As a den leader for Cub Scout Pack 33 in Los Altos, Jennie Crook has been balancing home schooling, Scout activities and epidemiology in the age of COVID-19. Crook earned a doctorate in epidemiology and advanced degrees in biostatistics, but she stepped away from the profession to raise her family.
Many of the people Crook trained with are in nursing and public health, and she has seen the toll the pandemic has taken on their lives. With an eye to teaching her Cub Scouts empathy, and that no matter how small you are, there is always a way to make the world better, Crook wrote several songs to show front-line workers their appreciation.
“I had just finished singing one of the songs, ‘Social Distance Hug,’ in a voice message to lift the spirits of a friend who is a nurse, when I received a call that my grandmother had passed away,” Crook said. “Family could not be with her because of the pandemic, but a nurse took the time to be with her at the end. My friend unknowingly returned my hug, and seeing her reaction galvanized my decision to record ‘Social Distance Hug’ and try to reach as many essential workers as possible, maybe even the unknown nurse.”
Crook’s husband, Aidan, works at Pinterest and enlisted the help of his colleagues to record the accompanying track for the Cub Scouts, while a friend taught Crook and the kids American Sign Language. They sent their “Social Distance Hug” to caregivers at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where the Crooks’ pediatrician, Dr. LauraLe Dyner, is involved in the COVID-19 response.
Crook continues to attempt to reach essential workers, while focusing on epidemiology, volunteering with hundreds of other alumni from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to build a research database for the World Health Organization, tracking specific actions from countries around the world in response to COVID-19. The database will link to additional sources of information to identify and analyze which actions were most effective and the lessons people can learn to manage the pandemic.
To watch and listen to “Social Distance Hug,” visit tinyurl.com/y998umxz.