Students Work to Address Civic Emergencies at MSB-Elk River

Posted by on January 21, 2015

Have you ever wondered what your local government has planned in case of emergencies such as natural disasters, disease epidemics and other major events that affect people who live in the community?

Sherburne County’s Health and Human Services Department is responsible for emergency preparedness in our area. One thing that the department is tasked with is establishing Closed Point of Dispensing Sites (PODs) throughout the community that are available in these situations. (A POD is a location that dispenses medication in emergency situations.)

Students present POD proposal to Marsha Engvall and MSB-Elk River staff

Students in Michael Zdychnec’s Public Health class had an opportunity to work with Marsha Engvall, Sherburne County’s public health preparedness coordinator, to propose and establish Minnesota School of Business-Elk River as a POD.

Before Zdychnec’s class took on this project, there were only two locations in Elk River that served as PODs. In order to meet the needs of the population in Sherburne County, the department had been looking for new locations to use as POD sites.

Zdychnec said the project was a “natural fit” for the applied learning requirement in the Public Health class. The project benefited the community as well as the school, the students and their families.

The students were divided into two teams and each worked to submit an application to the county to have the campus approved as a POD site.

They were charged with planning the logistics, the processes, how medication (or other materials) would be received and dispensed, parking, security, etc. They were then asked to present their proposal to Engvall and MSB-Elk River staff members.

The timing of this project was very appropriate due to recent news about flu vaccinations, Ebola, and other illnesses and issues.

“The process became extremely relevant for the students,” Zdychnec said.

He explained further: 

“The goal of any applied learning project is always to take what (students) are learning in the classroom and to apply it to a real-world situation. In this case, the students learned how the public health concepts they were learning in the classroom could actually be used to benefit the community, their fellow classmates and their families.” 

Engvall was a phenomenal partner throughout the process and worked with the students as they had questions about the application procedures. Zdychnec continues to work with her and the county to review proposals and determine the next steps.


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