Have pandemic questions? UM-Dearborn has experts.

July 13, 2020

UM-Dearborn offers free virtual course on COVID-19-related topics. The six-session virtual learning experience will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays from July 21 through August 25.

Graphic representing questions the public may have about  the pandemic
Graphic representing questions the public may have about  the pandemic
Graphic by Violet Dashi

Coronavirus isn’t Sociology Professor Paul Draus’ first global health crisis. As a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-trained Public Health Advisor, Draus worked in New York City and Chicago to combat AIDS and tuberculosis in the 1990s. He did contact tracing, met with patients undergoing treatment, and directly observed medical therapies.

Professor Paul Draus portrait
Professor Paul Draus portrait
Professor Paul Draus

But that experience doesn’t quite compare to what people are seeing with today’s pandemic, Draus said. Unlike other infectious diseases, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, impacts everything — health care systems, dynamics of families and workplaces, the economy, the environment — for everyone.

Knowing the widespread impact of the virus, a group of UM-Dearborn faculty members with research expertise in pandemic-related topics, including Draus, are volunteering their time to teach a Pandemic Perspectives course.

The six-session virtual learning experience — which is open to the public — will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays from July 21 through August 25. Topics will differ each week and there will be a question-and-answer period during the last 30 minutes of each class. Registration is required, but there is no cost.

Draus said community participants, faculty, staff and alumni can choose to attend all sessions or only the ones that interest them most. Continuing students enrolled for Fall 2020 can take the course for one elective credit, but need to attend all sessions. Students take the course pass/fail with all tuition and fees waived.

“Before COVID-19, people would say a disease happens to ‘those people’ or it happens ‘somewhere over there’. But COVID-19 is everywhere and affects everyone in some way. Our lives look very different now and we are all seeking answers to big questions that cannot be addressed from one perspective because it cuts across everything — medicine, economics, politics, public health, racial inequality,” said Draus, who is co-facilitating the Pandemic Perspectives course with Dean of Students Amy Finley. “We want to connect our students and the public to information in an effort to help process what is going on around us.”

Course schedule:

  • July 21. Assistant Professor Terri Laws explores reasons why scientific researchers need help from communities of color when finding a COVID-19 cure or vaccine — and the hesitancy these communities may have in participating due to the history of racism in medical research.
  • July 28. Professors Paul Draus and Jacob Napieralski look to a pandemic from the past to get a better understanding of why we track and map diseases like we do today. 
  • Aug. 4. Lecturer Raji Janakiraman shares the scientific how and why COVID-19 became a pandemic. She also gives the science behind COVID-19 symptoms and the status of vaccine development.
  • Aug. 11. Associate Professor Brenda Whitehead shares her research on the mental health and well being of older adults during the pandemic. She’ll share the stressors and joys people ages 60+ reported through her research, which began in March, and what they are doing to improve their outlook during this time. 
  • Aug. 18. Professor Pamela Aronson examines how COVID-19 is impacting young people and their transition to adulthood through its economic, employment and educational challenges. Co-presenters are Senior Research Analyst Arnaldo Mont'Alvao from Iowa State University and Professor Jeylan T. Mortimer from University of Minnesota.
  • Aug. 21. While COVID-19 may lead to temporary declines in global air pollution, environmental health inequities will persist in major cities. Associate Professor Natalie Sampson explores why it’s important to re-imagine broader social, environmental, and economic policies during COVID-19 and into the future. Justin Onwenu of Detroit Sierra Club co-presents. 

For more information or to register, go to the Pandemic Perspectives website.

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