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The American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of public health professionals each year, with over 12,000 attendees and 1,000 sessions. The 2015 Annual Meeting was held in Chicago, Illinois from October 31-November 4 with the theme “Health in All Policies.” Throughout the conference, the Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II drew substantial crowds to several hosted events including a pre-conference Learning Institute session, an exhibit hall booth, and a social reception. In all, GHFP-II met over 800 new people and reconnected with many participants, alumni, and program champions. As the premier global health Fellowship program for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), GHFP-II’s presence during the conference introduced hundreds of individuals to the career opportunities within the Agency, and showcased USAID's investment in strengthening the next generation of diverse global health professionals.

Global Health Learning Institute, October 31, 2015

Sharon Rudy, GHFP-II Program Director, connects with Learning Institute attendees. View more photos from this Learning Institute session here.

For the third year in a row, GHFP-II was invited by APHA to present a sold-out workshop during the pre-conference day. The session title this year was “Global Health Institute for Students, Emerging Professionals, and Mid-Career Changers,” and GHFP-II Program Director Sharon Rudy was joined by Deputy Director, David Godsted, and Ellen Eiseman, Chemonics Program Director. In an interactive three-hour session, students, emerging professionals, and mid- and senior-level career changers learned about themes and competencies that might help them make strategic and informed global health career plans.

Ellen began with an overview of the history, major themes, and modern landscape of global health, with a special focus on topics a job-seeking professional should note. Ellen said it is important to understand health problems do not emerge one-by-one, but rather, “It’s like a pile-up on the freeway. Issues don’t ‘end,’ but compound as the world changes.” She concluded noting that the APHA theme Health in All Policies is a central one in global health.

Sharon then shared what it takes to be successful in this industry, by discussing the “business” of global health and trends in current hiring practices. “Where’s the growth area? What’s going to make you more marketable? Think about big picture, big data analysis. The environment is VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous – and skills like Monitoring and Evaluation and Knowledge Management will help you navigate this marketplace.” Sharon then introduced the key competencies that nearly 50 surveyed global health employers cited as essential to a successful career. Sharon shared, “When I have to fire Fellows – and I do – it is not because they don’t have strong technical skills. It’s because they can’t work in teams or communicate effectively.” Contribute to our community of practice on this subject. Sharon encouraged the students to “make faculty accountable” for preparing them with more of the real skills they will need in the job force.

David then invited attendees to dive deeper into the key competencies with several participatory exercises to explore communication, collaboration, and teamwork, effective management, and cultural sensitivity. David noted that many of these skills are mistakenly thought to occur naturally, but they are quite teachable – and learnable. He noted, “If you can demonstrate skill in these areas, you go to the head of the class,” and make yourself easy to hire. In pairs, people tried a task that stress-tested their communication skills. In the large group, the whole room was asked them to make judgments of a scenario with little information, and this activity revealed some of our implicit biases. As individuals, people worked on self-assessment exercises and explored questions to guide their career development decisions, and determined some actionable commitments. Visit this page for more information on our work to close the competencies gap for the next generation of global health professionals.

Global Health Fellows Program II at the APHA Exhibit Hall

The APHA exhibit hall hosts hundreds of organizations both from the private and public sector to share information about their schools, services, and public health opportunities. GHFP-II continued its tradition of raising visibility through its booth presence at the APHA Exhibit Expo. Starting on November 1, GHFP-II served as a central hub for questions, resume consultations, and information sharing.

Sylvie Rousseau, Communications and Outreach Specialist, shares GHFP-II Fellowship and Internship opportunities at the APHA Expo. See more photos from the GHFP-II exhibit booth here.

About 60 students and job seekers took advantage of on-site resume consultations in the GHFP-II booth with experienced staff members, including senior recruiters and Performance Management and Career Development staff. They were able to get individualized feedback and answers to their questions, and received resources like GHFP-II's Top 10 Resume Tips and Resume Template. GHFP-II made the various tools and resources available in digital format on USB flash drives, which were especially useful for teachers and career services staff, who could bring copies to distribute to their students. Educators valued GHFP-II resources that help them develop professionals who have the right skills for global health, and are as dynamic and diverse as the field itself.

GHFP-II and Public Health Institute Social Reception

No event is complete without a cheerful look back at recent accomplishments and GHFP-II was pleased to co-host a social reception with our program's host organization, the Public Health Institute (PHI). On November 3, GHFP-II and PHI brought together over 180 global health practitioners, program alumni and colleagues, and friends to reconnect and network. PHI Director, Mary Pittman, and GHFP-II Project Director, Sharon Rudy, welcomed the audience to spark conversations with each other to learn about the work being done to advance health in all policies, from the municipal to international level. Throughout the evening friends and colleagues could be heard talking about current work in public health and plans for future collaborations to advance the health of communities locally and abroad.

Sharon Rudy, GHFP-II Program Director, meets a student interested in becoming a global health professional. For additional photos of the reception check out the event album on Flickr.

By the end of the 143rd Annual Meeting of APHA, GHFP-II staff agreed that this was another successful event, where hundreds of diverse new contacts were introduced to opportunities in global health, and many were shown a potential global health career path for the first time.