By Jeff Hild and Milena Berhane

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare longstanding race-based inequities in communities across the country, including in the District of Columbia. These inequities are most disturbingly visible in the disproportionate burden of infection and death among the Black community from COVID-19. Nationwide, Black Americans account for one-third of COVID hospitalizations yet make up just 14 percent of the overall population. In the District, Black residents are 47 percent of the population but account for nearly 75 percent of COVID fatalities.

The drivers of disparity and inequity are complex but share a common root in structural…


By Linda B. Sheriff

It’s back-to-school season. Instead of brimming excitement and anticipation, schools across the nation are trying to plan for a year fraught with uncertainty, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and amplified by inequities.

I recently heard from a leader of an elementary school in Washington, D.C., that more than 200 students signed up for their virtual summer school program, but not even 100 of those students had attended classes. This school serves a majority of Black students from low-income families in the District. The leader was worried about these students: Were they alright? Had family members…


Jennifer Sacheck’s children on a hike.

By Jennifer Sacheck

Like most of us with children, I have been at home with my three kids 24/7 since mid-March. Sure, this has been a blessing, but it has also added a tremendous amount of pressure to be everything for them. Not only am I their mother, but I am also now an educator across multiple grade-levels, CNN news filter, top chef, screen-time monitor, barber, and Lego creator, to name just a few of my newly elevated roles. …


By Sabrina McCormick

In August 2003, Paris stood still, the streets largely empty, foot traffic slowed to a trickle, the sound of sirens resounding through the streets. This wasn’t a case of COVID-19. It was the world’s deadliest heat wave that killed up to 70,000 people in a period of weeks. The effects of this heat wave looked a lot like COVID-19 has looked for many places around the world, overflowing morgues, refrigerated trucks full of victims, health care workers rushing into homes to try to save those on the verge of death but with little luck.

In the coming…


A screenshot of the 2020 virtual graduation ceremony.

By Heather Renault

On January 2, while on my way to work for the first time in 2020, I fell down the stairs of my house. I remember thinking, “hmm, 2020, this better not be what the year will be like.”

Oh, how little did I know. After all, who could imagine 2020?

I have been in enrollment management since 1998. In 2016, I came to the Milken Institute School of Public Health to work with graduate students. About a year and half ago, I slightly changed direction and became the Assistant Dean of Student Services. …


By Olivia Ellison

I work as a health educator for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in the Substance Abuse Prevention and Control department. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I helped design and implement the Wellbeing Center pilot program, placed in 50 Los Angeles County public high schools. As part of this program, I educated and provided resources to students on sexual health, mental health and substance use, with the help of our partners Planned Parenthood and the LA County Department of Mental Health.

On April 1, our staff of 80 health educators was reassigned and activated to…


By Todd Miller

I like candy. In particular, I’m a huge fan of Skittles and generally eat a handful every day. However, since being confined to my house for the past 8+ weeks, I find myself “tasting the rainbow” a lot more frequently. I’m also noticing that many of the healthy dietary practices that I’m normally pretty good at maintaining are starting to slip. …


Photo courtesy of Leah de Wilde

By Leah de Wilde

In March, I returned to my home on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands (VI) around the same time that COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, ready to rejoin my team at the local Department of Health (DOH) as a full-time contractor to help in any capacity that the territorial epidemiologist needed filled. I started with the VIDOH epidemiology division in 2016 as a surveillance officer during the Zika outbreak. It was an entry level position and my first foot in the door working in public health. …


By Wendy Ellis and William (Bill) Dietz

Wendy Ellis: As a nation, we agonize over how to approach conversations on race, racism, white supremacy and structural racism. Meanwhile, black, brown and indigenous people suffer. The events of the past 90 days have stripped away any possible denial of the existence of a pandemic within a pandemic. COVID-19 has laid bare long-standing inequities that have resulted from white supremacy empowered by structural racism.

The policies and practices of our nation’s systems reflect the impact of structural racism within all aspects of our institutions and societal foundations, empowered by the belief in…


By Jeff Hild

Despite a massive outlay of federal resources — nearly $3 trillion so far — to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, why has it been so difficult to support the most vulnerable families and communities? How can additional federal policy responses and implementation of existing resources use a public health lens to build resilience in communities and families so that they can not only bounce back, but bounce forward to an equitable future? …

GW Milken Institute School of Public Health

Voices from the only school of public health in the nation’s capital. Learn more: publichealth.gwu.edu

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