Welcome Back from the Dean!

Message was originally sent on September 2, 2020 

Dear Parkinson Family –

Welcome – and welcome back – to what I know will be a productive, enriching, and unforgettable semester.   We have nearly two weeks officially under our belt!

Even with the tremendous difficulties and uncertainties prompted by the pandemic and racial unrest, I hope you had some time to pause, enjoy the summer, and connect or re-connect with family and friends.  

Following is a first in a series of monthly updates you’ll receive from me throughout the year.  This one features initiatives the Parkinson School launched this summer and a preview of what’s to come.  In my next update, I’ll introduce you to new graduate programs we’re launching this year and to new faculty and staff joining us this fall.    

A Reflection

The pandemic requires us to be agile, creative, and entrepreneurial.  In other words, to live the Parkinson School values.  I recognize the disappointments all Ramblers feel (I wish we could be together on campus!) but Parkinson students, faculty, and staff are built for these times – and we will learn, teach, research, and work with communities in this spirit.  Parkinson faculty, staff, and the full resources of the University are available to you in this virtual environment.  Students: check out these resources and faculty: among the resources you can tap include:  Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy,  Office of Faculty Administration, and  Information Technology Services.

I encourage you to use these resources, set up appointments with faculty and with your advisors.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us.  Pay particular attention to self care; stay healthy and together we will live the Jesuit value of cura personalis or care of the whole person. 

Summer 2020 Initiatives: Addressing Health Disparities, Pursuing Inter-Disciplinary Partnerships, and Expanding the Parkinson School’s Reach

COVID-19 Community Testing

We know that coronavirus disproportionately strikes Black and Brown communities.  With that knowledge, and under the leadership of Parkinson Faculty Amy Luke, Abigail Silva, and Elizabeth Stranges, students and faculty at the Parkinson School, along with the Schools of Nursing, Medicine, Law, and Social Work, launched CERCL (the COVID Equity Response Collaborative: Loyola).   Working with community organizations, CERCL set up free, COVID-19 testing twice weekly for the month of August in five communities (Bellwood, Berwyn, Cicero, Maywood, and Melrose Park) within the Loyola University Health System service area.  As of mid-August,  individuals in these communities accounted for 17.1% of confirmed cases in Suburban Cook County, yet represent only 8.0% of the population.  

Last month, in collaboration with Rock of Ages Baptist ChurchCasa Esperanza, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, CERCL provided COVID-19 testing to more than 400 community members in Maywood and Melrose Park during eight testing days. Of those tested, 14.5% screened positive for COVID-19, providing evidence that more testing and support services are needed to help keep our communities safe. All individuals have been screened to determine if they need support services, especially if they test positive. In addition, CERCL created the Contact Tracing Corps to provide students and community members training in contact tracing and related soft skills. We have trained more than 40 participants; more than 120 students and community members have joined the listerv for updates on contact tracing trainings and opportunities. 

Pursuing Inter-Disciplinary Partnerships

Along with CERCL, the Parkinson School teamed up with our Baumhart Center partners at the Quinlan School of Business to launch a four-part webinar series: Beyond Crisis Management: Preparing for What’s Next.  Attendees included Chicago area business, civic, and NGO leaders as well as Loyola University Chicago community members.  Each session has included several hundred participants.  Stay tuned for new webinars this year on Beyond Crisis Management: Building Back Stronger.

Expanding the Parkinson School’s Reach

This summer, as we marked the first anniversary of the Parkinson School, we offered an inaugural series of “short courses” – designed to appeal to current students (from any college or university) and life-long learners interested in pursuing a variety of topics related to public health.  

Thank you to Parkinson faculty who stepped up to make these “short courses”:  John Brady, Lara Dugas, Justin Harbison, Ruth Kafensztok, Kamran Mirza, Nallely Mora, David Shoham, Abigail Silva, and Daniel Swartzman.  And special thanks to those faculty who taught more than one course!    

I’ve received positive feedback on these courses, including these comments from a student:  “I am writing to thank you and your department for offering the summer courses, especially at a reasonable fee ... The course was timely, current, and engaging during this time of COVID-19 and social movements.  I applaud Loyola for offering such courses in the summer, and hope it continues.” 

Looking Ahead

You’ll receive an invite for the upcoming two Baumhart Center/Parkinson webinars.  And this fall, we will introduce some special initiatives to benefit students and the greater Loyola and Chicago communities including a scholarship program and an innovation challenge.    

In my email Monday, I reiterated the vital importance of the pursuit of social justice within and outside of our Parkinson family and endorsed the University’s anti-racism efforts.  With that in mind, Parkinson faculty and staff will be participating in anti-bias training, starting next week.  There will be information on registration for these workshops forthcoming. 

To close, I could not be more excited to welcome all of you back to the Parkinson School and to Loyola.   As we learn, study, teach, and research in this changing environment, one constant endures: the values that bring us together as a Parkinson community and family.

Stay well and keep in touch!

Dean Elaine