COPH Activist Lab to hold third annual boot camp

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The USF College of Public Health’s (COPH) Activist Lab will hold its third annual boot camp on advocacy. The 2021 event will be held virtually on Jan. 29 and will focus on advocacy and pandemics, particularly COVID-19.

“These exciting boot camps allow participants to not only learn about advocacy and policy changes, but to focus on particular public health issues and change,” said Dr. Karen Liller, director of the Activist Lab and a COPH professor. “This is a true hands-on experience. Boot camp participants will work in groups to create issue papers for the legislators and/or policymakers that will help improve the public’s health.”

The COPH’s Activist Lab provides seminars, webinars and other educational opportunities for faculty and students—both undergraduate and graduate—to learn public health advocacy skills and competencies. 

After a welcome kickoff from the COPH’s Dean Dr. Donna Petersen and Liller, the audience will hear presentations from those in the thick of COVID-19 prevention, control and research, including the COPH’s Dr. Tom Unnasch and Dr. Marissa Levine. New this year will be a panel discussion that follows the presentations; this will allow for questions and answers from the audience about the pandemic.  

Following the panel discussion, participants will be instructed by representatives of the Shimberg Health Sciences Library on how to research pandemic strategies and advocate for change. 

Karen Liller, PhD, director of the Activist Lab, presents Sam Bell, the “father” of the COPH, with the Activitist Lab’s 2020 Advocacy Champion Award. Bell shares the award with his wife, Betty Castor, former president of USF. (Photo, taken pre-COVID-19, courtesy of Activist Lab)

“This is important,” commented Liller, “as after presentations the participants will break into groups to develop an issue paper for policymakers and/or legislators about pandemic topics. The topics include contact tracing, rapid response to pandemics, mental health issues, and firearms and violence during pandemics. Each group will present their issue paper to all participants and it will be critiqued by present and/or past legislators and public health officials.”

Attendees at a 2020 boot camp breakout session. (Photo, taken pre-COVID-19, courtesy of the Activist Lab)

Some of the legislators and public health officials scheduled to take part in the boot camp are Samuel P. Bell III, a COPH affiliate faculty member, advisory board chairman and former Florida state legislator; Ronald Glickman, staff attorney with the Second District Court of Appeals and former Florida state legislator; and US Rep. Kathy Castor (tentative). 

“COVID-19 and pandemics are critical issues to address now and into the future,” said Liller. “Public health professionals will need strong advocacy skills to make their voices heard. I believe strongly that all public health students and others should attend these boot camps, as advocacy and policymaking are critical skills for all to learn so that public health efforts succeed.

To register for the event or to learn more, click here.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health