In Public Health, It Can Be All Fun and Games

Chole Eng, 1st-year Epidemiology Student

As a San Francisco native that moved to Boston for undergrad, I never thought I’d end up in Atlanta. I didn’t have any friends or family here, the closest that I’d come to Southern living was my secret love of Chick Fil A, and for those of you who have seen the new ABC sitcom, “Fresh off the Boat”, as Jessica Huang says, “we left everything we know to come to a place where we know nothing and where the humidity is not good for my hair”.

Many of my family members had the same thoughts prior to my moving so far away, and most thought the humidity had gotten to more than just my hair when I replied with just the word “fun” every time they asked me how grad school was. Don’t get me wrong, classes will take up the majority of your time and they have their ups and downs. But as great as it is to have such a wide range of interesting classes, viewpoints, and groans about homework filling the halls of Rollins, it’s definitely necessary to just take a few hours to get out of the Gracement* before you start getting too SAS-sy** or just plain hangry.

Of course, I had to convince everyone back home that I really was focusing on school with all the adventures I was having. But the great thing about Atlanta is that it’s truly the public health capital of the world (at least according to the Rollins website – seems legit), and it’s so easy to translate topics discussed in class to real-world applications. Just in case you’re wondering how to balance school and personal-time, here are a few of the ways that public health has related to my life in Atlanta so far.

1. Atlanta History Center: Did you know that the number one cause of death during the civil war was disease? Boom. Public health issue.
But really. Two-thirds of the 620,000 deaths were caused by disease, not wounds. Dysentery, typhoid, and pretty much any other disease you or your trail mates probably died from while playing the Oregon Trail computer game was common and deadly. The Atlanta History Center right next door in Buckhead has one of the best-organized and largest exhibits on the Civil War, as well as the 1996 Olympics, famous golfer Bobby Jones, and others. They even have some of the original amputation tools. And don’t worry, we don’t have to talk about the War of Northern Aggression.

2. Mary Macs Tea Room: fried chicken and tomato pie? Not the best nutritional choice, but a great exercise in moderation.
Mary Macs was the first restaurant that was recommended to me in Atlanta and although it’s not a place that I frequent (see? Moderation!), it was definitely worth the trip. There are plenty of posts about the food in Atlanta and there’s no shortage of foodies at Rollins so I’ll spare you the lengthy explanation, but most people won’t argue that we all have to eat – that’s what brain food is for!

Mary Mac's
Mary Mac’s

3. Pickleback shots in Edgewood: whiskey followed by pickle juice, the latter of which has been shown to relieve muscle cramps and heartburn!
Sure you can get these a lot of places, but they’ll forever be associated with Atlanta in my mind after being introduced to them at Mothers in Edgewood. Everyone at home thought I was going to get Ebola anyways, so might as well give them one last thing to worry about. And just in case that’s not enough to convince anyone, just search PubMed for pickle juice studies – 123 results? I’d say that’s a solid starting body of research.

4. The Georgia Dome: going to games is a great way to relieve stress, but sports related injuries are a thing.
The last Hawks game I went to, the Browns’ safety collided with a teammate and injured his MCL – not career-ending, but still scary at the time! Ignoring the debates about safety concerns and the integrity of the game, sports medicine is classified as a public health issue by the American Academy of Family Physicians and is an example of a concern that can be effectively targeted by primary prevention. Ignoring the public health nerd-alert, the dome is inside so you can watch a game in comfort in any weather and watching football live is always fun!

GA Dome
GA Dome

5. Sweetwater Creek State Park: fresh air, physical activity, the sound of running water….what homework?
One of the things I love about Atlanta is how easy it is to get out of the city setting and get fresh air. From Stone Mountain to Raven Cliffs Falls, or even North Carolina, everything is within driving distance or the perfect distance for a weekend trip. One of the easiest places to get out of Atlanta is Sweetwater Creek State Park, a gorgeous area to hike along a stream that leads to a textile mill that was burned during the Civil War. No matter where you end up though, the most important thing is to try and make up for the hours of screen time you logged during the week.

Sweetwater Creek
Sweetwater Creek

*Gracement = Grace Crum Rollins + basement. Computers to bypass having to use Citrix, fridges, vending machines, and endless electrical outlets….almost everything you need to live there. Or at least that’s what you’ll tell yourself when you realize how much time you’ve spent there.
**For those of you who don’t know what SAS is and just how perfectly this term describes it, you’ll learn soon enough.

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