This November, I attended the annual conference of the American Public Health Association (APHA). It was special for a few reasons.
First, I’d never been to Atlanta, home to the CDC and other major health organizations. It was a lovely experience staying near Olympic Centennial Park; the leaves were changing color and the weather was nice and mild (especially coming from still-sweltering Houston).
Second, it was my first time attending APHA. It’s the major gathering of an absolutely enormous field — so it was more than a little intimidating to navigate on my own. At the same time, I felt very at home in the crowd. Another first-timer and I shared how excited we were over the diversity and representation — all ages, ethnicities, disciplines, education levels. It was such an inclusive atmosphere. Moreover, everyone really cared. The theme of the year was climate change. It felt so affirming to be among people who thought progressively. I never felt like I had to defend why I felt strongly about protecting the environment, advocating for marginalized groups, or other causes close to my heart.
Third, it was my first time attending any conference on my own. It was a thrill to travel solo and get a hotel room all to myself — even if it could get a bit lonely at times. Surprisingly, coincidentally, and fortunately, I ran into a large number of people from Houston, many of whom shared mutual connections with me. I also took advantage of student-based events and socials to meet people.
Fourth, I submitted two posters to the conference — and had both accepted! As someone who is passionate about conducting interdisciplinary research, these presentations were a very meaningful affirmation from another field.
Last but not least, a contribution of mine was awarded a Student Award within the Public Health Education and Health Promotion (PHEHP) area! I was one of ten students honored for my research on cultural competency in healthcare providers. The Awards Luncheon provided inspirational insight into the ways in which we can impact the field and world at large. As an honoree, I also unexpectedly received a fancy plaque, which sent me over the moon with excitement. It’s the simple things. 🙂