This past January, I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Making Lifelong Connections meeting in Orlando. Making Lifelong Connections is sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and is designed to bring together current and former MCHB trainees to enhance their professional connections across the MCHB training portfolio and to enhance their leadership skills. The meeting was coordinated by the University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin Pediatric Pulmonary Centers. The planning committee encouraged us to ‘Think Inside the Box’ and be inspired by our connections and what others are doing to improve the physical and mental health, safety and well-being of women, men, children, and families.
In this 2-day meeting, we had the opportunity to learn about the various MCHB-funded training programs (LEAH, LEND, PPC, Nutrition, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, Leadership Education in Child Health Nursing, SPH, and the Pipeline Programs) and to connect with amazingly talented people who are working and training in these various programs and areas of MCH. We were also inspired to reflect on our own leadership through a focus on servant leadership, self-care, and career development.
Perhaps the most compelling part of the meeting was having the opportunity to listen to a large number of trainees in the various programs present their research, projects, and programs. We heard talks about early intervention, stress and coping in fathers whose children have autism, family-centered care, transition, postpartum depression, adolescent feelings of hopelessness, fertility, smoking cessation, cyberbullying, and disaster preparedness for children with special nutrition needs (to name just a few). The meeting was filled with people who really care about making our country healthy and safe for all. With all of these efforts, there is no doubt in my mind that we can make a difference!
All-in-all, it was quite inspiring to hear meeting participants talk about their work and lives, to see how my work fits into the bigger MCH picture, and to feel like I belong to a larger effort or movement, if you will, to improve the health and well-being of our nation’s women, men, children and families. I left the meeting feeling connected with other like-minded folks, grounded in my decision to pursue a career in MCH, proud of my status as ‘former MCHB-funded trainee’ and excited about my work in an MCHB-funded training program helping to develop new MCH leaders and support current MCH leaders.
By Kris Risley, DrPH, CPCC, Continuing Education Director and Clinical Assistant Professor for the Maternal and Child Health Program, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago