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A short history of a collective

The Postgraduate Program in Collective Health (PPGSC) at UEFS began in 1995, when DrDeniceVitória de Brito, Director of the Health Department (DSAU) of the State University of Feira de Santana, formed the commission for the “Plan for the Implantation of the Collective Health Unit” (NUSC). The proposal was for this unit to act as an intermediary between the Health Departments and other departments at UEFS, as there was a consensus that collective health should seek knowledge from all available disciplinary fields. It was an attempt to create a collective health unit within the Health Department which would be simultaneously interdepartmental in its activities.

Within the wide objectives of the plan was the professional qualification of individuals in services and programs that ranged from the health of women, children, adolescents and the elderly, basic sanitation, ongoing vaccination, oral health, tuberculosis control, to monitoring programs and popular and hospital pharmacies, among others. Even a community bakery was proposed, as collective health seemed to incorporate everything and the community it sought to assist was understood to consist, territorially, of all the municipalities that UEFS serves.

In terms of research and teaching, the “The Collective Health Unit would adopt an interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach to the formation of its academic staff (p.10). […] The Collective Health Unit would define its areas of research as aiming to tie together human, material and financial resources – and so, avoiding thematic dispersion and Individualistic voluntarism” (p.11). In the article “The Training of Human Resources”, the Masters in Collective Health (MSC) was proposed as a complement to existing specialization courses in Public Health, Administration of Health Systems, Workplace Medicine and Nursing, Health Law and Nursing for the Public Health System (SUS).

In 1996, the procedures for the contracting of teaching staff for the undergraduate collective health disciplines and Masters in Collective Health, which would begin the following year, were initiated. The first coordinator of the Master´s program being DrMaura Maria Guimarães de Almeida, and the inaugural class, aiming to train the future teaching staff of the Health Department, consisted of 12 students.

The first years of the Master´s in Collective Health program were difficult, with the second class only forming in 1999. Through the joint effort of the teaching staff, the course was reaccredited, as suggested by the consultant and fierce defender of the course DrCecíliaMinayo, and became part of the new Postgraduate Program in Collective Health (PPGSC ), thus making possible a future doctorate program. During this period of reconstruction, the UEFS Collective Health Magazine was created and the title of Honorary Professor bestowed on Jairnilson Silva Paim in recognition of his contribution to the implantation of the Master´s in Collective Health program.

The PPGSC has grown and now offers approximately 20 places per year, via a highly competitive selection process. The year 2004 saw the inauguration of a building, funded by FINEP, which came to house the 04 largest research units: NNEPA, NEPI, NUPISC, and NUPPIIM. This was a period marked by great growth, with several teaching staff undertaking postgraduate studies, with CAPES scholarships. Their success was such that CAPES gave a grade of 4 to the PPGSC entity. The CTC maintained its grade of 3, however.

A new challenge following this period of growth was the securing of teaching staff who also had the opportunity to transfer to other internal positions within UEFS, or to other institutions, and the need to attract new talents for the arduous mission of working in the strictosensu postgraduate program. A process made more difficult due to the high level of productivity, measured by publications, demanded of those who take part in the program, and further complicated by the additional responsibility of training future researchers– which, through the PET, had the effect of deepening the participation of these graduate students, who had already given life to the units. As such One of the more recent problems that the PPGSC has had to confront is the aging of its teaching staff. Retirements, especially in the area of Policy Making, Planning and Administration, highlight the need to attract new teachers capable of sustaining existing lines of research and maintaining links developed over the years with national and international research networks.

This is necessary to guarantee the publication of its studies and the expansion of the scope of its analysis, always focused on the objective of taking concrete local and regional problems and transforming them into scientifically valid and universally applicable knowledge. This objective should be pursued at the levels of teaching, research and extension, demanding that the teacher be super human. Something that is not always possible, especially if staff numbers are inadequate. It was the return of former students that permitted the program to achieve a certain stability in terms of teaching staff numbers.

With this injection of human resources, and with renewed spirit, the PPGSC was able to expand its building, with help from the Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (FINEP), so as to house all 10 of its research units under one roof. The equipment necessary for the activities of the program was funded by the Bahia State Research Support Foundation (FAPESB), a great partner of UEFS, as well as through funds raised by the individual units of the program, through FAPESB and other agencies, such as the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq). These achievements are the result of efforts made by all the teaching staff and the dedication of the secretariat. The following units were transferred to the new building upon its inauguration in November 2011: the NUSC, the NUCAO, O NIEVS, the NUDES, the SAAEE and the NUPES. The final three in the list were formed as a result of the growth of older units. The work of the PPGSC teaching staff also resulted in the implantation of the Master´s in Collective Health, which began to function autonomously in 2011.

However, none of this would have been possible without the students, the most valuable resource of the PPGSC. By 2012, 233 students had already graduated from the Master´s in Collective Health, and the newly formed 2012 group consisted of 38 students. In other words, the history of the PPGSC is not limited to the activities of its teaching staff, and does not stop with the publication of this text. It will continue rewriting itself through the uncountable subjects that guide its trajectory, motivated by love of people. Those who work in health must love people. Must love life. Those who research peoples´ lives and seek to make them healthier, must love them even more. For this reason, it is possible to describe the story of the PPGSC as a story of love, in all of its senses. And who wouldn´t want to take part in a love story?

On the other hand, it is also necessary to state that the PPGSC conquered, step-by-step, its current reputation as a legitimate and important social actor dedicated to the construction of a democratic and just Brazilian Public Health System (SUS) for the semiarid region of Bahia and beyond. Doing, and teaching how to do. Questioning, and seeking answers tothe innumerous challenges that form part of the daily reality of its services and users. As such, the PPGSC can also be seen as a story of adventure, suffering, passion and struggle. The aim of this text was to preserve part of this memory from the perspective of one of its many protagonists.

Thereza Christina Bahia Coelho