Thoughts on Community (Health) at Brown and beyond


The Public Health Program announced in a Tuesday press release that Community Health concentrators after 2014.5 will be required take three community-based methods courses, from the previous two.

Acting Community Health Concentration Advisor Mitchell Ray, who was wearing a slim-fitting beige sports coat when I met with him on his fourth-floor South Main Street Office, said that the increase in the number of community-based courses is a “good” one.

“With more emphasis on community-based approaches, we’re making our curriculum more in sync with recent trends in public health and medical anthropology,” Ray said, boyishly tucking a lock of goldish-brown behind his ear, as light poured in from the North-facing bay window.

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“Community.” We hear that word a lot around Brown, but what does it mean? Are communities real? Are they vibrant? Are they just “imagined,” as Benedict Anders once argued? The Public Health Program thinks that community is “important,” but nowhere in the Tuesday press release, and not once during my meeting with Ray, did anyone say why.

When I think about community, many iterations come to mind: friends talking at the Ratty during a late afternoon lunch, student athletes making their way to Nelson for an early morning workout, writers and editors burning the midnight oil at the Brown Daily Herald building. If I’m honest, though, community makes me think most about my family.

At Christmas time, every year, all of my relatives make their way to my great aunt Melinda’s house in rural Massachusetts. We gather around the fire—laughing, sharing stories, saying what we’re thankful for. All the different generations, together. It’s a really magical time. Sometimes I wonder, though, whether communities like my extended family—or like Ratty go-ers and sports players—will survive the social media revolution.

For instance, Melinda doesn’t have a Facebook. She can’t see my pictures. She doesn’t know what I like. She has no idea who my friends are. And yet, perhaps we should recall the larger picture. What does it even mean to have a “friend,” particularly in this Internet Age? Do family, and community, stand a chance against this constant stream of Tweets, Likes, and Diggs?

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I posed this question to Ray during a second meeting, which he reluctantly granted. “I’m not sure,” he said, looking genuinely stumped. “Honestly, that might be beyond the epistemological capacities of my discipline. But it’s a fascinating question.”

Smiling, I tucked away my Moleskin and walked out the door.

1 Comment

  1. The initiatives taken by public health program is a very effective and required community based is also innovative.

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