The 7th Annual National Student Meeting opened today with a thunderous African drumbeat that shook the room. Plenary speaker Tambra Raye Stevenson then asked all the students to stand up, make fists with their hands and beat on their gut while inhaling and exhaling.
“Breath is life,” she said. “Without breath you are lifeless.”
Stevenson also led chest exercises to help everyone “open up their hearts.”
The exercises certainly got everyone’s blood pumping, but also served to highlight one of Stevenson’s main points, which is to tap into a part of us that normally isn’t awake. Years ago, when Stevenson thought she had made it in life — she had just finished her graduate studies and was working in Washington, D.C. — she felt something was missing in her pursuit of the American dream. On a whim, she took an acting class and discovered that it helped her look deep into herself to find that dormant piece.
“I found inspiration,” she said.
That inspiration led her start-up Creative Cause Inc. in Washington, D.C., where she now serves as its director.
Using creative talents such as drawing, painting, writing, dancing and acting can help us nurture the creative part that exists in all of us in order to find the inspiration needed to help others.
“If you want to make a difference, you will need to tap into your creative side,” she said.
She asked student attendees to continually reflect and remember why they are in the field of public health. “You will find on your journey you will need something deeper to feel fulfilled in life” and drawing on your inspiration will help you navigate the bumpy road ahead, she said.
“I was told not to go into public health to make money,” she said. “But I challenge that. Why not be entrepreneurial?”
She encouraged students to pursue fields that may complement public health work, such as social entrepreneurship, the arts and writing. Public health approaches should be creative and draw on different fields in order to be successful — students should open up the creative right side of the brain to help the more analytic left side come up with innovative solutions, she said.
Stevenson gave her address, “The Healer’s Journey: From Healing Thyself to Thy Community,” in front of a couple hundred student members of APHA’s Student Assembly, which organized the Annual National Student Meeting.
Learn more about Stevenson at twitter.com/tambra or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top above, National Student Meeting plenary speaker Tambra Raye Stevenson; top middle and bottom, student meeting attendees take in the presentations. Photos courtesy Jim Ezell/EZ Event Photography