It seems as though there is a divide between research and service. I am sure this is ubiquitous across most academies, but it’s especially prevalent in the health professions field: research and service/implementation of said research are many times mutually exclusive. And this goes both ways, mind you. Researchers are not always prime candidates to conduct field exercises and service-oriented professionals are not always great at conducting research. Many times it takes collaboration and cooperation from both parties to design, implement, and execute effective health interventions.
Entering into public health for me was a call to not only study the disparities between the sexes, but also assist in eliminating them. Far too many times academic health professionals fail to capitalize on their research and implement best practices in the field. Well, what exactly are we in this for? I guess that question is not something very many people are asking themselves. I guess another way of asking that is: “why are we doing this?”…for our own personal benefit in terms of research dollars and academic clout? Or for something more societal in terms of giving something to someone who ‘needs’?
I founded the Men’s Health Initiative (MHI) [www.menshealthinfo.org] to give back. Sounds a bit idealistic, lofty, maybe even cliché, but MHI’s goal is to give something to the male community that has been denied for so long…information, help, even hope. MHI offers information sessions, public lectures, roundtables, and promotional campaign services primarily in the Philadelphia region but is beginning to develop partnerships regionally and nationally. MHI is truly a bottom-up, grassroots effort to help erase the disparity between the sexes. We are made up of student and community volunteers, as well as a cohort of academic professionals. We direct talks on testicular, prostate, colorectal, and sexual health, as well as fatherhood, masculinity, and roles of men in society with community members that are most in need.
Men’s health cannot be limited to just the biophysical, medical persuasion. This is completely naïve and irresponsible. Men’s health research and service absolutely must address the psychosocial variables that are so influential in how, when, and why we seek, or not seek, information and assistance (i.e. social roles of men, masculinity, etc). But we need to go out into the field and have discussions to address these concerns. In other words, we need to research how to talk to men and then go out and actually talk to them! It is a very simple concept but not one that is readily practiced. When I asked myself ‘what am I in this for?’, all I need to do is look into the audience of one of MHI’s seminars to answer that question.