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?


Suparna NavaleSUPARNA NAVALE

Helping guide future care for older adults

I currently work at Case Western Reserve University conducting population-based and outcomes research using population-based databases. I collaborate with clinicians to study outcomes related to cardiology, orthopedics, pediatrics, pulmonology, and cancer. In my own research, I study multimorbidity in older diabetics. My hope is that this research will have important implication in research and in clinical practice, warranting a paradign shift to account for functional limitations and geriatric syndromes when studying multimorbidity, and not simply focusing on chronic conditions. Given the aging of the population, this research will help to guide future developments in clinical care for older adults, research methodology, and policy analysis.

Connecting math and science with medicine

The summer before I graduated from college, I traveled to south India to volunteer at the Karnataka Cancer Society. I worked with this organization to conduct free cancer screening and prevention in villages. As I got more involved with the prevention, I found my passion, and I knew what I wanted to do after graduation. I found public health, and especially epidemiology, as a way to connect my passion of math and science with medicine.

Finding a public health family

When I first joined graduate school, I was afforded the opportunity to become a student member of APHA and attend the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. By the end of the Annual Meeting, I realized I found a family within APHA. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to network with many students and professionals with interests and passions similar to mine. Getting involved with the Student Assembly is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I encourage all students to not look at their APHA membership as something temporary while they are a student, but as a lifelong commitment to the profession of public health.


Aaron GuestAARON GUEST

Building connections to improve health

The focus of my work is on improving the health and wellbeing of rural older adults, particularly those in marginalized communities, such as LGBTQ older adults. As a community-based scholar, I seek to build connections to support the development, implementation, and dissemination of innovative programs to improve health. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with communities around the development of farmer markets, health delivery, educational curricula, needs assessments, strategic planning, and built-environment improvement programs, to name a few. Ultimately, I hope my work leads to the reduction of inequalities in the aging process.

A change to improve lives

I discovered public health by accident! Originally trained as a cultural anthropologist I became fascinated in how health played such a critical role in individuals' lives and identity (shocking, I know!). It seemed as though no matter the topic, health was central to the discussion. I was lucky enough to have some incredible mentors who directed me to public health, and the rest is history! The opportunity to increase the public’s health and improve lives is where I found my calling.

Being part of our community

APHA is where I found my voice in public health. It is where I first became engaged in the field and recognized the possibility of what we can accomplish. As a student, Student Assembly has been critical in my development. It provided a place for starting my career, networking, and learning. My Section (Aging and Public Health) has allowed for mentorship and the discovery of life-long friendships. Besides staying abreast of the most recent scientific developments, APHA helps me serve as an advocate for public health and to be part of our broader public health community.


Martha BergrenMARTHA BERGREN

Helping fill in some data gaps

My work is at the Big Data population level. I am part of a joint initiative between the National Association of School Nurses and The National Association of State School Nurse Consultants to create a national standardized school nurse data set. School nurses are data orphans: the health sector does not collect school data because school nurses don’t bill for services, and the education system does not collect school nurse data as their mission is instruction and learning. The initiative is called Step Up & Be Counted! and is in its third year.

Hooked on health improvement and advocacy

As a nurse, I did work for several years in the acute setting, but always knew I would transition to public health and population health. When I worked as the Director of Research at the National Association of School Nurses, I understood that our interventions were improving the health of all 93 million school aged children as opposed to the 1:1 care I provided in the NICU. I saw the power of policy through the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, the U.S. Congress that required all schools to Local School Wellness policies, bringing champions for school health to the table. I was hooked!

Expanding my ability to influence child health

APHA has broadened my network and my view of health beyond that of a nursing perspective. I belong to three Sections: School Health Education and Services, Public Health Nursing, and Health Informatics Information Technology. I am able to stay current with these three diverse areas in one association. Through the leadership opportunities as a Section leader, the Intersectional Council and as an ex-officio member of the Executive Board, I was able to expand my ability to influence the health of school aged children.


Chris ChanyasulkitCHRIS CHANYASULKIT

Addressing structural barriers to equity

Believing in health in all policies, I volunteer and work throughout my community. I am civically engaged in my town as a Community Emergency Response Team member, a Medical Reserve Corps member, an elected Town Meeting Member, an elected Library Trustee, co-chair of the Brookline Commission for Women, and a member of the U.S. Health Equity Council for New England. Having worked recently as the assistant director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations in my town of Brookline and as the senior lecturer in the Simmons College Department of Public Health, I strive to address the structural barriers to equity in a number of capacities and to make a positive difference.

Helping create a more equitable and inclusive community

My work is based largely on my experience as a first generation Asian American woman. Working to promote health equity is my passion. Serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer, working at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, studying at the Boston University School of Public Health, and serving as a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and Asian American Commission, made me to realize that working in public health is incredibly fulfilling. Playing a role in helping to create a more equitable and inclusive community for my family and neighbors gives meaning to my life.

Learning and being inspired 

APHA is my professional home. Serving first as a student member of the APHA Education Board, later as its vice chair, and then as its chair, was an honor and pleasure. As co-chair of the Joint Policy Committee, and now as a member to the Executive Board, I am thankful for the many friends I have made and the mentors I now have. I continue to learn and be inspired by my APHA colleagues and staff. Having had three children since joining APHA, I can honestly say that it is also a most family-friendly organization! Each Annual Meeting is like a family reunion for me. I wouldn’t miss it for the world! And I cannot underscore the great, personal value I find in being a part of mission-driven organization striving to create the healthiest nation in one generation!

MORE APHA MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS

Elizabeth Gray Bayne

Elizabeth BayneELIZABETH 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.

Apryl Brown

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.

Lea Dooley

Lea BosniaLEA 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

Jayfus DoswellJAYFUS 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.

Laurie Elam Evans

Laurie Elam EdwardsLAURIE ELAM EVANS

Boosting vaccination coverage

I am currently the Lead Health Scientist and Team Leader for the National Immunization Survey Family of Surveys in the Immunization Services Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These surveys are used to monitor vaccination coverage among children 19-35 months (NIS-Child) and adolescents 13-17 years (NIS-Teen) and to monitor flu coverage among children 6 months to 17 years (NIS-Flu). It is very rewarding to use my epidemiologic skills to provide data that are used to assess vaccination coverage, identify gaps in coverage and assist with efforts to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases in children and adolescents.

Finding her calling 

As an adolescent, I thought I would become a medical doctor. However, during matriculation at Spelman College, I met an amazing professor (Bill Jenkins) who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He described his work as an epidemiologist and the endless opportunities as a public health professional. This area seemed to embody everything that I was interested in, including biology, statistics, computer science, helping people and problem solving. It was as though a light bulb had gone off! I knew from that day on that public health and epidemiology were my calling.

Together, we can accomplish so much

Being a member of APHA has been an amazing opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals that care about people and health outcomes and want to make a difference in the world. Attending the annual meeting is great. However, interactions with the Epidemiology Section between meetings and leadership opportunities this provides are equally rewarding. I’ve learned so much being a member of APHA and encourage others to join and become an active member of the organization. There is never a shortage of work that can be done. Working together, we can accomplish much more than anyone can accomplish individually.

Linda Frazier

Linda FrazierLINDA FRAZIER

Reducing the impact of addiction

I envision a world where substance use disorders are recognized as a population health problem affecting some groups disproportionately and are treated with compassion. I advocate for research-driven policy and innovative practices like expanding the availability of medication for treatment, risk reduction programs, and overdose prevention. I believe substance use disorders need to be viewed like any other chronic health condition. My hope is that by addressing health and criminal justice disparities we can reduce the impact of addiction on our communities by lessening stigma, expanding prevention, and addressing risks to support behavioral health, recovery, and wellness across the lifespan.

Addressing inequality

My career started in youth work and moved to psychiatric, reproductive, and college health nursing. Working with pregnant and parenting adolescent women and experiencing the advent of HIV/AIDs in the late '80s inspired my move into public health promotion and education. As my awareness of health disparities and risks have grown, so has my interest and commitment to addressing inequality, addiction, stigma, abuse, and violence toward women and minorities. My commitment to advocacy for addiction treatment and recovery is grounded in being a survivor of sexual assault and coming from a family in recovery.

Working together to make a difference

For me, public health is about working on issues too great for any one person to address alone. As a member of APHA, I join a network of professionals who care about working together to make a difference. The annual meeting keeps me up to date on research in the field, and challenges me to approach my work with innovative ideas and concepts that are grounded in research and best practices. This has inspired me to take a leadership role as Chair of ATOD where I am contributing to and guiding new ideas in our field.

Claude-Aix Jacob

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

Elizabeth BayneELIZABETH 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.

Ben King

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.

Rod Lew

Rod LewROD LEW

Addressing tobacco and obesity as social justice issues

I am the founding director of APPEAL, a national non-profit organization dedicated to working with the diverse Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community and other marginalized communities to address tobacco and obesity as social justice issues. We have focused on community capacity building, health education and advocacy to counter the role of industry in targeting our communities and to work toward eliminate health inequities. In particular, community leadership development has been key in building community power to advance health equity and create the systemic change we want to see in our country.

Addressing health inequities 

From the beginning of my career, public health was a way to become actively engaged in my passion for addressing health inequities and social injustices. One of the greatest rewards in public health has been working with and learning from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by tobacco and obesity-related diseases and other inequities. I have been inspired by how communities and public health advocates build movements to create social change and to see the ripple effects of all our collective public health work. Public health represents vision and hope. Hopefully, we can make the same strides forward with other key issues like health equity.

Bringing together bright minds, progressive voices and actions

I've been an APHA member since 1990 and have had the great opportunity to be engaged on many levels. I first became involved with dedicated community activists through the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus and then through the Health Equity Committee. APHA is a premier organization that brings together the brightest minds and progressive voices and actions of public health leaders through the annual meetings and leadership bodies like the Governing Council. Now, being actively involved in my Section (PHEHP) has allowed me to work with amazing health education leaders on critical issues like health equity. APHA has also helped to nurture long-lasting friendships and relationships.

Rachael Reed

Rachael ReedRACHAEL REED

Exploring how discrimination impacts health

One of my passions is exploring how race and discriminatory experiences based on race can affect one's health. I am currently working on my dissertation which focuses on how discriminatory experiences effect glucose control in American and Caribbean Blacks. I am hoping to advance our understanding of the various health disparities that are prevalent as discriminatory experiences may be an underlying factor. In the future, I hope to develop a measuring tool to better quantify discriminatory experiences that do not directly affect an individual such as the various shootings of unarmed black individuals and the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A public health calling

To be honest, God called me to this profession. Chronic disease prevention has always been a passion of mine. However, prior to the last year of my Master's program, I was sure that I would be fulfilling this passion as a physician. Before I knew anything about public health, I was a pre-med student determined to go to medical school. I decided to pursue my MPH first and fell in love with public health. My mentor, Dr. Sara Plaspohl, introduced me to doctoral degrees and various careers in public health. That was when I realized that I was exactly where I was always meant to be.

Advocating and connecting

Being a member of APHA and, even more so, being involved in APHA has greatly enriched my public health experience. It has allowed me the opportunity to advocate for issues that I am passionate about and connected me with thousands of individuals who are like-minded. I have had some of my best public health experiences through APHA such as serving as a private sector advisor to the US delegation for the 67th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. Being in APHA surrounded by so many amazing people and their innovative work keeps me inspired!

Charles Rogers

Charles RogersCHARLES ROGERS, PHD, CHES

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

Lyubov SlashchevaLYUBOV 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.