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?
Engaging the community in addressing disparities
I just finished co-editing a book (Public Health Research Methods for Partnerships and Practice; forthcoming 2018 Routledge) on training community health stakeholders in public health research methods so that they can engage in community-academic partnerships as equitable stakeholders. In addition, I am working on validating a quantitative survey measure that assesses the level of community stakeholder engagement in research studies from the community stakeholder perspective. There is evidence to suggest that engaging those populations most impacted is essential to developing solutions that address health disparities. I hope my work contributes to developing, implementing and evaluating community-academic partnerships.
A place to improve health
Public health seemed like a great place for me to use my statistics skills to improve health in minority and medically underserved communities (like the one I grew up in). I love the idea of the community being my patient with the goal of building healthy communities. I also love the fact that public health is such a diverse field with so many different areas that I get to work across diseases/conditions, use different methods, and work with different populations/communities. No two days are the same and I never get bored.
Satisfying all my public health interests
I think of APHA as all things public health. It is the one place that satisfies all of my public health interest including biostatistics, health disparities, community engaged research, and public health education. I love the Annual Meeting and the webinars. The fact that I can be a member of the Applied Public Health Statistics Section, Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section, and the Community-Based Public Health Caucus allows me to network with colleagues who work in the various areas of public health that interest me.
Exploring new HIV prevention methods
Currently, I am working as a Research Project Manager on several rectal microbicide clinical trials at The University of Pennsylvania. I hope that through my work I can help raise awareness of new and innovative HIV prevention methods.
Combining two passions
I decided to work in the public health field after doing some soul-searching in college. I knew that I wanted to help individuals across the globe; however, I was unsure on how to do that. After discovering that public health would award me the opportunity to study global health as a concentration, I was sold. After learning about the HIV epidemic, I knew that I wanted to work with vulnerable populations to help eradicate the disease. Through this work, I have been able to combine my passion for travel as well as my passion for helping those in need!
Networking, learning and working together
Since my first introduction to APHA in 2013, I have been able to network with some of my field’s top professionals while learning about my own potential. After attending the 2014 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, I was hooked. By getting heavily involved in the Student Assembly, I was able to build my leadership skills and take what I have learned an incorporate them into my job. Additionally, APHA has allowed me to build a professional/personal relationships with some of my colleagues since we are all here for a common goal, to create the healthiest nation in one generation!
Leading, collaborating and organizing
After 40 years of public health service, I was fortunate to serve as APHA president (2013 to 2015). For five years, I attended 37 Affiliate meetings delivering keynote addresses, extra workshops on leadership and collaboration, and helping boards with organizational development. I attended other national and international events, which expanded my view of public health. I have also worked with several academic institutions as a guest lecturer, and I’ve spoken at a couple of graduations. My private consulting business has been on hiatus due to my continued volunteer work within my own community, and as a Councilor on the Council for Education in Public Health.
In service of social justice
My career found me — I wasn’t really headed in any direction. I worked in a financial office that handled bill paying for the state health department in Utah. I was curious about what connected all of these various programs together. A friend invited me to join the Utah Public Health Association. I was elected as secretary of UPHA, and this is where I met Dr. James O Mason (who served as president of UPHA). Dr. Mason described the need for public health in service of social justice. That was the hook. Throughout my 44 years in public health, working to advance social justice served as my "North Star".
Turning a career into a profession
As President-elect of UPHA, I attended the training offered at APHA where I made many life-long friends! We saw how common issues impacted each of the affiliates, and how APHA could help to support our efforts. Conversely, stronger affiliate organizations support APHA. I became more involved in APHA leadership positions through my Section, Governing Council, and the Executive Board. APHA served as a catalyst to turn my career into a true profession. There is no better source of solid public health advocacy, evidence-based research, and no better place to create a network of colleagues and friends who will be part of your public health career forever.
Finding common ground to improve health
I lead a county health department. I am preparing my team to engage in a new population health approach by bringing our community with us in our journey upstream to address the underlying determinants of health. We are reframing our role by building relationships across every conceivable sector, sharing agendas, learning each other’s language, and finding common ground. We are investing energy in the pursuit of PHAB accreditation as a metric of our agency’s commitment to continuous quality improvement. It is my expectation that my community will create a culture of health that provides opportunities for all people to reach their greatest health potential.
A way to exercise our humanity
Public health is a second career for me. I worked in a counseling role for a number of years with families who had a member living with developmental disabilities. It was a subsequent stint as a Peace Corps volunteer that gave me an appreciation of public health. Access to clean food, water, air, and quality health care were things I had previously taken for granted. Soon after, I went back to graduate school to earn my MPH at Yale, which opened the door for an exceptional experience with the WHO. Family circumstances brought me back to Ohio and into the world of local public health practice. I’ve been doing it and loving it every day since. I consider the practice of public health to be a wonderful way in which we exercise our humanity.
A home for big ideas and more
I have invested countless hours as an engaged member of APHA. In retrospect, that investment has returned immeasurable value. The people I have met, the ideas we have exchanged, the opportunities to develop leadership skills by working beside the best in the field, the opportunity to mentor others as I have been mentored, the advocacy skill and confidence development, and the profound exposure to the breadth and depth of public health are among the many ways my investment has been returned over the years. APHA is a home for big ideas, close professional friendships, robust research, and enthusiastic advocacy. My advice to APHA members is to not simply be a witness to APHA, be an active participant. I joined as a graduate student in 1997 and 20 years later, I had the honor of serving as the APHA president.
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