Each year, the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting and Public Health Expo brings together the largest gathering of public health professionals in the world. Master of Public Health (MPH) students and faculty from the college were among the nearly 13,000 attendees that presented and learned about public health research and practices. Topics focused on the 2018 theme, "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health Equity Now."
The annual meeting begins each year with an opening session that includes influential speakers working in the field of public health – this year’s opening session featured United States Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams. MPH student Taylor Holsinger reflected, “The opening session was filled with the most informative and exciting speakers I have heard. Dr. Adams was really able to discuss his current role and goals in regards to public health as well as capture the importance of health equity.”
Throughout the meeting, there are numerous sessions, workshops, and presentations focusing on the annual meeting theme as well as the vast variety of sub-disciplines in public heath. PhD/MPH student Shelby Borowski noted, “Throughout the conference, I found it difficult to choose which sessions to go to each day because there were so many interesting sessions! I attended many poster and oral sessions that broadened my knowledge of public health topics. It was great seeing so many passionate public health professionals speak about their work.” The variety of sessions sparked MPH Student Kayla Septer’s interest in health equity. Septer shared, “Moving forward, I definitely have more interest in incorporating an aspect of health equity into my career path. The experience made me more aware of the health inequities and disparities that are prominent today, and what needs to be addressed in public health work.”
Attending the annual meeting not only introduces students to new topics in public health, but builds on what is learned in the classroom. Borowski mentioned, “All the classes I took in the MPH program gave me a great foundation for understanding the topics discussed at APHA. The MPH program prepared me to think critically about all the topics presented.” Students also appreciated the MPH program’s emphasis on incorporating a One Health approach in public health during the annual meeting. Holsinger noted, “While sitting through some of my sessions on global health and infectious disease I was really able to see the gap of research in regard to One Health. Being able to see this gap and understand how human health is linked to animal and environmental health, I was able to ask presenters thought-provoking questions regarding their past and future research.”
In conjunction with the annual meeting, APHA also holds the Public Health Expo. The expo brings together public health schools and programs, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and more. Walking around the expo is a great opportunity to network with future employers and academic programs. MS/MPH student Lauren Dodd took advantage of the expo and spoke with different schools and government agencies. Dodd mentioned, “Speaking with the various school and job recruiters will allow me to make a more informed decision regarding my education and career path.”
Overall, MPH students and faculty took away from the annual meeting new and re-energized interests in public health. MPH student Steven Black said, “I think the most important takeaway from the annual meeting was the passion that it helped rejuvenate in me about public health, and being able to see that a topic that I am passionate about is something that I could actually have a viable career in. It really helped me realize that I am where I was meant to be, academically and professionally.” When Septer was asked if she would recommend attending the APHA Annual Meeting and Public Health Expo to others, she responded, “I would absolutely recommend this experience to others, especially students. It’s a fantastic way to meet other students and network with influential professionals in public health.”
Written by Hannah Menefee