Category: Leadership Development

UIC Students Attend 2017 Making Lifelong Connections Annual Meeting

UIC students Müge Chavdar, Erin Howes, Paula Satariano, Janine Salameh, and Izumi Chihara (left to right) attend the 2017 MLC Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

By: Erin Howes, MPH Candidate in Community Health Sciences and Maternal and Child Health

This April I had the incredible opportunity, thanks to the UIC- Center of Excellence of Maternal and Child Health, to experience two firsts: visit Seattle and attend an academic conference! The 2017 Making Lifelong Connections (MLC), held in Seattle, Washington on April 5th-7th, 2017, hosted current and former trainees from the various Maternal and Child Health (MCH) training programs. MLC provided a platform for personal and professional networking and to share ideas on how to advocate for MCH populations.

The conference kicked off with any student’s dream – drinks, appetizers, and poster presentations. Listening to other student poster presentations was an informative experience where I learned so much and felt inspired for my own capstone project, which I will conduct next year.  One of my favorite presentations was from a social worker in Seattle focusing on refugee health. This presentation drew my attention because of my interests in public health. I currently work at an FQHC in Chicago, Esperanza Health Center, which is located the community of Little Village. This community is predominantly immigrant and most residents are of Mexican decent. I was interested to see how the health status of immigrant communities in Seattle differ from those in Chicago. I learned about the healthcare system in Washington, the different populations they serve, and  how the differences in healthcare policy affect women, children and families.  It’s amazing how different maternal and child health issues can look from state to state and I never would have learned about Washington’s needs without meeting these fellow trainees.

Attending the MLC also gave me a deeper appreciation for the families that are impacted by MCH programs and services. During another portion of the meeting, I had the opportunity to meet a mother who has children with a special healthcare need. This woman collaborates with the LEND (Leadership Education in Nerodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) Program. She shared her story and informed us that she is a foster parent to 7 children and that 4  of these children have disabilities. Beyond being a foster parent, she is also a community health worker and a researcher.  She used her experiences to inform her research and to understand the caregiver experience. She also examined the needs of children and youth with special healthcare needs as they transition to adulthood and their higher risk of homelessness. I appreciated the opportunity to hear this narrative because it provided me the context to appreciate the importance of  programs that serve families who have children with special healthcare needs and how multiple systems should come together to protect vulnerable population.

Because this conference places a strong focus on building connections, many of the events allowed for interaction and reflection. A key activity that continued throughout the conference was the “Ring of Connections” in which every participant was provided with their own personal business cards to trade with new connections throughout the conference. This served as an icebreaker and allowed people to get to know each other, while also having the contact information to maintain communication following the conference. We also did some speed-networking, which allowing us to meet dozens of trainees in minutes.

Finally, the conference provided three wonderful, thought-provoking keynote speeches from booming professionals in the MCH field. One speech made a profound impact on me was given by Lauren Raskin Ramos, the director of the Division of MCH Workforce Development under HRSA. She spoke about her professional journey, taught us about the possibilities of our careers, and the power of making change by serving in government. One piece of her speech that stood out to me was her advice to seek people who see you as a leader. Sometimes we need to look for outside associations and organizations for leadership roles. Lauren encouraged us to pursue those skills and opportunities if they are not in front of you, and to be the kind of leader you would follow. I appreciated the reminder from Lauren who motivated me to re-evaluate my strategy to strengthen my leadership skills, and provided me an example of how to combine my passion for MCH with my goal to become a leader in public health.

I truly enjoyed this conference and I look forward to connecting with MCH leaders in the future!

To learn more about Making Lifeling Connections, click here.


CDC’s Millennial Health Summit to End Health Disparities

Kera (CoE in MCH Student) with others at the summitAs a public health nerd, who follows the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with as much love and fervor as National Football League fans, I was excited to notice a flyer posted on campus about a free conference at the CDC. The Millennial Health Leaders Summit is a two day intensive training for graduate and medical students to network, learn, and explore case studies about addressing health disparities. My heart dropped when I read that only two representatives would be chosen to attend. “What are the odds that a first year master’s student would be selected?” I thought disparagingly. The application was simple: in 300 words or less answer “What will be the most important public health issue confronting communities that experience health disparities in 2025? What will you be doing in 2025 to address and reduce these disparities?” I wrote my essay in a caffeinated stream of conscience. My deep-seated anger at the smear campaign on Planned Parenthood and the ongoing war in America to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare finally had an outlet. The essay I constructed is without a doubt my personal manifesto.

One month later I forwarded an email with the subject line of “Congratulations on your acceptance to the Millennial Health Summit” to my adviser with my own addition on the top in all capitals that simply stated, “I GOT IT” followed with six exclamation marks.

I attended the Millennial Health Summit just three months later. I met several Maternal and Child Health majors from across the country. We compared classes, professors, and how our programs were set up. It was a fantastic networking opportunity with the students and presenters from around the country. I learned so much from this conference but here are my top three takeaways from the Summit:

  • Cross Collaboration is key. There was an urban planner who pointed out all of the ways that the poor planning of our cities creates obesity. One cannot fight obesity with just education. We have to work with urban planners, architects, and the department of transportation to create environmental change. He also pointed out if you can partner with the department of transportation to create more bike lanes or parks you have made your city healthier without even touching your public health budget!
  • Advocacy requires both qualitative and quantitative data. Paula “Tran” Inzeo from Family Living Programs, a health promotion specialist from Wisconsin conducted a breakout session, stating “you can have the data, but it is real people’s stories and voices that have the power to move mountains. The example was in their advocacy work to open alternative court systems in Wisconsin. They had all the facts and figures detailing how mass incarceration was a problem in Wisconsin; however, it was the voice of a veteran who had been helped directly by a substance abuse court that helped him get his life back on track with alternative sentencing of mandatory substance abuse treatment and community service rather than jail time.
  • I learned so much through the process of getting there. This is my biggest word of advice to master’s students- apply and try. Just try. I really did not think that I would be selected and even if I had not my 300 word essay is by far the piece of writing from my graduate career. I submitted it as my sample writing for several job applications that I was subsequently offered. More importantly it provided me with an opportunity to think beyond graduate school. It made me stop and think about what issue is most important to me, what aspect of that work do I want to be doing, and what position do I want to host in ten years. Once you think deeply about your priorities you can be selective with your time and energy. You can draft a plan of attack on how to get to your dream job. I highly recommend anyone of any profession to do this writing exercise for their professional development.

Written by Kera Beskin, MPH Candidate 2017 


MCH Leadership Competencies at UIC CoE in MCH

There are 13 Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Masters of Public Health (MPH) Training Programs supported by the MCH Bureau (MCHB) and funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The goal of the training programs is to educate and prepare the next generation of MCH leaders to ensure the health of our nation’s families and children. Each training program utilizes different strategies to ensure the trainees are prepared, but a common requirement of all programs is education and training on the MCH Leadership Competencies.

The MCH Training Programs were developed in alignment with the strategic plan created by the MCHB to ensure that MCH leaders “have the vision, expertise, and skills to provide the leadership needed to design and implement policies and programs to assure that children grow into competent, independent, nurturing, and caring adults”. 1 The leadership competencies were born out of that as a way to measure whether or not trainees were in fact rising to become leaders in the field.

The competencies are outlined in three main areas: self, others, and wider community.1 Self includes increasing one’s learning through reading, self reflection, instruction, and other experiences.1 Others includes leadership amongst fellow classmates, coworkers, colleagues, and practitioners.1 Wider community is defined as organizations, systems, and institutions.1 Each of the 3 areas have specific competencies. There are 12 total competencies among the areas of self, others, and wider community.1 Some of the competencies include MCH knowledge base, ethics & professionalism, negotiation & conflict resolution, and policy & advocacy. 1 To measure progress, trainees take a competency self assessment before beginning the MPH program and once completed.

Here at UIC, one unique way we are working towards MCH leadership is by utilizing Clifton Strengths Finder, a product of the Gallup Organization. If you’re unfamiliar with Strengths Finder, it is an online survey that asks questions about an individual’s likes and dislikes and provides responses on a Likert-type Scale. Individuals complete the assessment and in the end are provided with their top five strengths out of a total thirty four possible strengths. The underlying assumption of Strengths Finder is that each person innately has a unique combination of strengths that they bring to any given situation. Strengths Finder helps to identify those strengths to allow the individual to build on them personally and professionally. Each person in our first year MCH cohort completed the assessment. We each were provided with an outline of what our individual strengths meant, how they would serve us well personally and professionally, as well as some tools for personal reflection. Additionally, we were provided with a chart that highlighted every student in the cohorts strengths along with a quick guide to what each strength meant. Conversations took place about what characteristics were unique to each strength as well as tips regarding how to best work together both in the classroom and in the workforce. Utilizing Strengths Quest, or any similar assessment, is an excellent exercise because it utilizes positive psychology to provide a safe space to have discussions about teamwork and leadership while also giving individuals a starting point for individual reflection. Additionally, it provided us with a better understanding of our peers and increased appreciation for the strengths of others. It was an excellent addition to our academic training in the competency areas of self and others.

To find out more about MCH Leadership 3.0 visit:

http://www.amchp.org/programsandtopics/WorkforceDevelopment/Pages/MCH-Leadership-Competencies.aspx

To learn more about Strengths Finder visit:

https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=webad&utm_campaign=strengthsdashboard

References:
1 MCH Leadership Competencies Workgroup. (2009). Maternal and child health leadership competencies version 3.0.

Written by Michelle Chavdar, Research Assistant and UIC MPH Candidate


The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program at UIC

Group photo of LEND students 2015

The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program is a nationally-acclaimed interdisciplinary training program funded through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) that provides professional students with the tools to address disability within a larger context of health care. There are 43 programs at institutions across 37 states, including one at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), that aim to train like-minded individuals from a variety of fields to work with a range of disabilities, ultimately improving the lives of infants, children, and adolescents.

The LEND program at UIC is a highly intensive one-year training program that incorporates didactic learning as well as hands-on experience. Pulling professional students from a range of disciplines (i.e. public health, social work, medicine, etc.), the program meets once a week for a three-hour lecture that is often supplemented by panel discussions involving community members, past LEND trainees, and children and families with special needs. Further requirements include a clinical session every two weeks led by a developmental pediatrician, 300 hours of research or leadership experience, and a final capstone project providing data to be disseminated to the community. LEND also funds each student to go to one conference during the course of the year.

Two UIC MCH students, Alexandra Ibrahim and Tina Schuh, were accepted into the program this year and shared what inspired them to participate in the LEND program.

Alexandra Ibrahim is a second-year Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology student. She was inspired to apply to the LEND program after a presentation by Dr. Kruti Acharya, the Director of LEND at UIC, in the CHSC 511 course last spring. When she worked as a teacher before entering graduate school, she assisted children with various special needs and recognized the gaps in the system that provided these students with the necessary individualized services and support. In her experiences working directly with children with special needs, including a sibling on the Autism spectrum, she became especially interested in working with individuals with disabilities and felt that the LEND program would enhance her career goals in public health, specifically in using epidemiologic data to better inform policy and advocacy to the lives of people with disabilities.

Tina Schuh is a second-year MCH student, who heard the same presentation by Dr. Acharya in CHSC 511, inspiring her to apply to the LEND program at UIC. Tina previously worked for the Peace Corps in Morocco as a Health Educator, and also was the Director of a Boys and Girls Club for two years at an elementary school, where she witnessed similar inconsistencies in addressing the needs of children with disabilities. Her prior experiences with disabilities range from affected family members to nanny positions where she cared for children with special needs. The LEND program has increased her interest in the gaps in mental health services for children with special health care and behavioral needs.

This program is extremely beneficial to young professionals in building leadership skills, networking with other concentrations, and acquiring the tools to work with disability and special needs in a real-world setting. Whether someone has experience in working with disabilities or are relatively new to the field, the LEND program is a wonderful opportunity for exploring how disability is woven into every aspect of our lives and especially among the broader fields of health care, and furthermore, how we can best address and improve the lives of those affected.

For more information about the program you can visit the LEND program website at http://ahs.uic.edu/dhd/lend/.


Life After Graduation as a Presidential Management Fellow

Bree Medvedev , CoE Alumna As a student in the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Concentration at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), like many others, I frequently wondered about my career after graduate school. I knew that I wanted my professional life to reflect my desire to give back to a society that had given me so much, but I was unsure of which path to take.

Late last summer, I stumbled upon the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) Program. The PMF Program is a highly selective leadership program designed to recruit outstanding recent advanced degree graduates for a two-year developmental fellowship with the federal government. As a Fellow, you engage in challenging work assignments, receive excellent training and professional development opportunities, and learn the ins and outs of national programs and initiatives that are crucial to the well-being of our country. I knew immediately that this was the opportunity I had been looking for that would allow me to merge my desire to be a public servant with my graduate education in public health!

After enduring an application and interview process that spanned several months, I was thrilled to see my name on the Finalist list in March for the PMF Class of 2015. I would now be able to apply for PMF-specific positions across the country in every department and agency of the government.

I already knew that I wanted work at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and began to apply for several positions. In June, I was offered a job in Washington, DC under the Office of the Secretary as a Program Analyst in the Office of Budget.

Everyday at HHS is different then the one before and I am able to use the critical thinking, policy analysis, and advocacy skills I gained throughout my time at UIC to develop, analyze, and implement wide-reaching health policy decisions within the MCH field and beyond. Motivated colleagues who share a passion for promoting and improving the health of the nation surround me. There are ample trainings available to me that not only help me build technical skills important to my position, but overarching leadership skills that will further my career in the federal government.

Each day I am proud to go to work, knowing that I am affecting positive change in the health of Americans across the country. The PMF program has given me an opportunity to develop my career in public service and pursue my passion of improving the public health of my fellow citizens.

If you are searching for an opportunity that will challenge you and allow you to develop in your role as a public servant, I recommend checking out the PMF program. The application for the Class of 2016 will be open from September 28-October 13. Good luck!

By Bree Medvedev, MPH
Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Alumna, Class of 2015

*The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the PMF Program, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the U.S. Government.


MCH Student Practicum Experiences 2015

We were able to connect with two Center of Excellence (CoE) in Maternal in Child Health (MCH) Masters students who completed their field practicums over the summer. We asked them to share their experiences and tell us what coursework helped them prepare for the programs.  Read their stories below.

Student internship program. Picture of the student and her preceptorMCH Epidemiology (EPI) Student Participates in Graduate Student EPI Program (GSEP) in Oregon

I had the privilege of participating in the Graduate Student Epidemiology Program (GSEP) at the Health Authority in Portland, Oregon. The GSEP internship is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and allows students to partake in MCH Epidemiology projects in state, local or tribal government settings. This summer, I worked on two projects that allowed me to use my classroom knowledge in a real world setting.

My first project focused on an analysis of Oregon youth participating in the “Choking Game,” a strangulation activity in which adolescents cut off oxygen to the brain in order to achieve temporary euphoria. Oregon is the only state conducting statewide surveillance on Choking Game participation, and our research is the first to focus on children at highest risk of injury or death – youth who participate alone. My work consisted of a literature review, statistical analysis using STATA, and draft manuscript to be considered for publication in a national journal. I will also be presenting our findings at the 2015 APHA Annual Meeting.

My second project, a cost-benefit analysis of flu vaccines administered through School Based Health Centers (SBHC), pushed me to use my analytical skills in a new realm – business and finance. My analysis demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of SBHCs across Oregon and the financial formula spreadsheets I produced can be leveraged by other states to illustrate the importance of their own SBHCs.

Over the summer, it became evident that my UIC training had prepared me to tackle these projects in an efficient and capable manner. My epidemiology, biostatistics, and MCH courses provided not only the skills necessary to complete assigned tasks, but the knowledge to apply my skills to real-world research questions. In addition, I came away with the following lessons learned:

  1. Focus on the details, but never lose site of the big picture. Learning to review the data and understand how it made sense in the big picture helped me conceptualize my findings and bridge the gap between research and broader health policy.
  2. Collaboration is key. While the majority of my work was completed with my preceptor, it was necessary to seek additional insight and feedback from other subject matter experts. Effective communication and collaboration skills are essential for future public health professionals, and I saw firsthand the value of strong working relationships.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be wrong. At the beginning, I was often nervous that my approach was flawed and found myself wishing for a non-existent answer key. With the support of my mentor, I became more comfortable taking leaps, making guesses and learning to make mistakes, which helped me grow and become more confident in my abilities.

By Alexandra Ibrahim, CoE in MCH EPI student

 

Cindy San Miguel, CoE student with leadership award MCH Student Participates in MCH Paired Practica Program in Michigan

I completed the National MCH Workforce Development Center’s Paired Practica at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in the Children’s Special Health Care Services (CSHCS) division. The practicum focuses on developing the next generation of MCH professionals by pairing a graduate student from a Maternal Child Health Program with an undergraduate student from Howard University.

My mentee and I worked on a project for the CSHCS’s Family Center, a parent-driven unit providing emotional support and resources to families of children and youth with special health care needs. Acknowledging that technological advances have created new opportunities for communication, our project focused on:

  • How the division communicates with families today,
  • What families feel about the current communication, and
  • What families want to see in the future.

We designed the entire analysis, from conducting a literature review, to gathering data and reporting final results. Twenty-eight families were recruited and administered a mixed methods survey (multiple choice and open-ended questions). We also created a database documenting the social media presence of the 45 Local Health Departments. Our findings were then presented to division leader, who are now working to implement our recommendations. I was surprised at how much I relied on my coursework throughout the summer. I had not worked with this population before, so I returned to lectures from my MCH courses to better understand the issues facing parents of children with special healthcare needs. The spring MCH Systems course (CHSC 511) was particularly helpful in preparing for the practicum. One of my other projects was to track the monthly budget for an epilepsy grant, and I used my budgeting slides from the spring Integrated Core course.

While it is difficult to narrow down, the top three things I learned this summer were:

  1. Mentorship is incredibly important. My practicum reminded me of the value of having a good support system. A lot of us will end up in leadership positions, and the experience of mentoring another student helped me prepare for future leadership roles.
  2. Care coordination is essential. We acknowledge care coordination as an issue in our courses, but working with families who have children with really complicated medical issues, allowed me to understand the burden families face when coordinating the multitude of services for their children.
  3. Remember to humanize our communities. Each individual makes up the community, and individual stories are indicative of what is happening at the broader population level. It was heartbreaking to see families’ day-to-day struggles, but also encouraging to know that when we do good public health work, we can improve families’ everyday lives.

By Cindy San Miguel, CoE in MCH student


Poster Presentations: State Health System Analysis

On Thursday, April 30, students from the class on “Health Systems: Services, Programs, and Policies for Women, Children, and Families” (CHSC-511) presented posters on a state health system. The Maternal and Child Health Systems class is taught every spring by Karen VanLandeghem, Adjunct Professor and Senior Program Director at the National Academy for State Health Policy.  FullSizeRender(1) IMG_2985(1) IMG_2984(2)


MCH Students Champion Human Milk Banking

1965420_823145687700167_1210488824_oThe Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, a non-profit donor human milk bank, was established in January 2011 with the mission to provide pasteurized donor human milk to premature and low-birth-weight babies in the Wisconsin and Illinois region. Our most fragile babies’ lives rely on human milk. Their sensitive and underdeveloped digestive systems have special feeding needs in which formula feeding may do more harm than good. Infant formula lacks the anti-infective and anti-inflammatory ingredients found in natural human milk that can help prevent intestinal conditions such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and other long-term health complications that are prevalent in premature babies. Several studies have shown that infants that are born premature who receive even partial human milk feedings leave the hospital earlier and are less likely to develop NEC. Donating breast milk gives lactating mothers an opportunity to use their excess milk supply to save a premature infant’s life, and is also seen as a bereavement strategy for grieving mothers who recently lost their infant.

Jennifer Anderson, a current UIC Maternal and Child Health (MCH) student and Executive Director of the organization, has been growing and managing the extensive network of milk bank supporters and donor milk drop-off centers, or depots, in Wisconsin and Illinois. The organization’s outreach efforts have focused on raising awareness among physicians, nurses, and public health professionals, about ways to incorporate pasteurized donor milk as a standard feeding practice in hospital neonatal intensive care units.

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In January 2014, a group of UIC MCH classmates formed the Associate Board of the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes with the goal of increasing awareness among young professionals and garnering support with regard to the importance of human milk access. Since its inception, the Associate Board has hosted a screening of the documentary “Donor Milk” to bring awareness of the issue, held several fundraising events, and assisted with planning the Mother’s Milk Bank 2014 Race to Save Tiny Lives 5K Run/Walk. The funds raised have directly contributed to opening the milk processing facility in Northern Illinois.

This year, the Associate Board is actively pursuing the establishment of additional milk depots in order to make the donation process easier for mothers living within the city of Chicago. Members are also excited to be assisting with the Inaugural Human Milk Banking Conference, hosted by the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, taking place in November 2015 at the NIU Hoffman Estates Conference Center.

10365315_966815979999803_1042634725965134391_oWe are always seeking new members who are dedicated to providing human milk to the most vulnerable infants in our region. To stay updated on our meetings and events, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Written by Bree Medvedev, MPH in MCH Candidate, and Tamara Kozyckyj, MPH and Maternal and Child Health Program Alum


Meet Amy Solsman – Current MCH Epidemiology Student

Amy Solsman (right) with a friend in Shalisi, South Africa

Before moving to Chicago to study Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology at UIC, Amy Solsman spent two years in Shalisi, a rural village in South Africa, with the Peace Corps teaching math to 120 5th graders. While not a regular element of the math curriculum, Amy taught her students about HIV prevention and contraception. She felt that this was especially important due to the high prevalence of HIV in the area and the relative silence and stigma surrounding the virus in the village. She taught her students about dental hygiene and good tooth brushing habits. Amy also established a Permagarden Committee that created a school garden and provided nutritional education. Her passion to improve the health literacy and the health status of her students was a result from, in part, bearing witness to the unjust, negative consequences of a lack of access to resources and health care.

unnamedAmy said that working for a year at the Boys and Girls Club and her two years as a math teacher in South Africa “helps me keep perspective in the classroom because if you want to make a difference, you have to understand who you are serving.” The skills she is learning at the UIC School of Public Health (UIC SPH) are helping her further put her passion into practice. Amy is MPH candidate with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. She feels that she is getting tangible and applicable skills in research and data analysis, and the Maternal and Child Health Program’s leadership training is better preparing her for the workforce where capabilities in leadership are needed and valued.

Amy chose the Amy 2UIC SPH because of the MCH Epidemiology Program, and because the curriculum incorporates community based participatory research (CBPR) models and has a focus on local, state-wide, and national public health issues. Upon acceptance to UIC, Amy was awarded the Irving Harris Maternal and Child Health Assistantship. As a Research Assistant for the MCHP, Amy has had the opportunity to work on a study with Dr. Arden Handler that focuses on improving the utilization of the postpartum visit for increasing postpartum contraception use.

Written by Cristina Turino, Research Assistant and UIC MPH/MBA Candidate


Attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference

3304ce9In January 2015, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, titled “United to Build Healthier Communities,” was an opportunity for me to network, learn, and go to Capitol Hill to advocate for the MCH Title V Block Grant.

On Saturday, I began the conference by attending a skills building session focused on community economic development strategies. This session emphasized collaborations, partnerships, and constituency building in expanding our MCH work to focus on economic development as a social determinant. At this session, a group of us from different sectors in Illinois brainstormed different ways in which economic barriers perpetuate inequities for Illinois families.

Other sessions that I attended focused on early childhood, MCH leadership, collaboration in policy and advocacy, systems thinking, and MCH 2015 policy issues. Since the conference brought together leaders from non-profits, universities, and state and local MCH programs, these sessions created rich discussions because of the various expertise and viewpoints. Often, these sessions were interactive and collaborative and I appreciated learning from the leaders of the sessions as well as the attendees.

Monday was the most rewarding day for me at the conference. After attending a session on 2015 MCH policy and discussing the funding needs of MCH programs, I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for Title V along with Dr. Arden Handler, Illinois Title V Director Dr. Brenda Jones, and LEND trainee Ryan Murphy. We visited both Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s and Senator Mark Kirk’s offices and met with their health aids. We shared information on the importance of the MCH Title V Block Grant and the impactful work happening in Illinois. In addition, we provided resources on UIC SPH’s MCHP program, the LEND program, and other Block Grant specific programs. It was a pleasure to attend this hill visit that Dr. Handler organizes annually. In Dr. Handler’s Advocacy and Policy course, I learned about strategic ways to advocate to a legislator, and this was a prime opportunity for me to practice with a pro!

Throughout this conference, I took advantage of the opportunity of being around so many MCH professionals by networking. AMCHP encourages state programs to learn from their regional peers and the region V (IL, WI, MI, MN, OH, IN) lunch was a chance for us to meet with and learn from these other Title V programs. However, by far, the highlight of my networking efforts was meeting Dr. Michael Lu, Associate Administrator of MCHB! He was a pleasure to speak with and was encouraging of my upcoming step into the MCH workforce. Overall, this conference was a huge success; I tackled my first lobbying experience, made some promising connections, and gained a deeper understanding of the network of Title V programs and the future directions of the Block Grant. I am thankful to UIC SPH MCHP for providing me the opportunity to attend this conference!

Written by Joanna Tess, UIC Maternal and Child Health MPH Candidate