Vassar on the Front Lines

Voices from a Pandemic

Jeb Weisman ’82

Jeb Weisman, PhD, is the Director of Global Health Informatics at the Arnhold Institute for Global Health (AIGH) within the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. He is responsible for leading a team of software engineers, machine learning experts, data scientists, and researchers to build analytics and visualization tools and platforms at the AIGH. The Institute’s premiere analytics platform, ATLAS, supports transformative public health work on local and global scales, as well as providing a resource for researchers and policy-makers.

Submitted May 8, 2020

Reflection #1 Realization

“It was the fact it was jumping so quickly. It was becoming clear it wasn’t going to be just a casual annual cold or flu, but something that could become certainly multi-continent and, obviously, global.”

Reflection #2 Anticipation

“I have a team, and I have colleagues … What you do become aware of is your responsibility not just to yourself, no matter how comfortable you may be in this sort of fortress of solitude mode, but your responsibility to them – where they need help and when they need help, and to anticipate that.”

Reflection #3 Admiration

“I think that certainly it has been a demonstration of the collegiality that I’ve experienced and watching people I work with who were in a position to jump to front lines, not just because it’s because it’s externally expected of them, but because they truly and profoundly believe it is their responsibility to help where they can.”

Reflection #4 Frustration

“The most challenging part of this experience has been, frankly, frustration at times at transcending bureaucracy. I spend a lot of time now working with governments and public health workers, helping deliver tools and concepts and strategies to inoculate people against bad information.”

Reflection #5 Inspiration

“I’m an anthropologist by trade, and it’s nice to know that people are people. We have technology and big data … but whether we’re here or somewhere in the European Union or somewhere in Asia or Africa, at the end of the day we have common fears, common hopes, common accomplishments and dreams.”

Reflection #6 Prognostication

“It’s a continuum of adapting and reimagining ourselves. I think it will change things. I think the handshake may be gone, and it will be replaced by something else.”

Reflection #7 Evaluation

“You need to innoculate yourself against bad information, and bad information comes in a variety of forms. Sometimes it’s just naive, or it’s a best first guess, or it comes from someone we trust and they just get it a little bit wrong. Sometimes it’s explicitly designed to manipulate us.”

Reflection #8 Preparation

“Vassar prepared me by not creating false expectations, by not leading me down a specific path. I think in large part it’s one of the things that has helped me not only manage the current pandemic situation, but has allowed me to contribute not only to the current situation, but hopefully to the mitigation of what may be yet to come.”

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