The 25 of us in this fellowship were plunked down together in Atlanta (CDC headquarters) for 2 weeks for an orientation for our trip. It was truly awesome to meet so many other fellow public health geeks, in a place which is kind of an epicenter for public health geeks 🙂 I mean, CDC is the place where…
…they conduct news interviews on the West Nile Virus outbreak…
…Contagion (the movie) was filmed!!!!
(Possibly the best night of orientation was watching Contagion with my fellow fellows… A scene would come on; there’d be a momentary pause while we registered which CDC building / room it was; and then a loud SHRIEK as we realized we had been in the same room that day!! The scene above is one example.)
…And important people give important speeches 🙂
(Or sneak into empty lecture halls to pose wishfully at the podium. Same thing.)
Half of our orientation was a training required by the State Department, taught by a tall, lean older man who exactly mirrored what I’d expect an old-school State Department veteran to be like. Slightly bent over, he spoke methodically and in a measured way about how we could avoid being spied upon, what to do if we were taken hostage, and an extensive menu of types of weapons of mass destruction! An FBI agent told us about different types of bombs; I certainly didn’t expect to spend a Wednesday afternoon holding an actual grenade!
Certainly a sobering few days but at least it was more exciting than learning how to fill out our tax returns 🙂
We also briefly visited Martin Luther King’s memorial, and saw the house where he grew up and the church where his father preached. I hadn’t realized that he had actually grown up in a fairly well-to-do family, and made the conscious decision to leave an easy life behind to fight for racial justice. As the 25 of us branch out across the globe with the ultimate goal of reducing health inequalities, it seemed fitting to pay tribute to a man and his wife who accomplished so much despite all the hurdles stacked up against them.