Sunday, November 3, 2013

Public Health Expo: Where you can talk with a hippo about public health

A giant hippo dancing certainly gets your attention. OK, so she was a woman in a hippo costume and I’m not sure that was really dancing, but it caused me to stop by her booth.

You may not associate George Washington University with a hippo, but the creature is the school’s unofficial mascot, as I learned on an exhilarating tour of the Public Health Expo, which features more than 700 booths.

The story goes that a former GWU president’s wife bought him a bronze statue of a hippo, which now sits on the Washington, D.C., campus. Students rub the hippo’s head for good luck before exams. Which helps explain why Mallory Boyd, executive director of student affairs at the GWU School of Public Health and Human Services, was tagged to dress up as a hippo to attract people to the GWU exhibit. But the real excitement is the school’s new building, which will open in March. At her booth, Boyd is telling prospective students, alumni and faculty members about the new building. And sometimes she has the opportunity to connect a prospective student with a faculty member who has stopped by.

Another public health school is also celebrating a milestone. Georgia State University is exhibiting at the Annual Meeting for the first time, a celebration of its public health program just becoming a School of Public Health. GSU’s first MPH students enrolled in 2004, and the first JD/MPH students enrolled this year.

“We now have 200 students and 30 faculty, and our first study abroad program was just approved for next summer to the Dominican Republic,” said Frances Marine, communications director of the GSU School of Public Health. “There’s a lot of excitement at the school right now, both among our students and our faculty.”

Stop by the booth for GSU pedometers, compact shopping bags, mouse pads, pens, and magnets.

And be sure to snag a personal memento showing off APHA’s new logo at the APHA photo and video-sharing booth, located next to Everything APHA. Grab a few friends and pose for a printed photo — which can also be emailed to you to share on social media — or choose the video option and answer a few questions specific to public health.

Get questions answered about the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace at the APHA Public Health Policy Center booth, #1283. You will be able to sit down with an official ACA navigator, who can help you find your way through the new marketplace.

At the United Nations Foundation booth, you can not only learn about the many programs, you can advocate for more global health funding by immediately signing letters to Congress on the exhibitors’ iPads. And while you’re there, spin the wheel to win a rubber bracelet, desk note holder, pen or water bottle.

So, put on your comfy shoes and take a stroll through the Expo. Whether you are collecting magnets, resources or knowledge — or just want to dance with a hippo — you’ll find it all here.

— M.P.

(Photos by Melanie Padgett Powers)

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