Who is Public Health?

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?

smiling Ghada KhanGHADA KHAN

Helping survivors 

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.

Apryl Brown smilingAPRYL BROWN

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.

Smiling Ben King in front of American Public Health Association signBEN KING

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.

smiling Claude JacobCLAUDE-AIX JACOB

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.


Elizabeth Gray Bayne


Using mass media to change behavior

I've directed and produced over half a  dozen PSAs and short video documentaries for non-profit and health organizations in my community. My hope is that each project will raise awareness and inspire behavior change in target audiences when they're viewed on television or online.

Emphasizing prevention

I was initially pre-med in college and completed the required math and science credits and even took the MCATS for medical school. But in my senior year I attended an information session from the university's school of public health. Up until that point I'd never heard of the field. Its emphasis on prevention over medicine's focus on treatment resonated with me. Why let people get sick in the first place if it can be prevented?

Inspired by the diversity of great work at APHA

Since my first conference as a presenter while still in graduate school, I've been in love with the incredible diversity of public health issues covered in APHA's Annual Meetings and monthly publications. My feet would burn after running from session to session during a typical conference day. There was just so much information and so many people doing great work. It inspires and reassures me that we're on the way to creating a healthier society, and APHA keeps me connected to everything.

Lea Dooley


Bringing public health to a clinical setting

I currently manage a robust HIV program based within Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio. Our program offers wrap around services to clients and includes community outreach across the city. In my role I bring the public health focus to a clinical setting and expand our reach through the community. I hope someday to work myself out of a job when HIV is eradicated, but until then I will keep speaking with every person I meet about the importance of sexual health and testing. As a manager I really enjoy investing in the career paths of my younger colleagues who are just starting out and looking at all their options within this huge field. It’s great to be a public health mentor.

Finding the joy

I have worked in HIV since 1988. I never thought I would still be in the same field but honestly nothing else has seemed as exciting, or as meaningful as working with people and communities to manage conditions they are afraid to discuss. I have been fortunate enough to work overseas in Asia and Africa while still being current on domestic health issues. Name another field that gives you so much flexibility and joy!

Keeping current and staying connected

I really love getting The Nation's Health  and seeing all the work that happens each month as well as program successes.  Public health is a huge field, and although my focus is on HIV and program management, I use APHA to keep current on what’s happening in nutrition, transportation/activity, school lunches, aging, etc.  I have found that getting active in my section (Population, Reproductive and Sexual Health) has really helped me stay connected to APHA and to some amazing leaders within that field. My network has spread across the United States and I have a clearer picture on how to work with APHA in terms of policy and action items. We really do amazing work 365 days a year.

Jayfus Doswell


Taking on health disparities

Most of my public health work is investigating health informatics, information technology, and telehealth/telemedicine interventions to address various health disparities. In collaboration with the APHA Health Informatics Information Technology Section, I founded and direct the HIIT Disparities campaign to address various health disparities (e.g., diabetes, obesity, poor nutrition, cancer, etc.) with innovative solutions that are developed by community members. Additionally, under non-profit organization, The Juxtopia Group, Inc., I work with the Juxtopia® Urban Innovation and Cooperative Entrepreneurship (JUICE) Network program to develop culturally accepted and affordable public health interventions for urban communities adversely impact by health disparities.

Using computer skills to improve health

In year 2000, early in my career, my mentor Dr. Diane Adams, the founder and Chair Emeritus of the APHA HIIT Section, exposed me to the field of public health and how I could apply my computer science training to advance public health for all populations. Because of my propensity to improve the performance of populations underserved and disadvantaged, I make an early commitment to address the needs of this populations with measurably effective public health interventions.

Working to build the healthiest nation

The value of my being an APHA member is the access and interaction with various persons and resources that assist with continuous systemic improvements in public health so that we can have the healthiest nation in one generation.

Charles Rogers


Taking aim at health disparities

This past summer I lead an innovative seven-day community-based study entitled, "Colon Cancer: iPrevent. iTreat. iBeat." at the Minnesota State Fair which surveyed more than 295 African American men on factors influencing their intentions to screen for colorectal cancer. More recently, my health policy advocacy efforts have resulted in two OpEd pieces and encouraged two senators to move forward with introducing legislation addressing health disparities among Native and African Americans. My hope is that colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates among underrepresented groups will decrease as a result of my contributions.

Someone encouraged him to change the world

Five years ago as I neared the completion of my master’s degree in applied statistics, one of my mentors (Dr. Louise Lawson) told me that it would be a travesty for me to sit behind a computer analyzing data for the rest of my life since I really had a passion for people and leadership. When Dr. Lawson said, “I continue to believe that you belong in Health Education…I expect you to change the world. You go do that, or come back and apologize to me for not living up to your amazing potential.” I did not take her words lightly and have not stopped purposely living my life the way she encouraged me to. 

Feeling at home as an APHA member

When I first entered the field of public health and was afforded the invaluable opportunity to attend APHA in Denver the first semester of my doctoral program, I was blown away by the information available at this conference. With nearly 13,000 people in attendance that year, I felt like a small fish in a big pond. Yet, when I fast forward to this past November in New Orleans where I delivered two oral presentations, I honestly felt at home and was amazed at how I saw someone I knew every 15 minutes in the convention center and at local restaurants.

Lyobov Slashcheva


Increasing oral health literacy

Piloting a service-learning initiative with a student group within the dental school, we engage students in their pre-clinical years in community service with reflection on the social determinants of oral health while the community's oral health literacy is increased. We hope such opportunities continue and are eventually incorporated into the dental curriculum.

Partnering with the Virginia Dental Association Long-Term Care Facility Access to Care Work Group, I have investigated oral health needs in older adults residing in long-term care settings across the commonwealth through partnerships with long-term care organizations. As the VDA completes its prevention-focused pilot intervention in three long-term care facilities, I hope to offer both quantitative and descriptive data to guide implementation of pilot outcomes and recommendations.

A clinician at heart who's empowered to make a difference

I am very fortunate to have received the National Health Service Corps Scholarship to pursue my dental training in exchange for four years of practice in an underserved area. Already belonging to such a vibrant network of providers who are seeking to meet our nation's primary health care needs, I have been empowered to seek out opportunities to develop my interest and skills in public health work. Though I may be a clinician at heart, the depth and breadth of impact that public health has on each of my individual patients inspires me to build my dental career in a public health perspective.

Being excited all over again by fellow APHA members

It was just about two years ago that I received notice of my first-ever poster abstract acceptance to a professional organization: APHA. By the end of the 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston, I knew that I had found my vocational family of 13,000 siblings in that convention center, inspiring and encouraging me to continue my commitment to public health. Staying engaged with passionate individuals in several Sections throughout the year in various initiatives has made the reunions at Annual Meetings even more meaningful and has helped me understand that the strength of a monumental organization like APHA comes from each individual Section engaging its members effectively. When my clinical colleagues aren't quite as excited about my public health-oriented initiatives, I know I can refocus and be animated by all the resources I have access to when engaging as an APHA member, returning to my local context to continue the long-term sustainable investments that public health work entails.