Whether it's their first or fourth year at the APHA Annual Meeting, student attendees have discovered that the meeting is the place to network, learn about new public health issues and get excited about helping their communities alongside like-minded professionals.

Melanie RogersAt the Student Assembly's National Student Meeting in San Diego on Saturday, several students shared why they were attending the Annual Meeting and specifically the student gathering.

Melanie Rogers, a public health nurse with Jefferson County Public Health in Lakewood, Colorado, said the student meeting provided a great opportunity to recruit more nurses to the Public Health Nursing Section. Rogers, the Section’s student liaison, wants to make sure that nurses know there’s an APHA Section just for them.

First-time Annual Meeting attendee Karthik Adapa traveled to San Diego thanks to his public health efforts at his school, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The school awarded Adapa the Delta Omega Award for his public health work, which included leading his university’s initiatives for the 100 Million Healthier Lives program.

Adapa wanted to attend the Annual Meeting and, fortunately, his school sponsored the trip. "I felt it was a good opportunity to interact with students both in the United States and students doing global health work," he said.

Pierra MoiseSelf-declared "huge networker" Pierra De’Chelle Moise was attending her third Annual Meeting to — no surprise — network. But this year, she has a more deliberate intention as a recent MPH graduate from San Diego State University: to job hunt.

Now that I’m done with school, I think it’ll be a better opportunity to network and possibly find a job,” Moise said.

Choosing areas of interest

Moise's interest lies in Type 2 diabetes prevention. She’s looking for a full-time job as a program manager or diabetes health coordinator. She’s also interested in learning about Type 2 diabetes prevention programs that people will stick with. For example, she said one of the better-known prevention programs requires a one-year commitment and often has meetings in the mornings, which can make it difficult for working adults and parents.

"It would be best to see what times people can make it," she said.

Moise is personally taking part in a 16-week wellness program — Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Balance — which she said might be a more realistic timeframe for individuals.

Karthik AdapaAdapa is a pediatrician with an MPH in health policy and management and a PhD student in health informatics. He’s bridging the fields of health information technology and public health.

"People who know technology don’t understand public health," he said. "As for public health, the way technology is growing, we’re not really abreast with it."

Adapa is interested in the newer field of neuroergonomics — or how our brains work in relation to our environment and everyday settings. His current research focuses on designing telemedicine technologies for older cancer patients. "When elderly cancer patients interact with physicians across telemedicine technologies, what is that engagement like? How does that affect their medication adherence?" he asked.

One huge area of concern for Rogers is growing income disparities. "A lack of income in the United States correlates so much to being at risk for so many things," she said.

To achieve health equity in the United States, the students all agreed that collaborating with diverse partners and offering opportunities for everyone to provide input is critical.

"We need to build collaborations between community and public health and policymakers," Rogers said. "Everyone has to have a voice at the table."

To learn more about APHA’s Student Assembly — the largest student-led public health organization in the country — stop by Public Health Expo booth 1242.

Photos from top: Melanie Rogers, Pierra De’Chelle Moise and Karthik Adapa.