Posts tagged ‘WeAreMCH’

Behind every great person is… a person

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Kara Hoffman, BS

The theme of this year’s APHA conference was Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health. I arrived to the conference on Sunday, in the middle of the first full day, having come straight from a friend’s wedding in Texas, and unfortunately missed some earlier events. That evening my classmate Gabriella and I attended a public health activist’s dinner down the street from the convention center. Based on the description of the event, I thought I would be attending an event for people like myself – who consider themselves activists in the public health field, to simply network and enjoy a dinner together as a community of like-minded individuals. Little did I know this was about to be the dinner of a lifetime.


Kara Hoffman, Sir Michael Marmot, and Gabriella Landgraf-Neuhaus (left to right)

Gabriella and I arrived earlier than many of the guests and set our coats at a table before mingling with some of the other guests. When we returned, our table had filled up with people whom I did not recognize. I quickly learned that I was sitting next to past APHA President, from 1983, Anthony Robbins, MD, MPA, who has attended consecutively the last 51 APHA annual conferences! In addition to meeting Dr. Robbins, I also got the chance to speak with many other seasoned activists in the public health community who have played a pivotal role in social justice efforts across the US. I also had the pleasure of meeting Sir Michael Marmot, commonly referred to as the father of the social determinants of health – which I never would have dreamed would happen!

Meeting so many significant people in the field yet seeing them socialize in this environment made me realize that every great person is still just a person, and that I too am capable of achieving great things in my career as a public health advocate!

Kara Hoffman is a first-year MPH student concentrating in Maternal and Child Health, and plans to graduate in May 2018. She received a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from The George Washington University in 2013. Her interests include nursing, midwifery, perinatal care, and nutrition and physical activity education.








November 22, 2016 at 3:43 pm Leave a comment

Little professional in a sea of excellence

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Jordan Stephens-Moseley, BA

Before attending APHA, I had never gone to an academic/professional conference of that magnitude. The conference was overwhelming at times and inspiring during others, but overall I took away many learning experiences.

Each session drew in different crowds which allowed me to meet different people, but networking was not the easiest task. Most of the time I felt like I was a student in a classroom but I had to save my questions until the end. Other times I felt like I could have a stimulating conversation with the presenters of each session. Most sessions did not invite conversations among professionals even after the sessions were finished. The mixture of haste to attend as many interesting sessions and the recurring element of running out of time made it nearly impossible to meet new people.

I found that the most stimulating talks were the roundtable discussions and scientific sessions on refugee health and displaced persons. In the roundtable discussions, I had stimulating conversations that discussed studies that allowed me to see what other possibilities I could explore in my field in connection with refugee health. The complexity of displaced persons and refugee health is intriguing because it involves knowledge about history of these persons and an understanding of politics.

At the end of the conference, I was delighted by the possibilities that await me in public health. The sessions in the conference allowed me to broaden my conception of maternal and child health. I will still focus on my passions in women’s health, infant & maternal mortality, and reproductive rights, but I have now expanded on the populations I wish to serve.

Jordan Stephens-Moseley is a first-year MPH student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She plans to graduate in May 2018. Her interests include women’s rights, birthing practices and outcomes, reproductive health, and health advocacy of disadvantaged populations. She loves to dance, watch movies/tv, read, and travel for relaxation and public service.

November 22, 2016 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

My AHA moment

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Shanice Roache, BSPH

Having never been to a conference I was not sure what to expect. I entered this huge convention center where people walked with confidence from session to session; everyone seemed to know what they wanted to do.

Throughout APHA, I got small aha! moments; one of the most memorable moments was during day two – Monday. The special guest speaker during the opening general session was Cecile Richards; however my small aha! moment came during Dr. Camara Jones’ speech. She spoke about launching a campaign against racism. She broke racism down into simple terms that anyone could understand. She gave the antidote of the open and closed sign as well as the red and pink flowers. After her speech I was inspired, but how exactly could I apply what I learned if I had no idea what I wanted to do?

Entering day three I felt defeated. I went through the conference and… nothing – I had yet to find my major aha! moment. Black Women’s Health Matters was a session where I found my aha! moment. Dr. Valerie L. Rochester gave an impressive presentation on reproductive justice of Black women. I was so captivated by her presentation that I was unable to take notes. She spoke about the fact that reproductive justice was a term that African-Americans came up with. She stated that we cannot empower women, but can give them the information and have enough faith that they can empower themselves. Reproductive justice is a new term to me and I will continue to do research in order to better understand it and to find out what I can do to make this dream, of helping others empower themselves, a reality.

Shanice Roache is a first year MPH student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She plans to graduate in May 2018. She received a bachelor degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her interests include global health, perinatal health, health inequities that impact Black women, sexual and reproductive health in Black women, teen mothers and paternal involvement in pregnancy outcomes. She also loves reading and cooking.

November 21, 2016 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

Women’s rights, reproductive rights, and anti-racism work on center stage

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Mary Lingwall, BA

My second consecutive year attending APHA met and exceeded my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised that in terms of overall tone and messaging, this year’s conference seemed to respond directly to criticisms that I had of last year’s conference.

In particular, I was impressed by the way that women’s rights, reproductive rights, and anti-racism work were all put center stage during the conference, especially during the welcome session. This year’s opening/welcoming session featured a keynote address from Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. I remember vividly that last year’s opening session did not contain any mention of women’s or reproductive rights despite the focus of the conference being health in all policies and the news cycle of fall 2015 being dominated by anti-abortion laws in the majority of American states and the recently released videos libeling Planned Parenthood for fetal tissue donation negotiations. This year’s opening session was a welcome step in the progressive direction toward acknowledging that a person’s access to abortion care is a public health issue. As a former Planned Parenthood Federation of America intern, I was very happy to see Cecile Richards speak to a public health audience and I was proud of having worked with her and for Planned Parenthood. My favorite part of her speech was when she said “the future is feminine” in reference to the great strides that women have been making (like how a woman is about to become our next president!). I think that Cecile meant to say that the “future is female,” which is a popular feminist saying right now (I even have the saying printed on a t-shirt at home!), but I can understand her mistake; she was excited!

The other speakers during the opening session– APHA president Dr. Camara Jones and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper—also openly discussed issues that are coming to the forefront in public health discussions and policy after decades of being hidden under the surface of all of our work: racism and its pernicious and pervasive effect on health and gun violence as a public health issue. It was very inspiring to see these topics being given center stage in such a public way.

Mary Lingwall (far right), Dr. Willie Parker (second from left), and other attendees at the APHA Population, Reproductive, & Sexual Health section awards ceremony

The rest of my APHA experience was dedicated to learning more about recent research in abortion access as well as other developments in reproductive health research. One of my favorite sessions presented new findings from University of California San Francisco’s reproductive health think tank Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health’s (ANSIRH) Turnaway Study. The Turnaway Study is a five year cross sectional study of women who received abortion care versus women who were turned away from abortion facilities due to state-sanctioned gestational limits and ended up having children. The study findings highlight the social, economic, and educational limitations imposed on women who are forced to keep unintended pregnancies to term. However, the study also found that women are incredibly resilient despite these limitations and that even the turned away women were able to find happiness and combat negative feelings after the stress of being turned away. But the most important finding of the Turnaway Study is that, contrary to popular rhetoric and anti-choice messaging, women who choose termination do not differ from their turned away counterparts in rates of alcohol use, substance abuse, depression, and feelings of guilt or regret. I think it is important that we get this message out and to the public in order to continue to support women who choose abortion and continue to combat abortion stigma in our culture.

I was also able to attend the Abortion Task Force business meeting at this year’s APHA conference. The most important work we focused on in this meeting was to make sure we were all on the same page in prioritizing ending the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is a 40 year-old provision that restricts Medicaid funding for abortion care in almost all states.

The final highlight of my 2016 APHA conference was seeing Dr. Willie Parker, MD celebrated at the Population, Reproductive, and Sexual Health section awards ceremony for his outstanding service to women in the south. Dr. Willie Parker is the only abortion provider in Alabama and Mississippi. Dr. Parker has also recently unveiled an abortion fund specifically for women from Alabama and Mississippi; as an avid abortion fund volunteer, I am honored to have gotten to meet Dr. Parker and celebrate his life’s work alongside fellow pro-choice activists and researchers dedicated to making a difference.

Mary Lingwall is a second-year MPH student with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. In her previous career, Mary was a birth and postpartum doula and lactation counselor. Her interests include perinatal mood disorders, breastfeeding promotion and outreach, and maternal mortality and abortion access in the South. She plans on graduating in May 2017.


November 21, 2016 at 8:41 am Leave a comment

Never thought I would see Fellow under my name

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Lauren Biagioli, BS

For the 2016-2017 year I was selected as an APHA Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Section Student Fellow. Upon landing in Denver, my conference/fellow experience started from the get go! My introduction to the fellows program was an orientation before the conference began and it was the time I finally got to put faces to names. I got to meet the other fellows who all came from different backgrounds, schools and programs. After getting the rundown of the program and its requirements, we were sent off to start networking and conferencing.

Lauren Biagoli (back left) with APHA President Dr. Camara Jones (back center) and other MCH Student Fellows, past and present

Lauren Biagoli (back right) with APHA President Dr. Camara Jones (back center) and other MCH Student Fellows

As a Student Fellow, I was presented with many opportunities to meet some of the foremost leaders in the MCH field. I got to speak with Dr. Michael Lu, Associate Administrator of the HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and he even posed for a picture with us at a luncheon where we were honored. Although meeting some of the most influential people in field was an experience I will cherish, it was the connections I made that will allow me to put my education and knowledge to action. As a Student Fellow, I was assigned to a section committee with the intention of working closely with the chairs on current issues. I have the esteemed pleasure of serving on the Gun Violence Prevention committee under some remarkable professionals, to work on policy statements, opinion pieces, and other needed documents.

Although this journey as a Student Fellow has just started, I feel as though I am walking away from the annual meeting in Denver with purpose and with an action plan to work towards change on an issue I care about deeply. I can only hope that this opportunity will bring more positive relationships and open more doors for me as a young professional. I am honored to be an APHA MCH Student Fellow alongside other MCH hopefuls.


Lauren Biagioli is a second-year MPH Student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She plans to graduate in the Fall of 2019 after completing her practicum experience in the Peace Corps. Her interests include policy and advocacy in areas such as child abuse, human sex trafficking, child marriage, victims of child pornography, and juvenile offenders. She also loves tennis, floral arranging, and attempting new recipes.



November 18, 2016 at 2:40 pm Leave a comment

A public health view of global racism

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Bejan Foretia, BA

Bejan Foretia at APHA

Bejan Foretia at APHA

APHA 2016 was inspiring and filled with so much potential. The conference hosted 11,000 people consisted of hundreds of sessions led by researchers, students, and medical and public health professionals. Though I am a student in the Maternal & Child Health and the Population, Sexual & Reproductive Health sections of APHA, I chose to visit multiple sessions on variety of topic areas. What I enjoyed the most was the innovation of the research studies and the potential to improve the public health of the nation through a variety of different methods.

A hot topic in our nation today is the on-going racist systems that plague people of color. Because of this, I most appreciated the session hosted by APHA president Dr. Camara Jones’, entitled Racism: A Global View. As an African-American with parents from Central-West Africa, I believe it’s imperative to understand the African diaspora, as well as the components of racism across that diaspora. Within the session, Dr. Jones had a variety of speakers on a panel that discussed racism in the US, South Africa, Brazil, and New Zealand. The most compelling concept was the notion of truth telling, as made popular by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, in considering the struggles of post-apartheid South Africa. This notion stated that the price of forgiveness was to tell the truth about known and unknown injustices towards Black South Africans. This would establish a sense of anti-racism for all races and ethnicities in South Africa. In this way, Mandela and Tutu established a sense of morality within their country and were able to create collaborative efforts to better their country in every way. Industries and organizations that were previously segregated and indifferent towards one another were now able to trust one another and address their country’s issues.

It made me think about the health issues in the black community in the US today. What would be the effect if systematic racism was dismantled, effectively establishing trust among races and ethnicities? In an election year where racism has been more blatant than ever before, I truly appreciated these perspectives because they reminded me that the problem extends beyond this country. However, there are ways to tackle and dismantle oppression, and it begins with truth and forgiveness. Hopefully as the 2016 campaign comes to a close, we move closer to a stronger nation.

Bejanchong Foretia is a first-year MPH student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She graduated with a degree in psychology from Spelman College. She plans to graduate in May 2018. Her interests include infant and reproductive health, as well as global health.  She also loves reading, dancing, and traveling.



November 18, 2016 at 9:39 am Leave a comment

The importance of anti-racism training

Many of the CEMCH Scholars attended this year’s meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), held in Denver, October 29 – November 2. We will be posting their reflections and highlights this month.

By Gabriella Landgraf-Neuhaus, BSPH


APHA President Dr. Camara Jones speaks at the opening session

Before APHA, I was not really sure what to expect. I was apprehensive. However, after the opening session on Sunday, I felt much more at home. The outgoing APHA President, Camara Jones, MD, MPH, was one of the noteworthy speakers, and used her time to address and stress the importance of addressing racism in everything we do. She used many analogies that I found helpful, like that there are signs in society, as in a restaurant, that say “Open/Closed” but that are only open or closed to certain people, reflecting how racist our societal structures are. People inside the restaurant only see this open sign, and people outside the restaurant only see the closed sign. So it is up to, in large part, the people inside the restaurant, who have the opportunity to eat, to use their privilege to help those outside the restaurant get in, so that they may thrive as well. This illustrated her point that “naming racism equips you to act,” in other words, seeing and identifying this privilege can move a person towards making change.

I loved how she further illustrated the importance of addressing racism and health equity by naming three core barriers to achieving an anti-racist society. The first core barrier is that we are a-historical, meaning we are disconnected from our history. We are disconnected from the knowledge that we have already gained from past events that shaped this country, and from the implications and potential power that this knowledge has when it comes to helping us change the present and future of the United States. The second core barrier is that we as a country have a narrow focus on individual efficacy, and that we need more of a focus on collective efficacy in making change. We must recognize the immense power we have as citizens of the United States to work together to fix what we are not happy with in our society. The third core barrier she addresses is the myth of meritocracy, that the United States tells its citizens that if you work hard enough anything is possible. However, this idea does not recognize that everything is not equitable in this country and that without equity, there will always be people who work very hard, but who are still poor and without their essential needs.

This third core barrier hit me the hardest; while I had thought about these three issues separately, Dr. Camara Jones connected them beautifully in a way that was very easy to absorb. The third core barrier, in my interpretation, addresses privilege very directly. It shows us how there are those set up for certain advantages and that a United States meritocracy is a lie. This myth of meritocracy in many ways placates those in the upper classes, and prevents them from seeing their privilege, while also placating those in the lower classes into thinking that if they work hard and try their best they will be able to move up in the class structure of the United States. At the same time, this stratification distances the upper, lower, and middle classes from one another, making empathy between and within these classes difficult. I think that empathy between and within classes for our individual and collective struggles is difficult in part because we have placed so much responsibility on the individual self, when it should be on the collective society that maintains these structurally racist, sexist, and otherwise discriminatory practices. While we make up this society, we must all be responsible for our own awakenings, our own naming of racism, in order to start to change the collective society. We must share our knowledge and help each other to awaken to the reality of racism, as a collective.

Meritocracy does not take into account structural racism. It does not acknowledge that there are those with privilege and those without who must find ways to break through the heavy burden of racism to find success. Dr. Camara Jones has called for collective action to address this, and for an anti-racism treaty at the federal level. She has also called for us to come together as public health professionals to begin to organize and strategize for a nation-wide campaign against racism. Too many institutions have not addressed their racism, and this is in part because we as a society are still colorblind, blind to the many ways in which racism is present every day, in ways large and small. But as public health professionals, we have the data to support this campaign. We know that race and more poignantly, structural racism, is a main, if not THE main cause of health disparities. The first step at our institutional level, such as at Tulane University, is to acknowledge this and move to make anti-racist trainings available, and hopefully required, for everyone.

After the opening session, Dr. Jones held an anti-racism roundtable collaboration. It was packed! After addressing us, Dr. Jones asked us to split up into eight teams: communication and dissemination, education and development, global matters, liaison and partnership, organizational excellence, policy and legislation, science and publications, and history. We then brainstormed in these different sections what should be addressed by APHA in this national campaign against racism. I took part in the communication and dissemination team, which worked on how to name racism: “How do we get people to see racism as a core problem that our society must face and work to undo?”

We have to find ways of putting racism in terms that all people can understand, to play to citizens’ empathy; to turn our collective blame and inaction into responsibility and action; and build bridges over petty disagreements and value differences. In other words, we must find common ground, and anti-racism training is a place to start.

Gabriella Landgraf-Neuhaus is a first-year MPH student, with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from Tulane University in Public Health and Anthropology. Her interests include equity in education at all levels, maternal, child, and family relationships and wellness, integration of the natural world into education, and anti-racism training.



November 17, 2016 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

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