By Kendall Gurske, Graduate Intern, UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health
As a graduate student in both Social Work and Public Health, I’ve spent a lot of my academic career negotiating ways to bridge these two fields and become a leader in the broader arena of women’s health. Currently, an increasing emphasis on preventive care and integrated health and wellness services is shaping the national public health context, and should provide new and exciting opportunities for collaboration between these two historically partnered fields. As this new context continues to evolve, Social Work expertise on community health, safety, and welfare will become an increasingly valuable knowledge base within the field of public health.
As a result of my unique experience as a student in both of these realms, I have come to truly value the contributions that can be made to women’s health through collective action and impact. Every Woman Southeast embodies this ideal of working together not only across disciplines, but also across state lines. There is a wealth of diversity among the participants in terms of background, field of expertise, and home state. Members work for nonprofits, for government agencies; they are epidemiologists, physicians, and agency leaders.
The unfortunate reality for the southeast is that while there is a national push towards improving and increasing the availability of preventive health services for women, there is a dearth of resources and political will in our states. While our states face similar challenges, through Every Woman Southeast I’ve come to learn that they also have developed vastly different and innovative approaches to confronting them. By working together, across state lines and across disciplines, Every Woman Southeast is sharing successes in South Carolina that could be implemented to address a problem in Alabama.
My time as a graduate intern with the UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and Every Woman Southeast is coming to a close, and my graduation date is fast approaching. However, I know that no matter what vantage point I end up working from as a new professional, continued involvement in Every Woman Southeast will ensure that I am aware of state and regional efforts to promote preconception health, and that I have a forum to share my professional successes and challenges in the state of North Carolina.