Category Archives: APHA IH Section

Students, Find Your Tools to Address Global and Environmental Health Issues!

Environmental health issues are present in our everyday lives, and I am committed to improving the environment in which we live, globally. Most recently, I realized that in order to make a difference on environmental issues, all I need are simple tools. This realization inspired me to become involved with APHA’s International Health Student Committee (IHSC). In this committee, I can promote and increase awareness about important international health issues including, environmental health, among students interested in the field. To accomplish these goals, I use tools such as advertising and blog-writing. I help design flyers to advertise IHSC’s initiatives, some of which include educating students on how to address environmental health issues through our CareerTalk series. I am writing this blog to encourage you to attend our upcoming webinar! Continue reading

Announcing APHA International Health Section Election Results

The following announcement is from Amy Hagopian, the IH Section’s Nominations Committee Chair.


Dear International Health Section members of APHA,

As your nominating committee chair, it is my pleasure to announce APHA has finally, at last, announced the winners of the APHA’s International Health Section election!

I am very very grateful to everyone who agreed to run for these offices. It’s not a democracy unless there is more than one candidate for a position.

As I told the candidates, everyone who ran this time but did not succeed will be an excellent candidate for a position in the next election. Please welcome all our candidates at the next business meetings in New Orleans, as we all work together to strengthen the section.

Paul Freeman will chair the proceedings at our upcoming meeting in November in New Orleans. He will be succeeded by Omar Khan at the end of the meeting. At that time, Laura becomes the chair-elect and Paul becomes the past chair.

For the coming meeting, the following individuals are our section councilors: Jessica Keralis and Michelle Odlum (whose terms end November 2016), Jaya Prakash and Lenee Simon (whose terms end November 2015), and Sosena Kebede and David Fitch (whose terms end November 2014). David Fitch and Sosena Kebede will be replaced by Mark Strand and Christopher Ibanga at the end of the 2014 meeting.

For the coming meeting, the following individuals are our section governing councilors: Laura Altobelli, Gopal Sankaran, Carol Dabbs, Malcolm Bryant, Peter Freeman (all of whose terms end at the end of the meeting this year) and Ramin Asgary (whose term ends November 2015). Laura and Peter will be replaced by Oscar Cordon and Caroline Kingori. Only 3 consecutive terms are allowed, so my records show this is Gopal’s last term until he has a 2-year retirement.

All members are encouraged to get involved in these committees and working groups. Contact the chairs today to find out about meetings scheduled in New Orleans.

Working groups:
Community-based primary care (Elvira Beracochea & Laura Parajon, Elvira@midego.com)
Pharmaceuticals (Maggie Huff-Rousselle, mhuffrousselle@ssds.net)
Trade and Health (Mary Anne Mercer, mamercer@uw.edu)
Global Health Connections (Jaya Prakash, Jayadoc21@gmail.com, and Theresa Majeski, theresa.majeski@gmail.com)
Maternal and Child Health (Laura Altobelli, laura@future.org)
Systems science for Health systems strengthening (Robert Swanson, swancitos@gmail.com; Kaja Abbas, kaja.abbas@gmail.com)
Climate Change (Hala Azzam, hala_azzam@yahoo.com, and Christine Benner, Christine-Benner@ouhsc.edu, and Rose Schneider, RoseSDC@aol.com)
US Border Initiative/PAHO (Josefa Ippolit-Shepherd, ippolitoshepherdj@yahoo.com)

Organizational committees:
Program committee (Mini Murthy, Minimurthy@aol.com)
Communications committee (Jessica Keralis, jmkeralis@gmail.com)
Membership and students (Rose Schneider, rschneider@jhu.edu)
Policy and Advocacy (Peter Freeman, pffreeman@gmail.com)
Awards (Gopal Sankaran, gsankaran@wcupa.edu)
Nominating committee (Amy Hagopian, hagopian@uw.edu)

There are also members of the section who assume organization-wide responsibilities. These include Len Rubenstein (Action Board), Mary Anne Mercer (Trade & Health), Elvira Beracochea and Len Rubenstein (International Human Rights committee), Amy Hagopian (Publications board), and Omar Khan (Science board).

Thanks again to all our candidates for running.

Students, You Should Go Abroad Too!

Leaving your comfort zone is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding experiences you can have. It was for me. During my undergraduate years, I spent three consecutive semesters studying abroad in Spain and Chile fulfilling my Spanish & Latin American Literature and Culture major. I realized the importance of expanding my horizons, gaining a multicultural perspective of the world and becoming more culturally competent. As a public health graduate student, my travels to Latin America took a global health perspective. My mind was once again exposed to another side of the world that we often miss while secluded in our comfort zones. In Central and South America, I volunteered on heath initiatives and sustainable development projects, and conducted research. I witnessed numerous global health disparities including lack of sanitation, children living in homes made with plastic walls and dirt floors, and physicians striving to provide quality reproductive care to low-income, immigrant women at a family planning clinic with scarce resources.

My ultimate goal is to become a primary care physician to help reduce health disparities globally. Going abroad was one step towards that goal.

Continue reading

Spotlight on Brazil: The World Cup and More Doctors

The World Cup ended on Sunday and with all the controversy surrounding host country Brazil, I found myself wondering about their health care system. I knew access to basic health services was one of the main points of protest against the Brazilian government’s spending for the World Cup, but I didn’t know all the details.

A few quick searches online provided me with the information I wanted and led me to this video from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) documenting the impact of the arrival of doctors in two Brazilian towns that previously had no doctors. According to the World Health Organization, there is a serious shortage of doctors in Brazil with 1.8 physicians for every 1,000 people. Although the Constitution calls for free health care for all citizens, the reality is that there are major inequalities in access to health services with 700 neglected municipalities and a lack of local primary health care.

The PAHO video focuses on Mais Medicos (More Doctors) – a program between the Brazilian and Cuban governments that allows Cuban doctors to work in under-served Brazilian communities for three years. I did some more searching online and learned that the program is part of an initiative by President Dilma Rousseff to import 13,000 foreign doctors in order to address the shortage of medical professionals. The program has been criticized and although I agree with some of the points of opposition (How are their foreign credentials vetted for local standards? How does this translate to a long-term plan to address the larger issues with health care in Brazil?) I think the reception of Cuban doctors by local Brazilian doctors was too harsh.

Despite the controversy surrounding the program, the PAHO video illustrates its positive outcomes through patient testimonials about improved access to health care, fewer journeys to far away hospitals, and increased treatment and service quality. Residents in the two remote communities featured in the video are quite happy with the program and appreciative to have basic health care.

What do you think? Does the program provide enough value to balance costs and outweigh the risks? Watch the video and share your thoughts in the comments below.

IHSC June 19th Conference Call with Dr. Pablo Ariel-Mendez, USAID

Please see the following announcement from Mary Carol Jennings of the newly-formed Student Committee.


The International Health Student Committee of the APHA IH Section is the section’s newest student group. As part of the core group of leaders, I wanted to plan a nationwide series of virtual events and conversations about leadership and career decisions in international health. Another group member, Nila Elison, has recently joined me, and together we’re starting the IH Career Development Sub-Committee.

I believe that organizations like APHA can play a valuable role in introducing new public health practitioners to potential mentors. I myself am not following a perfectly straight career path. I’ve worked in community organizing, policy, clinical medicine, and now am finally, formally, in public health, in my second year of the general preventive medicine residency at Johns Hopkins. Only recently have I started to find mentors in people, who like me, have taken similarly non-linear paths.

To set the stage for the upcoming year, our first guest speaker is going to talk about his own career path and his insight on leading a large global public health organization.

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez is a public health physician who serves as the Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Appointed by President Obama in 2011,  his work involves implementing the mission of the Global Health Initiative. His impressive resume includes leadership and experience within the World Health Organization, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Columbia University in New York City.

Dr. Pablos-Méndez will join the International Health Student Committee on June 19th from 4-5pm EST, and we hope you’ll take part in the conversation about developing your own career in international health.

We had previously closed registration, but because we want to share the conversation with those who are inspired by this blog post, we have re-opened the RSVP form until June 15th. We also welcome your sharing this with your classmates and school communication forums.

RSVP link: http://bit.ly/1n9J1Xc

A few twitter hashtags: #IHSCspeakers, #GlobalHealthSpeakers #IHSCCareerDevelopment

Details about the conference line number and access code will be sent to your RSVP email.
Follow the IH Student Committee!
APHA connect http://connect.apha.org/group.htm?igid=257321
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/APHA.IHSC/
Twitter @APHA_IHSC

Bill Gates & Party Tricks: Happy Belated World Immunization Week!

When I first clicked on this YouTube video link, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But once the video started playing, I quickly realized it’s a scripted (but entertaining) demonstration of vaccine cold chains featuring Hans Rosling with a cameo from Bill Gates. The topic of the video is how cold chains function and the challenges in getting vaccines through an uninterrupted cold chain to those who need them. Using juice, containers, and glasses, Rosling answers the question “What percent of 1 year old children receive basic vaccines?” In the spirit of World Immunization Week, which ended yesterday, take a few minutes to watch the video.

After watching, I did a little digging to find out more about Rosling and the Gapminder Foundation, which produced the video. Turns out this video is the first in a series of “Demographic Party Tricks” that are part of the Foundation’s Ignorance Project. The gist of it is they’re on a mission to cure ignorance when it comes to key global development trends and statistics.

I spent a significant amount of time on their website exploring their various data sets, labs, and interactive graphs. Some of my favorites are:

  • Africa is Not a Country (a personal pet peeve of mine)
  • The Wealth and Health of Nations
  • Stop Calling Them Developing Countries
  • The River of Myths (sound familiar?)

Click here to take a look around. You may learn a thing or two! And let us know which sections of the site you like most in the comments below.

A Request From the Students: Please Remain Firm on Your Commitment to Fight NTDs

On April 2, many of the world’s experts on Global Health met in Paris at the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) event, and pledged to place more emphasis on the diseases that are often overlooked by those who determine policy and hold the purse strings. Billions of people—and the governments and NGOs serving them—suffer from the drastic impact of these diseases on virtually every aspect of medical care and daily life. Neglecting them is no longer an option. As medical students, we often read about the outcomes of these distant meetings in the same way we scan over the stock market closing prices (with $100,000 of education debt) or ask about the final score of the Superbowl (while studying); however, my relationship to this meeting was remarkably different, thanks to a moving experience I had at the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference.

The Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference took place this past weekend, just two weeks after the discussion in Paris. Presenting my poster on soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) in the indigenous Panamanian population served by Floating Doctors , I expected a few students to passively glance at my tables as they walked past. Instead, I found myself surrounded by professionals with senior positions in well-known global health organizations.

This surprised me, as my research, which deals with the consequences of conditions seldom experienced here in the US, rarely generates great excitement. With Floating Doctors I found that even treated aqueducts cannot deliver clean water to villages when their cracked PVC pipes run through livestock pastures, and TOMS generous donations cannot prevent STH when school children carry their shoes through the fields to keep them clean. Additionally, the well-intentioned bi-annual school-based anthelmintic distributions are either not happening or are ineffective, because over 50% of children in Floating Doctors clinics continue to present with complaints of helminthiasis.

When asked for a solution, I sheepishly replied, “Well, it seems like an impossible problem.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth a senior research officer from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation smiled and firmly said, “No. It is not impossible. That is why we are here. We will help you find a way.” In that moment, the discussion in Paris became less of a distant news story. It brought hope and inspiration to not just me, but to Floating Doctors, a tiny powerhouse of an NGO, and most importantly, to the STH-burdened populations we serve.

My motivation for sharing this experience is to follow it with a sincere request: On behalf of all idealistic and motivated global health students and young professionals, I ask you to please maintain your enthusiasm for tackling these unglamorous and devastating NTDs beyond these first two weeks, and beyond the next few years. Help us turn the fight to reduce and ultimately eliminate NTDs into a challenging, motivating, gratifying, and feasible lifetime career that we can pass on to the students who follow us.

A Yale infectious disease physician made it very clear, as he showed me live hookworm larvae under a microscope in his lab, that the solution to the NTD problem cannot be achieved with plans, protocols, and medications alone. In order to create a truly sustainable fight, young scientists, physicians, and public health professionals must be supported and inspired to research these problems with fresh eyes and open minds.

To those who participated in motivating or making the decision to invest in well-informed steps toward combating the preventable diseases that devastate the health, economy, and educational productivity of people like those served by Floating Doctors, I extend a whole-hearted Thank You!

Hannah Elsevier, MD/MPH Candidate, APHA International Health Student Committee Co-Chair