This month I wanted to write about my American Public Health Association (APHA) conference experience. Attending the national conference was one of the professional development activities Alton and I outlined in our mentorship work plan. Attendance was important to me because I have wanted to develop professional networking opportunities and get out of my comfort zone for quite some time. Before going, I challenged myself to create contacts with at least 10 professionals at the conference and I exceeded that goal. I did so by attending meet and greets for several groups, including the Public Health Education and Health Promotion section, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs section, and the Black Caucus of Health Workers. In addition, networking during scientific and poster sessions, and at health expo booths, increased my opportunities to talk with others and share work experiences in the tobacco control arena.
Having the opportunity to present a poster session myself also allowed me the ability to make new acquaintances. And, as a result of my presentation I was able to get several references to evidence-based interventions seeking to increase evidence based guideline use among clinicians that could potentially be adapted for my R2R project, including one happening in my own state! But, the days were so jam packed with places to go and presentations to see, I had to learn quickly from other attendees to move from one presentation to the next. That was the only way to get the most out of the conference, because there was no way to be in two places at once. However, I did make sure to listen to all of the opening, plenary, keynote, and closing speakers, who were quite good and presented points of view that made me think about the critical role of public health in society.
It was great to put faces with the names of seasoned veterans in the literature and larger tobacco control community. But, equally rewarding was the opportunity to meet others like me; mid-level professionals doing important work, trying to contribute new information to their respective field. It was great seeing such a diverse group of people, from varying cultures and backgrounds, with different professional interests and expertise, all in one place. From students to seasoned veterans, APHA allowed me to meet people that I wouldn’t normally have met. Honestly, I passed out and received more business cards in those few days than I have in the years I’ve been working in public health! But, of course, the highlight of the trip was seeing my fellow R2R colleagues at the conference!