Whether it’s the search for a new job or the search for new ways to improve their community’s health, there are many reasons why thousands traveled far — and not so far — to see what APHA’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo has to offer.

This is the first Annual Meeting for Daphne Robinson, who works for the Bureau of Family Health within the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Public Health. Robinson said much of her work focuses on health equity and eliminating disparities, which fits well with the Annual Meeting theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health.”

“I’m from the Mississippi Delta originally,” Robinson said. “The Delta has some of the worst health outcomes in the country. And Louisiana has some pretty bad outcomes too. I’m just trying to get more insight on how we can develop policies to help populations.”

First-time attendee Baptiste Beauvais said he’s hoping to learn about health communication strategies he can implement back home. Beauvais, an MPH student in community health sciences at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, grew up on the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota and said public health is lacking on his and many reservations, which affects the downstream health of residents.

“When you step outside or listen to the radio you won’t see any PSAs about taking care of your health,” Beauvais said. “You won’t see any billboards. You won’t see posters. Some of the health services are there, (but) a big part of the problem is people don’t know they’re there or how to access them. So I’m looking on how to spread the word on my reservation and hoping to gain that from this conference and take that home in the future and apply it.”

On the hunt for a faculty position next fall, attendee Gabriel Tajeu said he’s hoping to network during the Annual Meeting. Tajeu said he’ll be looking for collaborators and colleagues who have done both health services research and epidemiology research on cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

“There’s a lot of different conferences that specialize in one or the other,” said Tajeu, a post-doctoral fellow in cardiovascular disease epidemiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. “This is a conference where I’m probably likely to find some overlap, which has been a bit tough actually. The worlds don’t collide in an organized way.”

Nina Wickens-Bhowmik, an MPH student in epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, said she’s excited that the Annual Meeting is so close to her campus in Fort Collins, Colorado. While she said she isn’t sure yet where she’ll go in her career with epidemiology, Wickens-Bhowmik sees the meeting as an opportunity to learn more about what’s going on in her field.

“I am just really worried about all the inequality that exists in our access to health care in the United States and in the world,” Wickens-Bhowmik said. “That’s one of the driving forces of me going back to school. I’m really interested in psychological well-being too and trying to give all people an opportunity to have healthy lives.”