As a master’s student in the Maternal and Child Health program at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, my graduate training has been generously supported by the Center for Leadership in Maternal and Child Public Health for the past two years. This February, the Center sponsored an additional training opportunity for Minnesota’s MCH students: an invitation to attend the annual Association of Maternal and Child Health Professionals (AMCHP) conference in Washington, DC. Along with five other students, I applied for a scholarship and was lucky enough to be accepted.
I say “lucky,” because my experience at AMCHP was inspiring and invigorating, and in multiple ways. This was a chance to extend my understanding of MCH competencies in the company of articulate and knowledgeable professionals from both state and national public health agencies. On Saturday I found myself discussing data collection with a PRAMS coordinator from Wisconsin; on Sunday I was immersed in conversation about bicycle helmet policy with a family advocate from Colorado. These women and men are deeply invested in the health and safety of all Americans, particularly our most vulnerable populations, and their passion was encouraging—particularly as I ready myself for a new career in public health.
Although all the sessions I attended were stimulating, a training workshop moderated by Georgia’s MCH program and Title V director was especially enlightening. Brian Castrucci clearly demonstrated the importance of data in advocacy work with state policymakers. His emphasis on translating data into messages that can be used by diverse constituencies was a powerful lesson for me. My own focus on health communications will certainly benefit from the strategies outlined in this session, as well as others I attended throughout the four-day conference.
AMCHP sharpened my focus and my sense of purpose, bringing me closer to the professionals who will soon be my colleagues. I look forward to attending additional professional training workshops like this one after graduation. In short, it was a tremendous gift, and a valuable reminder, of the important work ahead.
Laura Andersen is a graduate student in the Maternal and Child Health program at the University of Minnesota