My First APHA Conference

By Divya Shah, MPHc,Long Island University – Brooklyn Campus

In November last year, I had a pleasure of attending the American Public Health Associaiton’s (APHA) 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana. Attending a conference, especially one as large as the APHA, can be a daunting experience if it is your first time. Before the conference, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could, especially about global health with a focus on girls and health education and promotion. I prepared for the conference by printing business cards and resumes and practicing my elevator speech. I tried to learn as much as I could about the conference from others.

The first thing I learned was the importance of time management. When looking at the schedule of sessions, there were many that I found interesting and wanted to attend. On the first day of the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting the acting Surgeon General, Dr. Boris Lushniak on the floor of the Exposition. I also attended a book signing by keynote speaker and Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson, who wrote the book called “The Warmth of Other Suns.”

Going into the conference, networking was something that I had mixed feelings about. I had minimal prior experience networking, so I knew this was going to be my biggest challenge. I gained experience and confidence networking with professionals along with my classmates and eventually build up the confidence to venture out on my own. The business cards and resumes came in handy throughout the conference.

The Convention Center was so large that it often took 15-20 minutes to walk from one session to the next, sometimes more if we had to go to another building. I attended one of the Global health sessions. Here, I had the chance to hear presentations about research being conducted in developing countries. At another session, the presenters talked about how technology can be used to improve the lives of Asian populations in California. A few times, I was caught up at the Expo hall and was not able to make it to the other sessions I wanted to attend.

The Exposition was the most helpful. Hundreds of booths were lined up and I enjoyed visiting the booths, asking questions, and networking with people along the way. The most valuable session I attended was an information session provided by USAID in the Expo hall. It was a great opportunity to learn about their global health internship and fellowship opportunities. I was able to get my resume critiqued on the spot by one of the recruiters. He provided valuable feedback and even offered to critique my resume again after I had made his suggested corrections. I visited most of the global health booths and spoke with exhibitors about my interest in global health, girls and health education and promotion. I quickly realized there was not much data available about girls. At the Expo, I ran into a few public health professionals who were keynote speakers at another public health event I had attended the week previous and they remembered me! It made me realize that the world of public health is small and you leave an impression everywhere you go.

On one of the evenings, I was able to attend two social events held by the Public Health Education and Health Promotion section. One event was for professionals, where I had the pleasure to meet IUHPE/NARO board members and socialize with other professionals. I had the opportunity to discuss with them about their careers. The other event was for students. It was great meeting students from all around the country and talking to them about our common interest.

Overall, attending APHA is an experience I would recommend for students. It’s a great way to discover what is out there in the public health field. For me, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the work that is being done in global public health. This conference allowed me to re-confirm my interest in global health and I gained more of an interest in pursuing research on girls. It was an empowering experience and I look forward to attending again in the future.

Visit APHA’s 2014 meeting site for a list of speakers and presentations: https://apha.confex.com/apha/142am/webprogram/start.html

Visit APHA’s 2015 site to submit an abstract for this year’s conference! Website: https://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual

Published: January 2015, HPC

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