Sunday, October 28, 2012

Insights & inspirations

“I’ve never done anything like this in my entire life,” said new APHA member Arletha Howard, from Mississippi. Yet here she is at the Annual Meeting presenting about a Healthy Start program serving rural teens in the Mississippi Delta and hoping to glean some knowledge from fellow public healthers about maternal and child health issues.

William Keck, a 40-year member from Akron, Ohio, has been to more meetings than he can count but is as excited as a first timer about the knowledge he hopes to share and take away. For one, he’s looking for mentors to help students who attend medical school in Cuba — a country with universal access to care — and then return to the states to provide care in underserved communities.

“They’re trained in the Cuban way, they’re bilingual, they’re trained to provide care in underserved communities in a way that melds medicine and public health,” Keck said. He hopes to find mentors and residency programs “that will lust for them,” he said with a laugh.

Pat McGovern of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis is here for maternal and child health but also environmental and occupational health.

“I find that it is a very engaging mix of scientists and public health practitioners,” McGovern said just outside the Annual Meeting registration area this morning. “I always get inspired by people who really want to make a difference in their science and in their practice. It’s the integration of both of those that’s really unique to APHA.”

Hildemar Dos Santos of Loma Linda University in Redlands, Calif., is here for his first Annual Meeting and said he has “no idea what is going to happen.” But the Brazil native who works in prevention is looking forward to learning about new programs and networking with other prevention centers.

His biggest concern for the future of public health? “I think public health has to be included in the medical system because more prevention is needed in this field.”

McGovern said we in public health need to help improve public opinion.

“There is so much misinformation, this election in particular, about the role of government,” she said. “My concern is those of us who are in public health continue to communicate the necessity for government to (support) public health as a priority both in science and practice.”

Keck’s concern is “making the transition from accountable care organizations to accountable care communities” to help ensure a shift to improving care for entire populations. And Howard, who sees barriers when it comes to rural residents finding transportation to medical appointments and other needs, said “my biggest concern for public health is that we’re not taking the services to the community.”

Student member Rebbie Timmons of Meharry Medical College in Nashville said communicating public health to clinicians “is the biggest challenge for public health.”

Timmons, who like Dos Santos and Howard, is attending her first Annual Meeting, was a bit daunted by the massive program spread out in front of her at a table this morning. Help find your way by attending the New Member/First-Timer Orientation today from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in MCC West Room 2011. What do you hope to take away from this year’s meeting?

— D.C.

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