Illustration with elements from student op-ed topics, including electric power lines, a person in a wheelchair, boxes of vaccines, an animal cage, and doctors with a patient

Student Op-Eds Argue for Change Through a Public Health Lens

April 13, 2023

At the end of their first semester, as a culmination of the Columbia Mailman Core, MPH students get the chance to integrate the concepts and skills they’ve learned by writing an op-ed. Peter Taback, a communications professional and instructor in the op-ed exercise, asserts that op-eds are an ideal means to get public health messages into mainstream conversations. “When something urgent is happening in public health op-eds are the ideal vehicle,” he says.

Five standout student op-eds from the 2022-23 academic year are published online today. Each evinces key aspects of a successful op-ed, as taught in the Core: making a case for the urgency of an issue, marshaling the facts in support of an argument, and expressing a clear call to action. Together, they demonstrate the breadth of timely issues that can be argued through a public health lens: prioritizing public transit access for people living with disabilities, democratizing and greening the electric grid in Puerto Rico, funding a vaccine to finally end malaria, preventing pandemics through border screenings of wildlife, and why clinicians need better training for trauma-informed birthing care.

“As I transition from the Core into my departmental studies, I will continue to develop the skills to communicate scientific data and its implications for policy. I intend to apply these skills throughout my career in public health to be a voice for positive change,” Catie Eiref, a first-year MPH student in Environmental Health Sciences and author of the energy justice op-ed.