My name is Brandon Osborn. I am a PhD candidate in the Program in Public Health at the University of California, Irvine.
Within the last 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has made population health a focal point within the public sphere. Many IAPHS members are tackling this pandemic head-on in our work. For example, Dr. Tim Bruckner is conducting surveillance in Southern California. Dr. Sandra Albrecht, Dr. Malia Jones, and the rest of those Nerdy Girls are tackling misinformation through Dear Pandemic. Drs. Roland J. Thorpe and Darrell Hudson discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is harming Black men in particular.
We have also been dealing with other challenges, whether it has been caring for ourselves or a family member, fighting for social justice, homeschooling our children, or learning to adapt to the many societal changes that have occurred since the onset of the pandemic.
COVID-19 has not only shed light on existing health inequities, but it has also exacerbated them. Now more than ever, the need for interdisciplinary population health research is crucial. I am proud to be a member of IAPHS working towards tackling health disparities and fighting for health equity.
I have been a member of IAPHS since 2019. I joined after learning about IAPHS from my doctoral chair, Dr. Annie Ro. I first attended and presented a poster at the 2019 conference in Seattle. It was an absolute game-changer for me. Before the 2019 meeting, I was a pre-candidacy student and considering leaving my PhD program due to many factors including a loss of interest and determination. However, attending the conference reinvigorated my passion for population health research. Not only did I gain exposure to cutting-edge interdisciplinary research focused on issues I cared about, but I also networked with dozens of IAPHS members. Some of these members have given me strong mentorship and have supported me to continue with my PhD and research (Drs. Andy Subica and Bridgette Blebu, thank you!)
In January 2020, I was looking forward to submitting my next IAPHS conference abstract, and I applied for a student travel scholarship, thinking I would be traveling to Minnesota. I could not wait to attend this conference, given my positive experience in 2019. I was disappointed when I heard the conference would be virtual. While I understood why these measures were required, my selfish side asked, “How am I going to connect with my fellow IAPHS members this year?” I was skeptical that a virtual experience would allow this. However, the virtual 2020 conference proved to be fruitful, just in a different way.
While I missed seeing people in person, reading rows of well-designed posters in a conference hall, and enjoying an early morning coffee and breakfast, I still experienced the IAPHS community in a meaningful way. Since the sessions were recorded, I was able to attend more sessions than I had the previous year, and I participated in more Q&As. The virtual conference provided the opportunity to network, and many of the conference conversations continued on social media platforms, like Twitter.
For most of 2020, I felt somewhat disconnected from others while sheltering in place. However, once again, the IAPHS conference continued to deliver and allowed me to connect to this wonderful community, this time online.
Abstracts for the 2021 IAPHS conference, “Racism, Power, and Justice: Achieving Population Health Equity” (October 19-21, Baltimore, Maryland) are being accepted now and are due on March 8. I encourage others, and in particular, students to submit their work and to participate. Whether we meet in Baltimore or online, I hope to see you there!