Section Connection An insider's view of the APHA international health section

"The essence of global health equity is the idea that something so precious as health might be viewed as a right."

Paul Farmer

Issue 2 - January 2017

In This Issue:

  • Letter from the IH Section Chair
  • 2016 APHA Annual Meeting Recap
  • Meet Your Leadership
  • Student Spotlight
  • Getting to Know APHA
  • IH Conversations
  • Call to Action: Get Involved!


  • Theresa Majeski - Editor-in-Chief
  • Erick Amick - Associate Editor
  • William Rosa - Associate Editor
  • Meghan Huff - Meet Your Leadership Section Editor

Letter from the IH Section Chair

As in-coming Chair, it is my privilege and honor to send greetings to each of you as members of the International Health Section, with wishes that many of you were able to enjoy holidays with family and friends. As we begin the year, the changes in the nation´s capital herald the possibility of tumultuous and unprecedented challenges that we will face to carry out our mission of promoting and protecting public health and welfare, especially that of the neediest.

In this context, your membership in the APHA IH Section can take on even larger importance, for at least three reasons. The foremost is having an essential channel for activism and advocacy in global health policy. We need to act on APHA and other legislative alerts by contacting our congressional representatives. We also encourage you to work with our Policy and Advocacy Committee to draft policy proposals that can eventually become the official stance of the 25,000-strong membership of APHA for advocacy on Capitol Hill and for public education.

The second reason your membership is important is that APHA provides a framework for you to stay up-to-date with information on key issues that need addressing. Much of this happens at Annual Meetings, but we encourage your active participation in one or more our thematic working groups (listed on our website) to benefit from knowledge sharing and discussion throughout the year. We hope you will submit abstracts for presentation of your own research and projects at Annual Meetings.

Thirdly, membership in the APHA IH Section provides you with a professional home and networking with like-minded colleagues for needed social support in times of public health crises that may soon become more acute.

The IH Section is very fortunate to have many active leaders and members. This newsletter is a great expression of that. We thank them all and encourage the rest of you to get and stay involved in ways that best suit each of you.

Dr. Laura Altobelli, Chair, International Health Section

An Interview With the IH Section Chair

By Ahmad Abdella

What are the biggest issues facing Primary Care globally ?

Great question. Primary health care (PHC) is generally the main vehicle for health care delivery in the developing world. Currently, it is still more theory than practice in many places. Difficult financial, human resource management and operational barriers are present in most of these areas, impeding PHC systems from achieving their essential goals. Broader views of PHC that consider efficient and effective community-based approaches are frequently not prioritized by policy makers. Interest groups that maintain the paradigm of medically-oriented care are an obstacle for PHC globally.

PHC is one single facet in a larger framework of global health determinants that encompass many different factors. PHC requires an innovative and diverse group of global health professionals to fully address the multiple aspects of this issue.

What do you consider to be the proudest moments of your career?

If asked to identify key moments I would include perhaps the awarding of my DrPH from Hopkins; approval of a law we developed, Law N° 29124, by the Peruvian National Congress; and two occasions in which our innovation proposals were global finalists in Grand Challenges competitions.

What do you plan to accomplish with the section over the next two years?

I hope to continue building on the strengths of the section and our current leaders who represent a wide range of talent and expertise with strong commitment. While at the same time expanding the involvement of the younger generation of professionals and students in our organization by providing opportunities for them to grow professionally. We are encouraging committee and working group leaders to take on younger apprentice co-chairs in a rotating fashion in order to ensure a wider pool of experienced members to take on leadership roles in the future. I want to support the new IH section mentoring program which is an essential service for younger members. I/we also intend to update the IH Section strategic plan, last done in 2010, with active participation of section leadership and members in the planning process. Finally, many of us are worried about the incoming administration and policy decisions that could upset and turn back progress on global health policy and financing. It will be important for the IH Section to maintain vigilance over such proposals and be ready to take strong advocacy action as often as needed to protect global health.

2016 APHA Annual Meeting Recap

By Beth LaCroix and Lisa Libassi

"Attending my first APHA in Denver was an experience like no other! My absolute favorite part of the conference was being in the midst of thousands of public health professionals, who are equally passionate about the health of others.... And on top of that, everyone is ready to network!" -ShaCoria Winston, MPH student, Wash U St. Louis

The American Public Health Association held their annual meeting in Denver October 29- November 2, 2016. The International Health Section was well represented and had more than 50 sessions for attendees to choose from.

Keynote speaker this year, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood spoke about the organization’s progress and hopes for the future.

Governing Council (GC) was fully represented thanks to proxies sitting in for members unable to attend. Thank you to those who stepped up to help with representation! Carol Dabbs reported IH made “substantive contributions “on two issues: Dues Increase Plan was approved - this allows the Executive Council to increase dues (rather than the GC), by no more than $5 - $10 in each category. Policy Statement Development – “policies receiving a negative determination by JPC (Joint Policy Committee) would (have) second review by JPC when authors choose to make changes in response to JPC comments.”

The Student Committee reported that ~70 students/young professionals attended their Global Health Roundtable. Students spoke with 8 notable Global Health speakers. They had great opportunity to gain insight into the field!

The Policy and Advocacy Committee actively participated in two APHA policy statements (Ending HIV/AIDS Travel Restrictions and Accountability for the Haitian Cholera Epidemic) were approved at the Denver meeting. The committee is particularly proud to have helped pass the statement urging the UN and others to take responsibility for their contributions to Haiti’s post-earthquake cholera epidemic.

Community-Based Primary Health Care Working Group held a successful pre-conference workshop. With over 50 attendees, the workshop brought together students, emerging leaders, and practicing professionals to discuss ways to reduce global health inequities.

IH Section Awards Reception. Photo courtesy Mark Strand

IH award winners for 2016:

Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement - Dr. Peter Berman

Gordon-Wyon Award for Community-Based Public Health, Epidemiology and PracticeDr. Mizan Siddiqi

Mid-Career Award, International Health - Dr. Laura Chanchien-Parajon

Distinguished Section ServiceDr. Padmini Murthy

IH Section Award Winners with members of IH Section Leadership. Photo courtesy Mark Strand.
“It was not only a fabulous experience networking at the APHA conference but also very inspiring to learn up-to-date information on public health issues, policy development, and innovations.” -Jay Nepal, MSc.
"Demand that your government pays more attention. It's immoral that people in Africa die like flies of diseases that no one dies of in the United States. And the more disease there is, the more political unrest there will be, leading to more Darfurs, which the U.S. will have to pay to fix."

Former President Bill Clinton

Meet Your Leadership

Rose Schneider - Climate Change and Health Working Group Chair

By Ryan Jackson, MD, MS, FRSM

Rose Schneider

Initially I served as a nurse instructor and hospital supervisor in a 400 bed regional hospital in western Honduras. I returned to the U.S. and did my MPH in International Health at Hopkins. I then served as a Nutrition Planning Advisor to the Government of the Dominican Republic. As the first Director of Health of Plan International, I initiated their first primary health care programs as a model for the organization. I served as a Family Planning Specialist for four Latin American Countries to increase sustainability of FP training programs. This led to developing my consulting skills and the extensive work in some 34 countries where I provided project design and evaluation technical assistance to a number of NGOs, consulting firms, and private organizations.

What does the IH Climate Change and Health Working Group do?

APHA has declared 2017: the "Year of Climate Change and Health". To support this declaration, Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health will be the official theme for next year's conference in Atlanta. International public health professionals have a critical role to play: the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change states that it is “the greatest opportunity for global health in the 21st century”.

The International Health Climate Change and Health Working Group (IHCC&HWG) is a small, active group with the mission to increase the awareness of the IH Section regarding the toll of climate change on health and provide guidance to IH members on climate change activities and to facilitate connections to the broader CC&H activities across APHA. Active support of the IH Section Leadership and additional active IH members are needed to implement this strategy and make it successful.

Some activities we engage in include:

  • Surveying IH members on awareness and interest in climate and health;
  • Providing access to webinars, links, blog content and other methods to IH leadership and members;
  • Responding and reaching out to other sections and working groups, and to alliances and topic committees to co-sponsor, co-organize, and endorse presentation and other IH CC activities, and;
  • Participating in development of the Transition Memo to the incoming U.S. President.

What benefits do members get from being part of the IH Climate Change and Health Working Group?

Participating in the IH CC&H WG would provide members with access to a wealth of information on climate change activities through webinars, meetings, presentations, etc., to build their expertise in climate change and health. Members can learn to lead others (professionals and the public) to an awareness of climate change and to take action on climate change adaptation, mitigation and advocacy.

The IH CC&H WG is a small active group supporting the IH Section to address issues of climate change and health, and urging other CC groups in APHA to consider developing countries’ vulnerable populations to be disproportionately more at risk. It is a great opportunity to address the “biggest challenge to health in this century”. We welcome new members!

How can members learn more about the IH Climate Change and Health Working Group and how to get involved?

Core IH CC&HWG member contacts are Rose Schneider at and co-chair Ray Martin at

Kevin Sykes - Policy and Advocacy Committee Chair

By Monika Mann, MPH

Kevin Sykes, PhD, MPH

Along with his work as the Director of Clinical Research in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kevin Sykes volunteers as the Chair of the IH Policy and Advocacy Committee.

Kevin has had an interest in international health since he was an undergraduate student. Currently, the major focus of his international work is on examining unintended consequences of humanitarian aid delivery, and identifying effective models of short-term medical missions. Recently he carried out a qualitative research study to determine why people volunteer for short-term international experiences and what expectations they have. He is also working with a group at Harvard to develop short-term international trips that include public health students as well as aspiring medical students. A key element to these trips is to carry out thorough needs assessments, and then base the volunteer activities on the findings of the assessment.

What does the Health Policy and Advocacy Committee do?

The Health Policy and Advocacy Committee works to advance international advocacy efforts as well as write policy statements. Policy statements serve as a collective voice of the APHA and can thereby bolster advocacy efforts around specific causes. The statements are important advocacy tools used to influence legislation at all levels of government. Individuals can use policy statements to support activities such as letters to newspaper editors. Members of the IH Section may suggest issues to the committee that they think deserve advocacy. Often, the committee works collaboratively with other Sections to draft official APHA policy statements. This was the case recently when the committee worked with members of the Food and Nutrition Section to help draft a statement on international food aid.

For more information on the importance and use of APHA policy statements, click on this link.

What kind of commitment is required for members on this committee?

Health Policy and Advocacy Committee is always looking for members who would like to be involved in their work. There is no long-term commitment necessary and members of the IH section can volunteer regularly, sporadically, or just on one individual item. The committee primarily operates electronically through a Google group.

How can members be more involved in the committee?

They can contact Kevin at, or the committee co-chair, Elizabeth Holguin at

Jirair Ratevosian - Program Committee Chair

By Leso Munala

Jirair Ratevosian, MPH

Jirair Ratevosian is the first born son of a large Armenian immigrant family. His drive for public health stems from personal and professional involvement in public health beginning in college. His early work on HIV/AIDS drew him to Boston where he completed a master’s degree in public health. In graduate school, Jirair remained active in local and international advocacy issues while working for Physicians for Human Rights. In Washington D.C, Jirair worked for amfAR on policy initiatives focused on LGBTQ and vulnerable populations. He worked to modernize the U.S. harm reduction policy by lifting restrictions for syringe access programs and the travel entry ban for individuals living with HIV. In 2011, Jirair joined the office of U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). As a Legislative Director, Jirair worked closely with Members of Congress and federal agencies to help shape implementation of the Affordable Care Act and was lead staff author of the Health Equity and Accountability Act, and the PEPFAR Stewardship and Accountability Act. In Congress, Jirair worked to foster bipartisan partnerships with lawmakers and community advocates to start the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus and secure funding for public health and foreign assistance. Currently at Gilead Sciences, Jirair works with governments in Africa to expand access to lifesaving medicines.

What will the Program Committee work on in 2017?

The development of the International Health Section’s scientific program for APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo is the responsibility of the Program Planning Committee. The general responsibilities of the Program Planning Committee include:

  • Creating a call for abstracts;
  • Establishing criteria for abstract review;
  • Establishing a review committee to review over 500 abstracts online;
  • Accepting, declining, or wait-listing all abstracts;
  • Arranging the abstracts into sessions;
  • Selecting moderators for each oral and roundtable session;
  • Coordinating publicity by preparing information on the Annual Meeting for the section newsletters, national journals and publicity brochures;
  • Organizing invited sessions by developing invited session content and invited speakers, and;
  • Scheduling business meetings and social hours.

What is the benefit for members involved with the Program Committee?

Working with the Program Committee allows members to have a bird’s eye view of the myriad of programs, activities and research efforts employed by hundreds of public health practitioners around the world. At the same time, members get to learn about the inner workings of APHA and the organization of the Annual Meeting, which brings together thousands of people and hundreds of events and sessions.

How can members learn more about the Program Committee?

For more information about the Program Committee, or to sign up as an abstract reviewer, please contact Jirair Ratevosian at

The APHA-wide call for abstracts is now out. You can click this link for more information on guidelines and deadlines (Feb 24, 2017).

Editor's Note: The Climate Change and Health Working Group is offering their assistance to Section members who want to submit abstracts for the 2017 annual meeting. They want to remind section members that abstracts submitted do not have to be project-based but can be programmatic-based or policy-focused, and abstracts do not have to have final data before being submitted to APHA. Rose Schneider ( has offered to mentor APHA abstract newcomers through the process.

Student Spotlight

By Kristen Cowan

Featuring: Raya Culper

Raya Cupler is a junior in nursing school at Chamberlain University. Growing up with a Lebanese mother and an Italian American as a father in Saudi Arabia, she already had a strong interest in doing international work. She became interested in global health through working with refugee populations in Ohio as well as in the Middle East.

Raya at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival

Raya has had the opportunity to work on many exciting projects as a student, most of them pertaining to psychosocial work with Syrian refugees, investigating how they are integrating into society. Raya says that because she speaks the language it is a lot easier for them to open up with her about their experiences with health issues, which gives her the opportunity to counsel them through these issues. Raya hopes to continue her work in public health by getting her MPH and then finding a career in global development. She believes that humanitarian aid is not always sustainable so she wants to combat issues from a development approach.

When asked if she has advice for students who want to do work similar to hers, she said that if you want to work internationally you have to have an open mind and be aware of your biases.

Featuring: Rachel Kennedy

Rachel Kennedy is a student at Johns Hopkins University getting a dual master’s degree in nursing and public health. She initially became interested in public health when she went on some trips with an NGO during her undergraduate studies. On these trips she visited India and Nepal. Following this she worked for a year in Birmingham, Alabama and then a year in rural India in a labor and delivery unit. In these experiences she did a lot of community health and education work instead of nursing work, and found a passion for public health. Rachel has a strong interest in maternal and child health, focusing on refugees, and has had a lot of experiences working on refugee maternal and child health projects. She is currently a research assistant for a team using mHealth to end intimate partner violence. In this work she is helping to develop an app that helps people get resources for intimate partner violence.

Rachel doing Community Health Work

In the future Rachel hopes to continue her education to earn her PhD because she thinks there is a lack of research on gender based violence among refugees. When asked what advice she has for students who want to do work similar to hers, she responded that there is no defined or correct path to get involved in public health. She explained that you don’t always end up doing what you expect to do, but a lot of times what you end up doing is even better. She suggests that if you put everything you’ve got into a project it might lead you in a new direction; one you didn’t even know about before.

"I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act."

Bill Gates

Getting to Know APHA

This section focuses on introducing you to APHA as a broader organization, how the IH Section works with other APHA Sections, and how to make the most out of your APHA membership.

By Jeanie Holt

APHA, like of city of more than 25,000 people, can feel a little overwhelming. Many public health professionals find this especially true when they attend the Annual Meeting. With more than 13,000 people gathered in one convention center, one can feel quite lost, ready to throw up their hands and say, “Never again!” The secret to getting the most out of APHA is finding your neighborhood within the “city”. Once you are settled there, you begin to make connections with other neighborhoods. So here is a quick look at APHA’s neighborhoods.

Sections: As members of the International Health Section, you are already familiar with these groupings of people with similar passions. APHA has 31 sections representing the broad fields of public health topics. Sections provide opportunities for members to be involved in policy and governance, both at the section level and at the broader APHA, national, and international levels. Representatives of each section form the Intersectional Council which, in turn, elects a Steering Committee (ISC-SC) to provide support, guidance, and encouragement to the sections.

Affiliates: The other major grouping within APHA is the Affiliates. These are state-level (generally) public health associations which provide grassroots energy and action to public health professionals across the country. APHA has 54 Affiliates (New York City, Puerto Rico, Metro DC, and two California Affiliates add to the 50 state Affiliates). The Affiliates group into regions with each region electing a Regional Representative to the Council of Affiliates (CoA).

SPIGs, Caucuses, and Forums: These are other neighborhoods within APHA. Each has special roles and unique characters within the APHA community. My space is limited for this column but you can read about these on the website.

A central goal of the ISC-SC and the CoA is to increase collaboration between sections and affiliates. As part of that effort, I will be a liaison with International Health (other CoA members liaise with other sections) and will contribute to this newsletter with information about affiliate involvements in global health initiatives.

IH Conversations

This section profiles various members of the IH Section to highlight their global health careers and learn about how they got into global health.

Featuring: Ray Martin

By Dr. Mizan Siddiqi

One of the benefits of being active in APHA is that over time, you build up a strong and wide network of career enhancing professional relationships that bring tremendous satisfaction and a sense of making a difference, even into retirement.

In my case, I became Chair of the International Health Section from 2002-2004. Currently, I am the Section's Historian and a co-chair of the IH Climate Change and Health working group. I am also very proud to have been chosen by the Section for the 2012 Carl Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award.

My career consisted of 25 years as a USAID Foreign Service officer, chief of health offices in Pakistan and several African countries, followed by a stint as a Public Health Specialist for the World Bank. I, like many other committed global health professionals, have a poor track record at retirement so for 14 years I was executive director of Christian Connections for International Health, a large membership network. Seeing the global under five mortality rate cut in half during my career, and knowing that I was an actor in that amazing success, gives me great satisfaction.

In my mid-70s, I finally "retired," although I'm almost as engaged as ever in global health and international development. I continue to participate actively in APHA. After all these years, attending the annual conference is like a professional family reunion for me. And I love to see students and young professionals taking active roles. In 2002, the APHA Student Assembly gave me the "Mentor of the Year" award.

In my "retirement," I have decided to allocate my time and much of my life's savings to two major projects, a maternal and child health project in Africa, and to addressing climate change.

Ray with his grandson Troy addressing the launch of a Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions at Eastern Mennonite University. He is supporting this initiative during his "retirement:".

Looking back over a rich and rewarding half century, I believe that one lesson is to start early, and stick with it. Finding the perfect position right out of graduate school may be difficult, but jump in, show your stuff, and work your way up. Volunteering can be an excellent component of a strategy to expand your professional relationships and demonstrate your capabilities. Appreciate knowing that our work in global health is changing the lives of families around the world for the better. For me, public health is a calling, not just a job. Happiness and meaning come from a life of service, working globally and locally toward the common good.

Featuring: Dr. Oscar Cordon

By Cody Katen, MPH

As a kid in Guatemala, Dr. Oscar Cordon was fascinated with biology, always pretending his siblings were his patients and he was their doctor. Eventually these make believe games turned into a reality as he graduated from the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala with his medical degree; starting an impressive career spanning more than 30 years in medicine and global health. After completing his medical social service in a rural, southern region of Guatemala called Samayac, he decided to shift his focus from internal medicine to public health. The social and health disparities faced by these communities was shocking to him.

Both of these photos are from Dr. Cordon's time in Afghanistan. Left photo: Dr. Cordon with his driver and colleague whom he mentored to become Country Director for Jhpiego. Right photo: Dr. Cordon took this photo because it reminded him of the innocence of children, in this case even "playing war games".

Over the next several decades Dr. Cordon has worked with communities on almost every continent, in maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, food safety, and a plethora of other disciplines. Of all the projects that he has worked on, the one that defines his career was his maternal and newborn health project in Guatemala. This project allowed him to practice with different techniques to mentor workers, educate patients, involve activists, and promote social incentives. All of these techniques he eventually used later in his career. Immediately following that project, he was able to use those skills as he managed a midwifery project in Afghanistan. Training the Afghan Midwifery Association on the most current practices helped reduce the maternal mortality rate of 6,500 per 100,000 live births; the highest in recorded history for this area. Dr. Cordon was instrumental in helping bring awareness to HIV/AIDS within the medical community in Zambia. There to pilot voluntary medical circumcision, it was quickly apparent that 90% of his own staff was unaware of their status. After only 15 months all of his staff, their partners and family members were tested and knew their status. Overcoming this challenge was a giant step towards building trust in the management of testing and results. These are just a few of many projects Dr. Cordon has worked on.

Dr. Cordon recently returned to Guatemala joining Mesoamerica Health Initiative. After 11 years of working overseas he is happy to be closer to his mother and family, and to reconnect with his native culture. After being away for 11 years, there is an understandable yearning for home. Dr. Cordon is excited to see how life has changed for the people who have benefited from programs implemented in the early 2000s. The future for public health is in the expansion of these programs.

Call to Action: Get Involved!

By Sarah Robitaille and Alison Griner

Membership Committee

Membership is looking for volunteers to:

  • Analyze the Section Excel roster to create reports and queries for section leadership;
  • Help contact new members and follow up on lapsed memberships, and;
  • Edit and update the Welcome Letter that is emailed to all new IH Section members.

Interested? Contact Rose Schneider at

Systems Sciences for Health Systems Strengthening

We are looking for interested members (APHA membership is not a prerequisite) with expertise and/or interests in applying systems thinking approaches and methods to strengthen health systems, in both developing and developed countries.

Interested? Join the LinkedIn group to connect.

Global MCH Network

Their Policy Statements Working Group is seeking individuals to

  • Collaborate on Policy Statement Proposals, which could be presented to the Global MCH Network Steering Committee and then to APHA bodies for approval.

Specifically looking for experts on Diarrhea Treatment in Children Under 5 to shorten and emphasize the target by 15 February 2017.

Interested? Email the Global MCH Network

Community-Based Primary Health Care

This working group is seeking multiple volunteers to assist with

  • Social media support, and;
  • Updating their website, which can be viewed here.

Interested? Contact Dr. Parajon at

Background photo credits, in order: Pippa Ranger/Innovation Designer/DFID, Meghan Huff, Martine Perret/UNMEER, F. Noy/UNHCR, Meghan Huff, Sam Wasala, Chhor Sokunthea/World Bank, Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development

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