Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Commentary: Reflections on the 2011 APHA Conference

From left, Kevin Scott, MD, Manisha Verna, MD,
MPH, and Rob Simmons, DrPH, MPH, MCHES,
CPH, director of JSPH's Master of Public Health

Kevin Scott, MD
Instructor & Primary Care Research Fellow
Department of Family & Community Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University

I was fortunate enough to attend the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) conference for the third time and, with each visit, I am more impressed (and less overwhelmed!) by the diversity and quality of programs that are offered.

As a family medicine physician and primary care research fellow interested in improving access to care for marginalized populations, I came to the meeting with a few goals.

First, to take part in the activities of the Refugee and Immigrant Health Caucus and to (hopefully) earn a spot within the Caucus' leadership.

Second, to attend sessions addressing the capacity of Community Health Workers and experiences with their deployment in different environments.

Finally, I also was looking forward to the sessions detailing Canada's truly enormous Housing First project, which evaluated different programs in 5 cities in Canada.

I developed these goals prior to the meeting because the breadth of interesting content can paralyze you unless you are ready for it (and have a plan!).

I was also happy to have the opportunity to meet many luminaries in the public health world (former APHA president, high-level mental health researchers, many CA researchers) while working the Jefferson School of Population Health booth with Rob Simmons, director of Jefferson’s Master of Public Health program. Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet a graduate of the program and her mentor who had piloted some very exciting work with same-site legal services (a program that I hope to adapt for use with the refugees we see in family medicine).

I was elected secretary of the Refugee and Immigrant Caucus and am excited for what promises to be an exciting year of developing high-quality programming, improving intra- and inter-caucus coordination, and planning additional activities before the next annual meeting.

Fortunately, I was also able to network with a number of service providers and fellow researchers in the areas of homelessness, refugee/immigrant care, and community health worker deployment. Hopefully, this momentum will help springboard our efforts to develop a national refugee research network as well as local efforts to evaluate the efficacy of a hybrid community health worker-patient navigator.

Just like the meeting itself, it's hard to contain the entire experience in one short piece, but to summarize, it's a great way to share your research, meet others in your field, learn about cutting-edge techniques, and re-charge your inspiration battery!

Manisha Verna, MD, MPH

Attending the 2011 Annual APHA meeting – my first – was an exciting opportunity.

My capstone project was accepted as an oral presentation in the vision care section (Knowledge and perceived barriers about diabetic retinopathy among patients with diabetes in an urban academic environment). There was a discussion about the availability of onsite optometry in primary care practice- benefits and costs associated with it. This is a take home message to improve the practice.

Volunteering at the Jefferson School of Population Health booth was quite fascinating, as it allowed a chance to meet and greet like-minded people. Discussing our school’s educational programs, the faculty and courses with students and public health leaders provided a venue to feel proud of the Jefferson community.

I met with one of our new faculty members – Dr. John Oswald – who teaches a course on International Health, a subject of great interest to me. I volunteered to give a guest lecture on the health care system of India, and now will also give presentations on some other developing and developed countries (China, Russia, Cuba, and Congo).

I highly recommend attending the APHA meeting; it provides a doorway to meet the public health workforce and learn from their experiences.

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