By: Kevin Weiss, 2nd Year Epidemiology
Congratulations on your acceptance to Rollins! RSPH is an excellent place home to motivated students, engaged faculty, and meaningful programs and research. Above all, it is a place that allows you to take advantage of opportunities in front of you. To that end, one way that you can apply your experiences, gained knowledge, and skills is by working toward attending and presenting at an academic conference. As you are certainly aware, not all of the learning that you accumulate and experience will take place at Rollins.
Rollins students take advantage of these opportunities every year, turning out en masse to attend conferences and present work from their REAL jobs, theses, and practica. The annual American Public Health Association (APHA) conference is a popular destination for Rollins students and many others alike. The 2015 version was held in Chicago (the 143rd annual meeting and expo!), and the 2016 edition is set for Denver, Colorado from October 29th – November 2nd. The theme is “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health,” echoing the topic of this year’s National Public Health Week , which is “Healthiest Nation 2030.” Who knows, you might be at the meeting and telling us all about it come this time in 2017!
I had the opportunity and privilege to attend CROI, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, in Boston this past February. It was a great honor to have this chance to expand upon what I was learning in my coursework (also can be read as: great opportunity to not go to school for a week). This HIV conference is clinically focused, and a lot of interesting data on clinical trials of antiretrovirals were presented, including drug-impregnated vaginal rings and long-acting injectable forms of prevention. Beyond the work itself, it provided a great place to network with other young researchers and established faculty. I was lucky to be able to listen to my faculty advisor give a workshop talk and talk to individuals doing very interesting work.
Above all, another feeling I took away from this excellent experience was validation. On the roads toward our professional goals, it can be very reassuring to feel as though you belong where you are. I felt very well equipped to succeed with a year of coursework and projects that enabled me to tackle my practicum, which ended up leading to the analysis that I was able to present. This mental check-in motivated me for the rest of this semester and for the career push beyond Rollins. I found funding through a conference scholarship application, but your department and the Rollins Student Government Association may be additional resources that can enable you to participate in these conferences.
There are many excellent opportunities to turn your work and interests into professional development experiences. The Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) reported that Emory CFAR members (including students and faculty) gave 9 oral abstract presentations, 4 themed discussion presentations, one workshop talk, and 31 poster presentations. Definitely an impressive number that you can help to expand upon!