Monday, November 9, 2009

What's your story (morning glory)?

There are some new guests at APHA’s 137th Annual Meeting showcasing the importance of public health professions in a very big way. You may be familiar with them if you, like this blogger, are an avid National Public Radio fan. StoryCorps has made its way to APHA!

StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit partner of NPR, is one of the largest national oral history projects. The group stages interviews (that are more along the lines of an informal conversation), between two people who have an intimate or personal relationship with one another. Each interviewee selects the person who will interview them. This may be a mentor, a colleague, a friend or anyone they are comfortable with. The goal is to capture, preserve and honor the story behind one’s life, and in APHA’s case, StoryCorps is doing just this for leaders in the field of environmental public health.

StoryCorps founder and radio documentarian Dave Isay, conceived of the project as a way to give people the time and space to tell their stories. Each conversation is recorded on CD and preserved at the Library of Congress.

Throughout the APHA Annual Meeting, StoryCorps is providing a dynamic group of 17 APHA members and leaders in the environmental public health field with the opportunity to tell their stories. One facilitator working with StoryCorps noted that this venue is particularly fitting, as public health professionals have a “strong sense of purpose in their respective areas of expertise and this passion is conveyed through the recorded conversations.”

This blogger got a glimpse at one scheduled interview between APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin and his wife Yvette Benjamin. The two emerged from the interview room excited to share their stories with the world.

“We’re a public health family,” Georges Benjamin said. “Capturing this story is wonderful for the public record.”

Yvette Benjamin emphasized the importance of providing younger generations, especially those with public health interests, with a deeper understanding of the context in which “we’ve gotten to where we are today.”

When asked if they learned anything new about each other in the process, both Benjamins smiled and shook their heads.

“After 30 years of marriage, there’s not much new news to share” said Georges Benjamin.

Check back on the environmental public health section of the APHA Web site to access the stories in the coming weeks.

— M.S.

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