APHA has more than 5,000 student members, but on Saturday, about 200 of the best and the brightest gathered for the APHA Student Assembly’s National Student Meeting in Denver. A prelude to the APHA Annual Meeting, Assembly Chair Suparna Navale called the student gathering an opportunity to help student members feel more confident as many of them face the daunting task of scheduling their first Annual Meeting experience.

This year’s student meeting included a guest speaker panel on the state of mental health in Colorado, which highlighted health disparities between Denver’s urban population and the more rural communities in the state. Meeting co-chairs Ryan Tingler and Robin Petering said a major highlight of the meeting was during the lunch break when APHA Section chairs met with students interested in getting more involved in the Association.

“This is a really good opportunity for the students, but it’s also a really good opportunity for Section leaders to sit in a more casual format with people who are interested and the most enthused,” Petering, a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, said. “They will eventually take leadership and move forward. They’re the cream of the crop and are really looking to get the most out of their meeting and Student Assembly membership.”

Some of the students shared what they were most excited about during this year’s Annual Meeting:

Qisi Yao, an MPH student at Tufts University: “This year, I’m changing my strategy. Last year, I wanted to make sure I got a little bit of everything: things I’m interested in, and things I have zero information on. (This year) since my major is epidemiology and biostatistics, I want to be more focused on one area, and go to more epidemiology and applied statistics sessions to meet more people in the field.”

Hannah Montgomery, an MPH student at California State University—Fullerton: “I’m presenting research my professor collected on the Great ShakeOut (Poster Session 3085). We analyzed data, put the poster together, and we’re going to write a paper when we get back. (You have to) come with an agenda. Use the app to see what’s available — there is so much to learn.”

Rodney Johnson, a public health undergrad student at University of Illinois—Chicago: “I’m moderating a poster panel tomorrow (Poster Session 2049). I’m most looking forward to (Monday’s session on public health and racism, Session 3009). Part of my focus is policy and health equity. We can influence policy in what health equity means, so we can mobilize. I’m happy to be here.”

To learn more about the Student Assembly, stop by booth 2130 in the Public Health Expo hall, where Section leaders will be visiting and a photo booth will be available. The Student Assembly is hosting its “Spook-tacular Social” and costume contest at 8 p.m. Monday at Upstairs Circus, near the Colorado Convention Center. All are welcome.

Follow the APHA Student Assembly on Twitter using hashtag #FTGU16.