“The New York University School of Global Public Health (GPH) is a young school, located in what quickly became the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Julia Cartwright, the senior associate dean of communications explains. “The pandemic was both an enormous challenge and a remarkable opportunity for our faculty, staff and students.”
She continues, “In early 2020, along with the rest of the world, we watched in horror and trepidation as Wuhan locked down. We had several students there in China, and we watched along with the world, seeing people in quarantine in their apartments, waving from their windows, with the streets and highways oddly silent as traffic completely ceased. It was surreal and we knew it was only a matter of time before cases began to show up in the US. Then-Commissioner of Health for the State of New York Dr. Howard Zucker, who serves on the NYU GPH Advisory Board, was invited to speak on campus on February 29, 2020, with a panel of our faculty experts to follow. The commissioner was called to Albany to meet with the governor, so this prescient event quickly switched to having him speak from the state capitol, and our panel was in-person on campus at NYU. It was one of our most attended events, as people were just starting to realize the inevitability that the virus was already in the city and starting to spread. Understanding COVID-19 became the first of numerous hybrid and online events we would host as the city and our school galvanized for the coming pandemic.”
She says, “The rapid spread of cases became fully evident late in February and March 2020. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the virus a global pandemic. Then on Friday, March 13, 2020, our faculty, staff and students were advised to begin teleworking. We locked up our office doors that evening, thinking we might be back in a few weeks. We had no idea that we would remain teleworking for two years. The experience of the GPH community could be felt despite the distance.”
Cartwright says, “Our classes shifted online and we began to recognize how resilient and nimble our faculty, staff and students could be — but it came at great cost. Family members lost their lives to COVID, and everyone felt great anxiety but the obvious need to soldier on.”
For GPH, the lessons learned during the pandemic will be with them for a long time. “We learned about the resilience of the human spirit and despite the obvious challenges, the unexpected ways people can rise to nearly insurmountable challenges. Over the course of the worst months and years of the pandemic, the nation lost over 1 million Americans to the virus. Globally, over 6.5 million lost their lives,” Cartwright says.
Important public health leaders spoke at the GPH: “Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky both graciously agreed to be our graduation keynote speakers in 2021,” Cartwright recalls. “And, in what has been dubbed ‘The Fauci Effect,’ despite all the hardships and sacrifices, prospective students are answering the call in record numbers to enter the field of public health.”
“Here at GPH, our student body has doubled in size, and we have great optimism that along with graduates from our sister schools in public health nationwide, we will together rise to this challenge.”