Four members of the Rutgers community talk about how they’re navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the seven months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the world around us has come to look and feel drastically different. The disease has reached deep into the lives of people and societies, exposing and magnifying inequities everywhere.
At Rutgers, it’s a new academic year and an opportunity to reflect on the past, present, and future. Sharing their perspectives here are Rutgers Global Health Institute student council members Jodi Lynch and Shahyan Rehman and core faculty members Karen D’Alonzo and Charles Senteio. While continuing to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, they, like many others, devote much attention to the pursuit of health equity.
What’s on their minds?
Then and Now
Little by little: Last spring, Rutgers Business School senior Jodi Lynch remembers feeling really overwhelmed—not only because of the changing dynamics in her own and others’ lives, but also because of the magnitude of what the world was facing. She wanted to help in some way, but questioned how she could make a difference.
Lynch, who is majoring in supply chain management, began by changing her own behavior to adhere to public health guidelines. She also is helping to lead the student council’s efforts to galvanize support for COVID-19 relief and recovery initiatives being organized throughout Rutgers and local communities. Reflecting on the impact she’s seen so far, she says:
“When things feel overwhelming, I think of this: If I’m walking in a straight line and I change my direction by 1 degree, in 100 feet, I’m in a completely different spot. Every little decision we make or every small initiative we start, in the end, there is going to be a bigger difference than we are noticing right now.”
Lessons to re-learn: School of Communication and Information assistant professor Charles Senteio is a health informatics researcher who focuses on improving chronic disease outcomes for underserved populations, including in Ghana and Senegal, where he currently is collaborating. Senteio says he has been re-thinking how we can learn from one another around the world.
Six months ago, Africa was facing “doomsday projections” with regard to COVID-19, he says. “These have not come to fruition, at least not yet, in large part because of their experience there with Ebola. I think it gave them a fuller appreciation, compared to the U.S., for how a pandemic, or an infectious disease outbreak, can decimate societies, families, and communities.”
He talks about the current context in Africa as compared to the United States. “Africa’s COVID story isn’t being told as commonly as it could and should be, in terms of how a heterogenous culture has responded—and how we haven’t. I’m grappling with the juxtaposition of what we as a country did to provide support in Africa to manage the Ebola crisis, versus our actions now, and how we can learn from that story.”
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