“As you know, the general population doesn’t really know much about public health – and I was no different from most people,” said Dr. Hana Osman, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the USF College of Public Health.
Osman said a conversation with Dr. Kay Perrin at a conference sparked her interest in public health. Perrin, a COPH associate professor in the Department of Community and Family Health and assistant dean of undergraduate studies, encouraged Osman to try it out.
“So I took a course,” Osman said, “and I saw how related the field of public health was to the field of social work.”
Related, yes, but she couldn’t help notice a significant distinction.
“Social workers work more in microsystems,” she observed, “whereas public health works more in macrosystems. That combination just seemed ideal to me. I took my first course, and I was hooked.”
Osman was a fulltime employee at Tampa General Hospital when she took that summer 1997 course. By the end of July 1998, she had left TGH to devote herself fulltime to her public health PhD pursuit.
“I was very interested in obtaining a PhD so that I could teach at the university level. I had taught over the years in a less formal way. A lot of it was affiliated with USF, but I was a field instructor for social workers for many years.”
She completed the degree in 2001, “zipped right through,” she said, because she knew exactly what she wanted.
“I was very focused. Everything I studied, everything that I learned related to ethics, public health ethics and research ethics, and end-of-life decision-making. All of that just came together for me here,” she said, “because I was able to formalize my training, gain more training, gain more credentials and really understand all these issues at a higher level than I did before.”
The doctorate followed a bachelor of science in psychology and sociology from the University of Rochester in New York state and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Missouri.
Osman’s first job at USF was visiting assistant professor in the Department of Aging and Mental Health at the Louis De La Parte FloridaMental Health Institute. Hired immediately after graduation, she remained at FMHI until 2003, when she became COPH faculty in the Department of Community and Family Health.
In addition to her teaching duties, Osman serves as vice chair on the institutional review board of the Jaeb Center for Health Research, the institutional review board of USF, and on the ethics committees of LifePath Hospice and Bayfront Health. Since 2007, she has served as director of continuing education for the Sunshine Education and Research Center, a NIOSH-funded center within the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.
Osman will present a Dean’s Lecture Series talk, “Advance Care Planning, Not Death Panels,” on Nov. 21. She will address new regulations under the Affordable Care Act that were designed to reimburse health care providers for discussions related to end-of-life planning.
“We really should have these discussions long before people are at the end of life,” she said. “That’s really not the right time to discuss death and dying. We need to discuss these issues early on. We need to discuss them with our families. We need to write our wishes down so that there’s never any question about what we want.
“This is a very death-denying culture. When we do talk about it, it becomes affiliated with economics and the cost of health care, and that takes it out of the realm of following people’s wishes. This is where the ethical issue comes in. We’re obligated in health care to follow people’s wishes, but if we don’t know what they are, we can’t follow them. At the end of life, a lot of times, people are not able to communicate their wishes with us.”
One thing Osman’s talk won’t include is any reference to the Affordable Care Act by its all-too-common nickname.
“A lot of people call it Obamacare,” she said. “I choose not to ever refer to it that way. It politicizes a public health issue, and that’s the last thing we should want to do.”
Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health.