community, including internal and external stakeholders, safe and remain informed of public health key concepts,” said Department of Health Sciences Education Chair Gail M. Evans Grayson, EdD, MA. “MSHS students and graduates are using social media to share opinions, seek information, and share stories about their experiences.”

MSHS students Michelle Deterville, Christal Haynes and Monica Flores created the video. The goal of the video is to share information about careers in Health Sciences Education and the role of public health education specialists in battling COVID-19, Deterville said.

Deterville is a Fellow in the Randall Lewis Health Policy Fellowship in the city of Perris. Her role during this pandemic is to provide awareness, education and inform the community of resources that are available to them at this time of need.

“We are constantly gathering information on what our public health leaders from L.A. are recommending and we are implementing them within the city,” Deterville said. “We also have a hotline that the residents can call for assistance or questions about the pandemic or resources available. We are also involved in distributing food to the elderly and individuals who are in need.”

The MSHS program also teaches students how to evaluate and assess teaching methods and outcomes. CHS Health Professions Education Track Coordinator Rosana Bravo, PhD, MPH, was developing an evaluation to determine the effectiveness of Reach Out’s programmatic components and overall goal.

“Given the cancellation, the students along with faculty have continued with the planning phases and prepare to submit a formal IRB application to conduct not only an outcome evaluation but a process one as well to evaluate the overall effectiveness and impact of delivering such program on a medical school campus,” Bravo said.

“Our Health Sciences graduates are health educators. We teach the public as well as health professionals about best practices in public health,” said CHS Community Health Track Coordinator and Associate Professor Jeanine Borland Mann, MPH. “Graduates work in hospitals, governments, nonprofit organizations, schools and universities. Many are in a position to teach other how to teach health education. Graduates are developing and conducting health education programs to prevent and reduce the spread of contagious diseases like COVID-19. Many graduates manage programs and will be working to leverage funds and resources for our future needs.”