Human and world health were explored by the 25 students participating in the Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program.
The program, which concludes Saturday, helps students adjust to campus life before officially starting their first semester in August.
In addition to students complete their first college credit by taking either of English or rhetoric classes, they attended special classes called “WLAIP Modules.” The goal of the module is to introduce students to various majors at Wabash College and to get to know faculty members through the unique class style.
Last week, students were divided into two groups to attend modules by either Dr. Anne Bost or Dr. Eric J. Wetzel. Both modules were related to the health of humans and the world, partially focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bost’s module was “How We Investigate the Invisible.” Students gathered discussed ways to explore the invisible, such as using microscopes. Then, students guessed the size of various viruses.
As part of the first activity, students made a human circle resembling a cell membrane to compare the various sizes of different viruses. In another activity, students were assigned to play the roles of antibodies and viruses inside the body.
“I found it very interesting, but at the same time, I think I was educated on a couple things that I did not really know,” said K.C. Bowling of Terre Haute.
Students also watched a documentary about how Pfizer was able to produce the vaccine in a short period of time.
“I think it is quite impressive what they did,” Bowling said. “They were able to pull it off in less than a year.”
Students then talked about how seriously threatening the pandemic is to people, especially as it relates to mortality rates. Students tried to grasp the large scale sense of the pandemic by reciting each dead person’s name.
“It would take basically three and a half months, simply to read out the names of the people that have been killed so far,” Bost said.
Bost claimed people are able to overcome the current pandemic as she introduced the history of humans fighting against various viruses to the students. She said various people besides scientists have been involved in making COVID vaccines.
“We need people who also value listening to other people and combining those talents because one person’s talents are rarely sufficient to solve a complex problem,” Bost said.
Although Bowling intends to study religion and become a pastor, he believes he has the potential to help contribute to ending the pandemic. He believes a pastor’s role is to provide spiritual support to people during difficult times and help them trust God.
Bost hopes students can find their own way to engage in society as responsible citizens when it faces a huge problem.
“I hope specific for my module that students can now understand the importance of vaccination and can be ambassadors for vaccination, and also can help people to ask questions, and know where to get the resources to answer their questions,” Bost said.
Wetzel’s module was about “Community Health: From Sidewalks to Systems,” focusing on the social determinants of health. As part of the module, students explored Crawfordsville. They walked along Main Street to Lane Place, the area where the original site of Wabash College was located. Students observed the street views and discovered the social economic differences which are the factors that interact with community health.
“It was very relevant just to see the link between, like how having a playground can be beneficial to building community unity,” said Christian Gray of Indianapolis.
Wetzel then had a lecture in a classroom to deepen the students’ understanding about community health based on what they saw on the first night. Students were shocked that there is an unequal balance of healthcare systems depending on where people live even within the same city.
“Your Zip code is a better predictor,” Wetzel said.
Students tried to understand the current situation of the world amid the pandemic. They discussed the reasons and outcomes of the pandemic through brainstorming activities. Gray discovered a community having a high quality of standard living has an easier situation to handle the pandemic.
“It was very eye opening because I never really considered those issues (inequality of community health) to be related to such simple things like sidewalks,” Gray said. “It is all very interconnected and that is something that the professor stressed, and I personally really enjoyed.”
Wetzel hopes students were able to enjoy and consider community health more seriously even if they were not planning to major in biology.
“I was trying to get more guys involved right who were guys who do not care about going to medical school,” Wetzel said. “You do not have to be a physician or a nurse or something. And in fact what we know is that the most health outcomes are driven by other non-science things.”
The two groups of students then joined together and went on a field trip to see how public health is handled in Crawfordsville and to observe the partnerships of community health between Wabash College and local facilities.
The group first visited the Montgomery County Free Clinic, where the clinic director explaiend how they treat patients who do not have insurance to cover their medical expenses. She expressed how she was grateful for the donation and support from the local community to continue seeing patients for free. After the presentation, the group toured the clinic.
“They are great to have here,” said Gail Rogge Merriman, office manager and medical translator. “I hope it opens their minds to the possibility of them volunteering for things like this, all through their life, now and through their lives.”
The group then visited the Montgomery County Health Department.
Both Bost and Wetzel were satisfied with the students and how they embraced the modules.
“My hope is that they would come to realize that as a group they have a lot of different talents, and then maybe they have a better sense of places in the community where they can serve,” Bost said.
Wetzel hopes these students can get a sense and a taste of being successful here.
“I hope that they begin to understand this is a lot of work, but there is a lot of support and people to help them and that they are not alone,” Wetzel said.