man speaking as woman laughs

For many of the attendees at this year’s National Student Meeting, hosted by APHA’s Student Assembly, it was their first time taking part in the annual gathering. But by lunch, the public health students who traveled from around the country and the world to join their fellow future public health professionals looked like old friends.

The National Student Meeting — a student-centered precursor to APHA’s Annual Meeting and Expo — provides attendees a friendly, accessible environment to network with peers and build their skills in the public health field.

Students were welcomed by APHA President Joseph Telfair before hearing from Wilma Wooten, public health officer at the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, who discussed various public health initiatives in the county.

A student meeting tradition is the networking bingo session, helping attendees break out of their comfort zones and learn about one another. The conference room buzzed with the sounds of attendees laughing and interviewing their peers. Students continued chatting through lunch, joined by leaders from APHA’s Intersectional Council.

José Ivan, an undergraduate student studying microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico, attended to present his work on a mathematical model that he designed to measure disaster preparedness. He said that he’s also looking forward to narrowing his career goals at the National Student Meeting, as he has “a broad view of what public health can offer” but can’t do it all.

“Hopefully the Student Assembly can help me set a straight path,” he said.

Mallory Rinckey, a PhD student in health education at the University of Toledo, said she’s excited to network with her peers and find ways to become more involved in APHA’s Sections during the Annual Meeting. She’s the student liaison for the School Health Education Section and a member of the Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section.

But at the National Student Meeting alone, there are plenty of opportunities to uplift public health, even at the early-career stage. Not only can you meet new people and collaborate with peers, but you may even find a mentor at the event, Rinckey said.

Learn more about the APHA Student Assembly and its activities at their booth at the Public Health Expo, which opens tomorrow after the Opening General Session.

At top, attendees at today’s National Student Meeting participate in a networking bingo session. Photo by Julia Haskins, courtesy The Nation’s Health