Lessons Learned

December 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

By Keara Rodela, BS

 

Five days, thousands of sessions, thousands of professionals, and little ole’ me.  That’s the feeling I had walking into the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, for the 142nd Annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.  I found myself trying to figure out what sessions to attend, how to talk with other professionals and what I would even say?

This was my first time attending a conference of this magnitude so I took the advice of my professor and classmates who had attended this conference before.  I created a plan A schedule and a plan B schedule to best maximize my time each day and guarantee I would be in contact with other professionals in my concentration.

Let me share a few lessons I’ve learned from APHA:

  • Wear walking shoes and bring a jacket.  The conference center can be the size of an airport and just as cold.
  • Bring snacks.  Because you will be overzealous in your attempt to attend every session in your concentration, just as I was, you will forget to schedule time for lunch.  There’s no humanly way possible to stand in line, eat lunch and walk to your next session in 30 minutes.  Thirty minutes, by the way, is the transition time you’ll have between sessions…if you’re lucky.
  • Look at the scheduled events before the meeting.  Use the app to create a schedule and stick to it.  You will be tempted to alter it, often, but don’t.  Doing so on the spur of the moment will have you scrambling and session-hopping while not getting what you want out of the experience.
  • Attend your section’s business meetings.  This is where you will have the opportunity to interact more personally with the leaders and managers of agencies in your specific area of interest.
  • Don’t skip the opening or general session.  As you walk into the opening session take time to feel the energy that surrounds you.  The people shuffling by you have the same passions for improving the health of our society as you do.  They are there, just as you are, to increase their knowledge and share the work they have been doing in their area of the country or world.
  • Oh and (Please!) listen to the speakers. They are masters at articulating our goals as public health professionals and inspiring us to keep up the fight as we move along our own personal paths.
  • It’s okay to walk out of a session.  If you find yourself in a session whose title is perfect for your interest but the content is not what you thought, step out.  That will give you plenty of time to eat that lunch you forgot to schedule in or check out the Expo and poster sessions since everyone else will still be in their sessions.
  • Above all else, attend the conference, talk with people around you and enjoy yourself!  APHA is big and intimidating but can be conquered with the right planning.

Keara Rodela is a first-year MPH student and a MCHLT Scholar, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. 

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