The student experience at the APHA Annual Meeting

November 20, 2017 | Press Releases & Announcements

Catherine Machalaba, a doctoral student at CUNY SPH, recently attended the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting, held November 4-8, in Atlanta, Georgia. Machalaba’s participation in the Annual Meeting was sponsored in part by the CUNY SPH Dean’s Award, which helps students defray the costs associated with attending and presenting at professional conferences. Below, Catherine reflects on her experience attending the APHA Annual Meeting this year.


Catherine Machalaba

Catherine Machalaba

As I celebrated my fifth year of membership with the American Public Health Association I looked forward to attending the APHA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, which was held earlier this month. This year proved to be the best yet because of the generous support and collaboration of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), which encouraged me to engage fully in the Association and the important and challenging issues it is committed to taking on.

As Chair of the Veterinary Public Health Special Primary Interest Group I had the opportunity to attend APHA’s Intersectional Council and Governing Council meetings for the first time. Many of APHA’s priority areas (e.g. climate change, the opioid epidemic) cut across facets of public health, and I was encouraged by the genuine interest of different APHA components to find meaningful ways to work together to promote the healthiest nation and generation. I was also impressed by the transparency that the Governing Council operates with, using a democratic voting process with ample opportunities for APHA component representatives to share perspectives. It was exciting to see the Council vote on items including proposals to amend the Association’s bylaws, election of APHA leaders, and selection of the 2019 meeting theme!

Beyond learning through the amazing scientific sessions, I was honored to present on my work with partners from CUNY, EcoHealth Alliance and the World Bank on the Economics of One Health, as well as organize a special session on the environmental dimensions of vector-borne disease. However, the highlight of the meeting was presenting the policy statement “Advancing a ‘One Health’ Approach to Promote Health at the Human-Animal-Environment Interface” at the Joint Policy Committee hearing. Professor Elizabeth Geltman, and I developed the policy together over the past year to reinforce opportunities for the public health community to collaborate with other sectors to inform upstream disease prevention and health security. Policy statements provide the evidence base for APHA’s scope and action steps to engage policy makers and public health partners. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as when my policy statement was endorsed by several Sections and approved by the Governing Council!

Catherine Machalaba - APHA 2017 Badge

Catherine Machalaba, APHA 2017 Badge

I felt a surge of pride each time I ran into colleagues from the CUNY SPH community throughout the conference (including at the 6:30am Climate Change Special Topic Committee meeting- early morning, but worth it!) and learned more about their work—and was particularly inspired to meet a recent CUNY DPH graduate who is now leading work to reduce vulnerability to climate change in his city. I am grateful that CUNY SPH so strongly supports its students to engage in APHA to promote public health research, leadership and collaboration, and it should be noted that this momentum extends beyond the Annual Meeting! I’ve seen Professor Alexis Pozen call her senators when we receive action alerts, CUNY SPH researchers regularly publish in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), Dean Ayman El-Mohandes’ longstanding leadership in the association was recently recognized when he received APHA’s prestigious Executive Director’s Citation award, and no other than APHA’s Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin spent his sabbatical from the Association at CUNY SPH. It is awesome to be part of such an active and passionate group of public health professionals.

Well done to all APHA 2017 attendees, and thank you to CUNY SPH for so generously enabling our participation and collective impact!