In May 2015, I became a graduate student member of the American Public Health Association so that I could attend the Annual Conference and take advantage of networking opportunities. I applied for and received a travel scholarship from my university later that year.
While at the conference, I attended a variety of Student Assembly, Epidemiology, Maternal and Child Health, Community-based Participatory Research and International Health Section sessions. I also visited the Expo Center and made sure to hand out many copies of my resume as well as business cards at various booths. With my student membership, I was able to join two Sections and selected Epidemiology (my concentration) and International Health as my main groups to plug into.
Shortly after attending the Annual Conference and following up with contacts I met using email and/or LinkedIn, I had to switch my focus to finishing my practicum and graduating within the next month. In addition, I began to close out my involvement with student organizations while balancing the “job search” process. It was a busy time for me.
In February 2016, I was hired to work at a local health department as a High-Consequence Infectious Disease Epidemiologist. Since I was living ~3 hours away from where I was going to begin working, I had to find someone to take over my lease while starting the 45 min- 1.5 hour commute to work from my parents’ house. During this time, Zika virus was declared to be a public health emergency by the World Health Organization and became one of my highest priorities.
Fast forward to the end of May 2016. I received a second notification to renew my APHA membership but was weighing whether or not it would be a worthwhile investment since I wasn’t sure how APHA could benefit me. Thankfully, the Early-Career Professionals group was a great incentive for me to choose to renew my membership. Because the membership fee was reduced, funding was available, and products like the journal and newsletter could be shared within my workplace- my employer was willing to cover the membership renewal fee. These elements also played a role in me being able to attend the Annual Conference for the second time. I made a list of conference sessions that could be beneficial to my health department and solicited feedback from leadership as well as my colleagues to see what information they wanted me to bring back. I also focused on seeking out ways to collaborate and contribute to the broader public health community. This led me to take a leadership position with the International Health Section Communications Committee after seeing a Call for Volunteers in an awesome newsletter that came through my email.
Since joining the IH Communications Committee in October 2016, I have been able to post to the Section blog, create an informational video, utilize new social media outlets, review policy, serve as a proxy for a Governing Councilor at the Annual Conference, create a Membership Roadmap, assist with the Listserv as needed, share professional development opportunities, contribute to strategic planning efforts, review abstracts and much more.
So, what’s the point of me sharing all of this?! It’s never too late to get involved! Even though there were some lapses in my activity due to work and life, when more time became available in my schedule (or my circumstances changed) I was able to fall back on my membership.
If you’re looking for ways to get involved, make sure to check your emails for post-conference opportunities, read the Section blog as well as newsletter, and feel free to use the Membership Roadmap as a flexible guide!