Who is public health?

Spotlight on volunteers: Why and how do you give your your time to APHA?

APHA owes its strengths to the thousands of members who volunteer their time to the Association. In fall 2022, The Nation’s Health asked some of those volunteers to share why they devote themselves to the organization and talk about the work they do. Members cited their passion for making a difference, helping others and the ability to work with like-minded advocates to improve health.

For example, volunteer Kim Townsend, MHA, said she was inspired by the spirit of her “extraordinary” APHA colleagues.

“Their passion, dedication, courage and commitment to creating the healthiest nation are ever-empowering,” Townsend said. “And yet, it is their endless compassion, understanding, kindness and empathy toward each other that leaves me in awe.”

Read volunteer testimonials below, and share yours to help inspire others. Thank you to all of our member volunteers!

Jean Armas, MPH

International Health Section

Jean ArmasI've been volunteering for various organizations since I was a child. It's been a lot of fun being able to learn from and meet other Section members through my volunteer work.

As communications chair, I help our leadership share important news and updates on Section governance and activities. Most importantly, our committee showcases our members' perspectives and expertise by sharing interviews, articles and updates about them through our social media channels, our blog and our newsletter. As Section councilor, I work with our other councilors to discuss and make decisions on important Section issues as well as to help set up and run our Section booth at the Annual Meeting.

Raga Ayyagari, MS

Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section

Raga Ayyagari photoI'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from and contribute to a community of diverse and dedicated public health professionals through APHA. Through the past several years, I have volunteered with the CHPPD Section, facilitating our annual awards and recognition, helping coordinate our Day of Action to highlight the work of local community-based organizations, and supporting other initiatives.

My goals for volunteering are to honor and celebrate the important contributions of public health professional; connect with and learn from people working on public health issues from a variety of topics and approaches; and to continue to hone my leadership and professional development skills.

Tiffany Canate, MPH

Environment Section

Tiffany Canate photoMy main passion is working to advance children's health outcomes through a climate change and health equity lens.

I started volunteering during the height of COVID-19 to find a sense of community and practice the skills I had learned in the classroom. I joined the Environment Section and answered a call to help with a policy statement. Working on the policy statement with other Section members and attending the Section monthly meeting exposed me to other ongoing work. Eventually, I joined the communications sub-committee of the Children's Environmental Health Section and have been helping with projects that align with my interests ever since.

My main volunteer project is leading the Climate Change and Youth Education workgroup. This workgroup is one of two current projects of the Cross-Section Collaboration to Advance Children’s Environmental Health organized by the CEH Committee of the Environment Section and the Maternal and Child Health Section.

Bruce Crow, PsyD, MPH

Mental Health Section

Bruce Crow photoI am an early-career public health professional, having completed my MPH in 2019. However, my career as a clinical psychologist spans over 40 years, including over 30 years as a military psychologist.

I joined the APHA Mental Health Section while a student in my MPH program and soon after graduating with my degree became involved in the APHA Intersectional Council Topical Work Group on Suicide Prevention. As part of that work, I co-lead the Policy and Advocacy Subcommittee, with a focus on developing strategic policy and advocacy initiatives that promote suicide prevention at the federal, state and local levels.

Working with other dedicated APHA volunteers has been inspiring and has connected me with public health professionals who share a high commitment to bringing their expertise to bear on the problem of suicide.

I look forward to continued collaboration with APHA leaders and fellow members to achieve meaningful goals for reducing suicide among the U.S. population.

Kaitlyn Esposito, MPH

Community Health Planning and Policy Development and Disability Sections

Kaitlyn EspositoI feel very strongly that public health education is critical to the continuation of a healthy, happy society. I'm driven, specifically, to volunteer with APHA because I can only do so much good at my job, since it is focused on a very small area of public health.

My volunteerism with APHA as a whole allows me to make a difference in various areas of public health work and education. My goal is to ensure that all public health practitioners are continuously reminded of the intersectionality of public health and science.

It can be easy to fail to "see the forest for the trees" as it were, when we go back to our day-to-day lives in our public health work. My goal is to ensure that neither I nor any other practitioners forget to be inclusive in their ongoing work.

I am passionate about accurately and responsibly communicating information about chronic disease, chronic pain and public health.

Erica Hamilton, MPH

HIV/AIDS and Maternal and Child Health Sections

Erica HamiltonI volunteer with APHA because I see the boundless opportunities available to work with other like-minded public health professionals on important topics involving mental health. I have enjoyed working on two APHA policy statements focused on mental health which have the potential to encourage systemic change.

The goal of my APHA volunteer work is to increase awareness around and reduce the stigma related to mental illness via my representation as a person with lived experience of mental illness. People with lived experience should be involved at all levels — including leadership — of planning and implementation of programs and research involving them and should not just be included as a token team member.

I am also active in the Intersectional Council Workgroup on Suicide Prevention and recently joined the Global Maternal Child Health Network.

Elena Jordanov, MPH

Environment Section

Elena Jordanov photoAs a first-generation Bulgarian-American woman, I found my passion in public health and was given the opportunity to join APHA through my graduate program at the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health of the Rollins School of Public Health.

I began serving the Environment Section as the student liaison in 2020 with the goal to bridge gaps for other early-career professionals who, like me, had little grooming for navigating the professional world, let alone the nation's most prestigious professional organization.

My work has focused on outlining membership and early-career gaps in the Section, curating monthly newsletters that serve both early-careers and seasoned professionals, facilitating monthly coffee hours that feature special guests and workshops, and fostering a mentorship program. I am honored to serve the Environment Section as secretary to continue our efforts in bettering our community

Inyang Uwak, MPH, DrPH

Environment Section

Inyang Kwak photoI am an environmental epidemiologist who is passionate about linking real-world environmental exposures to health effects. I find joy in helping others. I enjoy volunteering within APHA primarily because it gives me the opportunity to meet and network with outstanding public health professionals.

The goals of my volunteer work are to learn, grow and be of service. As the co-chair for program planning in the Environment Section, I am involved in creating the call for abstracts, establishing a review committee through the call for reviewers to review abstracts, assigning abstracts to the review committee, making the final acceptance decisions of abstracts, scheduling and organizing the abstracts into sessions, scheduling business meetings and social hours, organizing invited sessions and coordinating publicity.

Kathryn Marwitz, PharmD, MPH

Epidemiology and Pharmacy Sections

Kathryn Marwitz photoI volunteer with APHA to use my voice and knowledge to advocate for public health. Being an active member of APHA has allowed me to network and work collaboratively with members across Sections and Caucuses, demonstrating the true power of collaborative public health.

I've had the opportunity to volunteer with both the Epidemiology and Pharmacy Sections, working on policy, mentorship and the Governing Council. I know APHA is at its strongest when it has the voice of its membership speaking up.

Andrea Medeiros, MPH, CHES

Public Health Education and Promotion Section

Andrea Medeiros photoI first started volunteering for APHA because of its history in public health, along with how much work was currently happening in each Section through its volunteers. I’ve always volunteered in different organizations and once I got involved in public health, I wanted to make sure I found a place that made me feel at home.

APHA has always been welcoming to me, from the first conference calls to the first in-person meetings. I aspire to continue growing within APHA and to continue assisting my Section’s growth. I hope to inspire students and early-career professionals that there is always room to grow in public health and make sure mentoring is a part of APHA.

I served as a Governing Councilor for two years in 2017 for PHEHP and served one year for the Aging Section in 2021. I am now on my second term serving as an Education Board member and have been a program planning chair for the last four APHA conferences.

My biggest accomplishment is that I’ve been consistently volunteering since 2015 and starting November 2022 I am the chair of the PHEHP Section.

Hallie Pritchett, MPH

International Health Section

Hallie PritchettI volunteer with APHA because I have the privilege that allows me to work to educate and transform systems and ways of thinking in order to create more equitable health systems for entire populations.

I'm so energized by the leaders and future leaders who I am able to engage with and learn from. My career has progressed through community-based work and academia, which aligns with the multiplicity and intersectionality of my personal identity. I am now committed to rethinking and transforming the public and global health systems and norms.

Felicia Setiono, MSPH

Epidemiology Section

Felicia SetionoI joined APHA in 2018 and started volunteering as an abstract reviewer. In 2020, I decided to apply for a leadership position through the Student Assembly. I volunteer because I have always wanted to create more opportunities for the student population to connect and utilize the resources that APHA can offer.
APHA is such a big organization, and that's a good thing! The opportunities of connecting with like-minded people who are passionate about public health are endless. But at the same time, the size makes APHA potentially daunting and confusing to navigate, especially if this is the first professional society that students join.

This year, I became the student liaison for the Epidemiology Section. Through my position, I have been able to create events that allow epidemiology students to meet, to mentor, to be mentored by and share resources with other members within the Section. I have also created new positions that give student members an opportunity to take ownership of the Section they are a part of. These new positions have allowed students to be more involved in program planning, communications, and outreach efforts.

My hope in volunteering is for student members to continue having a space at the table, to make decisions, inspire ideas and shape the professional associations they are a part of.

Kim Townsend, MHA

Mental Health Section

Kim Townsend photoIt has been an honor to volunteer with APHA. Since joining in 2019, I have shared knowledge, wisdom, hope and heart with a diverse and inclusive volunteer community and joined collaborative efforts that respond to our nation’s most pressing public health challenges.

As a member of APHA’s Mental Health Section and the Intersectional Council Topical Workgroup on Suicide Prevention, I have unique opportunities to advocate for mental and behavioral health equity and champion emotional well-being for all. My greatest goal as a volunteer is to uphold our collective public health duty to elevate the stories of communities most impacted by our work.

I remain constantly inspired by the spirit of my extraordinary APHA colleagues. Their passion, dedication, courage and commitment to creating the healthiest nation are ever-empowering. And yet, it is their endless compassion, understanding, kindness and empathy toward each other that leaves me in awe.

I am so proud to call APHA my professional home, and I am even more excited to build the next 150 years of our APHA history together.