Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Behind the scenes of the APHA Annual Meeting program, part 1: ‘It’s completely member-driven’

10,000. Actually, it’s more than 10,000. That’s how many abstracts APHA member volunteers sifted through and reviewed to eventually find the more than 5,000 abstracts that will be presented at this year’s 142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans. And they did it all in less than a year — actually, they did it all in closer to half a year.

This blogger has been to 11 Annual Meetings and the size of the program has always been a bit of a running joke: Has anyone seen the phonebook — I mean the Annual Meeting program. Ha! But in reality, the APHA Annual Meeting program is like best Christmas presents from our childhoods. It’s big, heavy and bulky, which almost always means there’s something pretty awesome inside. The program is nearly an almanac of public health practice, detailing and preserving the latest research, trends and successes in creating healthier communities. But have you ever wondered what goes into creating this tome to public health? Here’s the first in a series of peeks behind the proverbial curtain.

When it comes to creating the Annual Meeting program, APHA members sit in the driver’s seat. But directing the traffic is Donna Wright, manager of scientific session development within APHA’s Conventions Department. Appropriately, the program planning begins and ends at the Annual Meeting. In other words, as one meeting officially closes, Wright gathers program planners from all of APHA’s Sections, Special Primary Interest Groups, Caucuses, Forums and the Student Assembly in that year’s host city to kick off planning for the next year’s meeting. While the rest of us are coming up for air after five days of jam-packed meeting events, Wright and a small army of volunteers are already getting to work on the next iteration of the world’s largest public health gathering.

“It’s completely member-driven,” Wright says. “If it weren’t for them, it would be a very small meeting.”

Wright says there are so many moving parts to putting together the Annual Meeting program that it’s actually quite difficult to put the enormity of the task into words. But like the profession of public health, this blog isn’t going to shy away from trying. That’s why this post is only the first in a series that goes behind the scenes to see what goes into creating the Annual Meeting program.

In the next month or so, we’ll talk more with Wright as well as program chairs from the Mental Health and International Health Sections and the Ethics SPIG about a process that begins with each member group crafting a compelling call for abstracts and ends with organizing thousands of accepted presentations into hundreds of individual sessions, each with a cohesive thread and narrative. It’s not easy, Wright says, but it’s certainly fulfilling.  

“I love being part of something so huge, so major,” Wright says. “To see it come to fruition and just flow — that’s the most rewarding part.”

Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes coverage coming next month!


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

APHA Annual Meeting registration is open!

Tuesday doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Most days of the week are known for something: Monday (back to work, already?), Wednesday (half way to Friday!), Thursday (one day until Friday!), Friday (Friday!), and, of course, there’s Saturday and Sunday (hello weekend!). But Tuesday…it’s sort of the runt of the week.

Unless it’s this Tuesday, June 3 — the Tuesday that registration and housing open for the 142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition!

Today marks the first day you can register for this year’s Annual Meeting, which will convene Nov. 15–19 in one of the most unique cities in the nation, New Orleans. With a theme of “Healthography: How Where You Live Affects Your Health and Well-Being” and a growing lineup of nationally notable speakers, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, the Annual Meeting is shaping up to be the public health event of the year. For example, this year’s meeting will welcome five — that’s FIVE — U.S. surgeons general to speak at a new Monday general session on Nov. 17 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Session speakers will include Regina Benjamin, Joycelyn Elders, David Satcher, Steven Galson and Antonia Novello.

But wait, you say, it’s only June. I have plenty of time to register. Technically, yes. But! If you want to take advantage of early-bird discounts (and use those savings to enjoy an authentic Cajun-style dinner or a delectable dish of fluffy breakfast beignets), it’s a good idea to start planning now. Discounted early-bird registration prices end Aug. 28. Along with registration, Annual Meeting housing opens today too and hotel rooms typically sell out super fast. The APHA Annual Meeting is like most things in public health — it’s a good idea to get started early.

Also available today on this beautiful Tuesday morning is this year’s online program, where you can view session details and abstracts, as well as the APHA personal scheduler, which you can use to start planning your Annual Meeting experience.

Visit the APHA Annual Meeting site for more information about registration and check out our FAQ for everything you need to know on registration, reserving a hotel room, finding a roommate, airport transportation and much more.

Above photo courtesy iStockphoto.com/matejmm