Post-Annual Meeting Reflections

As I scrolled down the #apha10 hashtag feed on Twitter, it seemed like everyone was singing (or tweeting, I suppose) the same tune – it was great to (re)connect with colleagues and friends at the conference, but there’s no place like home (particularly when your spouse picks you up from the airport with a bouquet of flowers and a dinner reservation).

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend either the global health luncheon or the closing general session this year, but I still had a great experience. As I unwind after a bustling and productive four days, I thought I would post some post-conference reflections.

  • Take the bus: I would challenge all public health professionals to at least try to work with the public transportation for these annual meetings. Public transport is a major issue for so many of our domestically-focused colleagues, so even just taking it from the airport to the hotel would provide a lot of much-needed perspective. Plus, I had a lovely conversation with a researcher from Milwaukee about environmental health and the built environment on the way downtown – you never know who you will meet on the bus.
  • Bring a smart phone: Okay, so this is really more of a personal note for myself. While the Mix and Mingle Lounge was great, I rarely got any signal inside the meeting rooms and so I could only tweet between sessions. And when I have the choice between Twitter and coffee, the latte is the clear winner (despite being shamefully over-priced).
  • Learn: Go to a session that focuses on an area that you do not know much about. I went to just one child health and survival session, but I learned quite a bit and added a lot of detail to my own “mental map” of the global health field.
  • Bring a pen: If you are looking for opportunities to break into the field, go to as many sessions as you can and as wide a variety of sessions as you can. While the expo is worth exploring and there are opportunities there, you can learn about opportunities by paying attention to the programs that presenters worked with and their sources of funding. Both years that I have attended the annual meeting, I have picked up the names of multiple fellowship and research programs.
  • Clone yourself: Both Dr. Gonzalo Bacigalupe and I lamented at not being able to attend the mHealth Summit that took place in DC this year – because it happened at the same time as the APHA Annual Meeting, and I am sure we are not the only ones. Luckily for everyone, next year’s mHealth Summit is taking place during the first week in December, which does not conflict with APHA (which happens during the first week of November). Plus, they will both be in DC – so all of your DCites will have everything right in your backyard.
  • Network: Get involved in your section! Attend the business meetings and social events, and don’t be shy. More than half the time, getting a job is all about who you know, so networking is absolutely crucial – your section are a perfect way to do it. I jumped right into the IH section at last year’s meeting and was welcomed with open arms; my friend experienced the same kind of welcome in the Cancer Caucus. Established section members love to take on mentees and will be more than happy to help you.
  • Write for us: During the “Careers in Global Health” session, I offered to provide my list of fellowships and global health resources to anyone who would write an entry for this blog. That offer still stands, whether you were there or not. I have a “Practical Resources for Students and Green Professionals” sheet, which includes paid entry-level fellowships in the field (for both US citizens and foreign nationals), domestic opportunities, and valuable sources of knowledge tailored specifically to those wanting to break into international health and development. If you are interested, pitch me your idea (to make sure we do not post duplicates) via e-mail: jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com.

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