Public health works in countless ways to make our world better. Find out how public health makes a difference by getting to know a few APHA members. We asked them: What public health work are you doing in your community right now, and how do you hope it will make a difference? Why did you decide to work in the field of public health? What value do you find in being an APHA member?
Currently, I serve as a Senior Researcher on a Community Centered Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Prevention Project at the George Washington University. It is estimated that over 50,000 women in the DC Metropolitan area are at risk of FGM/C and its complications. Along with the project team, I have been working with FGM/C survivors and health providers in the area to understand how the specific cultural and health needs of FGM/C survivors are met in order to inform the creation of an online educational toolkit that is dedicated to improving health services for FGM/C survivors.
Improving the health of women and children
I chose public health because I am passionate about improving the lives of women and children, and so my career, academic research, and advocacy has been centered on this population both globally and domestically. Groups within this segment of the population represent the future of healthy societies, yet are the most vulnerable to the adverse affects of environmental, social, and economic stressors, which can lead to a trajectory of poor health outcomes. Taking on a life course approach to understanding this population is crucial to creating the policies, programs, and actions that improve the health of women and children.
Focusing on science, action and health
Becoming an APHA member has afforded me access to a dynamic learning and networking environment that facilitates timely knowledge dissemination and encourages activism towards pressing issues impacting the public health field. The networks and sense of comradery I have developed with the experientially diverse members of APHA has created lasting friendships and provided for a dependable source of practical academic and career advice that has ultimately lead to various opportunities in both arenas. It is these types of experiences that I am forever grateful for, as they have been the hallmark of this great organization that focuses on science, action, and health.
Preparing students, reaching the faithful
As a public health biologist, I prepare students at Wayne County Community College District to excel in career opportunities in the fields of public health and/or health care in order to produce healthier communities in the southeast region of the state.
As an ordained Itinerant Deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the past coordinator of the Detroit Medical Reserve Corps, I am helping to start a public health preparedness program to educate the faith-based community how to protect themselves as well as their communities during emergencies and disasters.
Improving health in her own community
I wanted to pursue a field of specialty in which I could utilize my background of the basic and clinical sciences to help elevate the health status and quality of life of the community in which I work and reside.
Leading, learning and being active
It has been an awesome experience to apply my knowledge of public health and serve in leadership capacities on the APHA Education and APHA Action Boards as well as the APHA Black Caucus of Health Workers whose purpose is to elevate the health status of our nation through educational assignments and public health policy statements influencing federal legalization. While gaining friendships with public health specialists representing their communities from across the nation, my knowledge has been elevated by attending the scientific oral and poster sessions along with being active in the APHA CHPPD Section.
Making a difference in community health
As an epidemiologist and research scientist, my role is often that of observation and validation. That said, I feel strongly that epidemiologists stand to make a concerted difference in terms of the community’s health. In my day job, I work on projects which improve delivery of health care in the Emergency Department and in-patient settings, by working to test new innovations to medical care and health service delivery. As a consultant, I often work with local companies and non-profits to evaluate their programs’ impact and outcomes.
Helping the vulnerable
Right out of college I went to work at an in-patient psychiatric unit, for children and adolescents. That experience quickly showed me that there was a lot of room for improvement in what I could see of the health care system in this country. I left that position to get my MPH and eventually returned for a doctorate, and began conducting health disparities and health services research to try to answer the questions I had about how systems could best improve the health and wellness of everyone, especially those least able to access and navigate care systems.
Finding my people
Being a member of APHA has absolutely improved my education and altered the development of my career. I’ve been a student member, and an early career professional… and back to a student member over the years, dating back to my first year presenting at the conference in San Diego. It was at the APHA Annual Meeting where I found my academic community. There wasn’t many faculty or researchers in my home town studying access to and delivery of services in homeless populations, and there I suddenly found myself surrounded by the authors I had cited and admired in school.
Identifying health priorities
I have had the honor of serving as the chief public health officer at the Cambridge Health Alliance since 2007. In this capacity, I lead the efforts of the Cambridge Public Health Department for the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and our department aims to become one of the first accredited local health departments in the Commonwealth. As a result, we have identified the city's health priorities through 2020 in order to improve the overall health and well-being of all those who live, learn, work and play in the city. Pursuing this goal has positioned our agency to be recognized as a leading, model and innovative health department into the future.
Helping understand and change systems
I chose to become a public health practitioner due to a combination of personal, academic and professional experiences. I grew up in a household of clinicians who worked in acute care settings and would volunteer at neighborhood health fairs. Also, I experienced an injury in college that shaped my perspective of the classic definition of "health". I completed a Masters in Public Health to ground my understanding of "community dynamics" and "systems" as well as a myriad of fellowships and internships to augment my skills as a health administrator. I am now pursuing an executive doctoral degree in health leadership in order to become a more effective practitioner, policymaker and contributor to the discipline.
Finding ways to stay connected
I have been an active member of APHA for over 20 years. In that time, I have served as the chair of the Black Caucus of Health Workers, participated on the Annual Meeting planning committee and most recently served as a plenary speaker. I am currently the chair of the Health Administration Section and have found tremendous value in APHA’s scientific programs, journal articles and opportunities for maintaining the linkages to my professional networks.
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