August 29, 2008

Metro Health, VUSM partner

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William Paul, M.D., speaks to School of Medicine Students. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Metro Health, VUSM partner

William Paul, M.D., medical director of the Nashville Metro Public Health Department, kicked off an innovative new partnership between the Health Department and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine with an Aug. 20 lecture to second-year students.

Paul, who also serves on the faculty of the Department of Preventive Medicine, spoke to the Patient, Profession, and Society II course about the challenges and opportunities in public health.

“There are lots of connections between medicine and public health,” Paul said. “The idea behind this partnership is to get Vanderbilt medical students exposed to, and interested in, public health.”

Over the next 25 weeks the partnership will give students the chance to venture into the Nashville community with Health Department professionals. The students will do field work in such public health areas as animal and mosquito control, infectious disease prevention and restaurant and tattoo parlor inspections.

Paul credited William Schaffner, M.D., chair of Vanderbilt's Department of Preventive Medicine, with building the bridges that led to the new partnership. According to Schaffner, having Paul on the VUSM faculty gives the school an educational advantage.

“Dr. Paul has organized a terrific array of learning opportunities for medical students to go into the community and experience public health in action. These sessions will be distinctive and memorable. They may even motivate students to pursue careers in public health.”

Paul's lecture covered the many facets of public health and its related environmental, social and political issues. He focused on recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show that the “actual” causes of death in the United States are related to individual choices rather than outside influences.

Risky personal behaviors such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise are the top three “actual” causes of death in the United States, Paul said.

He added that the chief responsibility of Metro Public Health is to promote healthy behaviors among Nashville's citizens.

“Only when healthy behaviors seem natural and obvious will we have a truly successful public health program,” Paul said.

Alon Peltz, co-executive director of the Shade Tree Clinic, a free community clinic run by Vanderbilt medical students, said, “It was interesting to hear about the public health challenges facing our community, many of which we see at the Shade Tree Clinic. It's impressive to hear about the initiatives aimed at addressing these challenges and making Nashville a healthier city.”

The Nashville Metro Public Health Department focuses on promoting physical and mental well-being and preventing disease, injury and disability for all people in Nashville.