Makala CarringtonToday’s guest blogger is Makala D. Carrington, a first-year MPH student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. APHA sponsored her and 14 other students and early-career professionals to attend its Policy Action Institute, held Feb. 12 in Washington, D.C. She shares her impressions of the event with us here, in part three of this series.

I am so honored to have had this experience. I learned so much at the Policy Action Institute in a short amount of time! Not only was I able to attend, I received an APHA scholarship to subsidize the cost. I would like to share a few takeaways from the event that I will reflect on as an early public health professional and MPH student.

One of the speakers said, “Leaders create change.” This statement hit home for me. To become a leader of my generation is one of the main reasons that I pursued my degree and have strong passions in public health. These issues are not a one-stop shop. These issues take courage, patience, passion, resources and servant leadership.

“What’s on your public health ballot for 2020?” asked Abdul El-Sayed, MD, DPhil, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University, at the event. He talked about urban homelessness, mass incarceration, climate change, paid family leave, infrastructure, reproductive rights, funding and rural health — all issues I am passionate about.

Other speakers impressed me with certain points they made. Bechara Choucair, MD, chief community health officer at Kaiser Permanente, said that we must emphasize social health at the same level as mental and physical health.

LaQuandra Nesbitt, MD, MPH, director of the District of Columbia Department of Health, said that health professionals, the justice system and lawmakers must treat addiction as a disease, not a moral failure through criminalization.

Reed Tuckson, MD, managing director of Tuckson Health Connections, said we need to involve the youth and the community, since the youth give us hope and the community should be our main stakeholder.

As if the conference couldn’t get better, my favorite quote of the day was from Joia Crear-Perry, MD, FACOG, founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative: “We will never achieve health equity if we can’t believe that we are all the same.”

I would recommend this event to anyone. It was an exciting, refreshing and influential day that I will never forget. I am honored to have attended and look forward to attending in the future.

APHA’s Policy Action Institute was offered in partnership with AcademyHealth and the de Beaumont Foundation. It covered critical public health issues, social determinants of health and policies and advocacy efforts that lead to change. The event is available for viewing through the APHA Live online event platform. Purchase the on-demand video today.