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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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