The final day of the conference is normally a pretty relaxed. Section members have typically eaten a good meal (and had a good laugh) at the Awards Dinner and social, the Governing Council has convened to pass policies and elect APHA presidential and executive board candidates, and they have had plenty of time to scope out the expo for the best SWAG. For me, however, this was not the case: the highlight of my Annual Meeting experience was presenting my very first abstract on Mandatory HIV Testing in the Republic of Korea at the International Health and Human Rights session.
Global Health Leaders Breakfast
My last day began early with the Global Health Leaders Breakfast hosted by APHA and coordinated by Vina HuLamm, our Global Health Manager on APHA staff. This year’s featured speaker was Dr. Sir Michael Marmot, arguably one of the most well-known and respected epidemiological researchers in the world. Unfortunately, I could not stay long enough at the breakfast to hear him speak, as my presentation was the first one of the session and began at 8:35 sharp, but I did have enough time to snap a picture of him with some of our Section leaders.
I also got a chance to hear Dr. Jim Chauvin, a Canadian public health professional and former president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, introduce Dr. Marmot and share his excitement about the election of new prime minister Justin Trudeau, which he hoped would bring a revival of public health and its prioritization. It is too soon to tell whether Trudeau will usher in a public health renaissance, but videos like this one lend some optimism to the prospect:
Presenting on International Health and Human Rights
After Dr. Chauvin finished his remarks, I dashed off to the International Human Rights session to present my abstract on Korea’s discriminatory policy of mandatory HIV tests for foreign English teachers and EPS workers. I was the first presentation of the session and was followed by two presentations on Palestinian human rights violations by the IDF in the last Gaza war, a talk on women’s rights with the Beijing Declaration as a framework, and an overview of USAID’s efforts to promote gender equality within its development projects (e.g., an indoor residual spraying program). Palestinian human rights is obviously a hot topic, and our Section in particular is active on the issue (and even has a Palestinian Health Justice working group), so most of the discussion with the audience focused on those talks. However, I did get one question from the audience that allowed me to discuss the difficulty in overturning HIV-related travel restrictions in national immigration policies.
I volunteered to moderate our Section’s session on Monitoring, Evaluation, and Quality Improvement, which is of particular interest to me as an epidemiologist and a research specialist. This session was a bit shorter, featuring three presentations on different monitoring and evaluation programs, including a health and microfinance intervention in Tanzania, adapting an existing system to monitor the WHO’s efforts to mitigate the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and an effort to improve data usage by reducing the number of indicators used in data collection to only those which are absolutely essential (always a win in my book!).
APHA 2015 marked the fourth Annual Meeting that I have attended, and the second that I attended as a member of the Section leadership. This one was one of the most successful for me personally: I had an abstract accepted and authored a late-breaker that was adopted (and will hopefully pave the way for a permanent policy position on the issue for APHA to adopt at next year’s meeting). I met lots of interesting and engaging people, made connections with emerging Section leaders, and even planned a global health jobs analysis as a joint effort between the Communications and Global Health Connections Committees (stay tuned for more details; we will be seeking volunteers soon!).
The Section leadership’s next hurdle is to make sure that interested members get plugged into the Section’s activities that interest them. There are always ways to get involved, put yourself out there, and gain valuable experience in global health advocacy, research, fundraising, and networking. Please contact any member of the leadership for more information on how to get more involved!