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November 12, 2015

Two Undergraduate Experiences at AHPA 2015: 2 Brothers, 2 Friends

Marcel Souffrant

Attending the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting (APHA 2015) was my first experience in presenting research in a professional conference setting. This for me was the highlight of my three days in Chicago.  Having the opportunity listen, watch, and take part in vivid discussions concerning public health from a variety of perspectives was enlightening but also fueling. 

The APHA conference had 13,000 participants, which can easily create an overwhelming environment. The opportunities presented due to this plethora of people however was unlike any other.  I was able to have conversations with physicians, graduate students, professors, and healthcare professionals about public health and each perspective was unique.  This conference was a great example of how multidimensional the realm of public health can be.  As a prospective medical school student, I found the lack of presence of medical school representatives surprising.  Almost all of the booths representing schools were focused on their respective programs of public health.  I assumed that there would be a larger representation of medically focused initiatives for students like myself.  Saying so, after many conversations with different representatives, I became aware of the close interaction that can take place when medical students continue to show interest in public health.  There are programs across the country that have opportunities for students to continue to work and conduct research pertaining to public health, showing the possible continuation of our work. 

Attending this conference as one of the very few undergraduate students presenting research was an experience that I will keep with me forever.  I really enjoyed walking around the conference with my good friend Geard, who also presented his research. We conversed with people from all different types of backgrounds. In almost all of these interactions we received praise and encouragement for both having our work accepted and for our career aspirations.  It was both empowering and motivating to receive praise from complete strangers who showed genuine interest in our work, reminding me of the importance of positive reinforcement.

Geard Fossett

The American Public Health Association Annual Meeting 2015 was held in Chicago in early November. While this conference has been going on for a variety of years it was the first time that I attended. My trip to the APHA conference was full of a variety of firsts for me. It was the first time I presented any of my work at a national conference of over thirteen thousand public health professionals, it was the first time I was able to meet and network with a variety of individuals in different areas of public health, and it was the first time where I was able to speak to job recruiters for many different companies and faculty members from a variety of different universities.

As a current senior looking to apply to both graduate schools for public health and future employment opportunities, I felt that the conference was a great way to speak to a diverse group of individuals working in the realm of public health.  I found that a lot of individuals with whom I had in-depth conversations were more than willing to help me by supporting my career goals within public health. Through attending various seminars, and talking to individuals I really felt that I was able to make a variety of connections and hopefully take advantage of some of the opportunities I was presented with.

Overall I think my favorite part of the conference was both presenting my poster in the ethics poster section as well getting the opportunity to view others presenting their research. Those presenting their research ranged from current undergraduate students to people with graduate degrees. This was truly a great opportunity to not only ask questions about their research but also to get an insider’s view as to how different research is after the undergraduate level.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the conference with my close friend Marcel Souffrant. Although we attend different schools for undergrad we had a rare opportunity to attend this conference together. It was truly a privilege being able to navigate my first professional conference with a true friend.

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In Partnership with: Poole College of Management, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation, Penn State

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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