The 2019 NHPHA Annual Meeting in Review: NHPHA Award Winners, Keynote Speaker, Rising Stars Career Panel, and First Annual Silent Auction

By Marcella Bobinsky, NHPHA President, and Emily Goulet, Workforce Development Coordinator

It is always a joy to celebrate organizational achievements and thank accomplished professionals. The 2019 NHPHA Annual Meeting provided time for us to do just that. Plus, the community was introduced to young public health professionals through the poster exhibition and the Rising Stars program. Our thanks go out to all who participated, attended, sponsored, and supported the first silent auction.

At this meeting, the Board of Directors had the honor of naming annual award winners for the following categories:

  • Roger Fossum Lifetime Achievement Award: Audrey Knight
  • Friend of Public Health Award: Sally A. Kraft, MD, MPH
  • NH Community Health Service Award: The Union Leader
  • Rising Star Award: Kelley Gaspa

Outgoing President Rebecca Sky gave the President’s award to Katie Robert and Neil Twitchell. Three members of the 2018–2019 Board of Directors were thanked for their years of service: Tyler Brandow, Jeanie Holt, and Katie Robert.

Congratulations to the award recipients. You each bring a talent and passion to the work that you do every day. Thanks to those who nominated these outstanding individuals and the organization.

Cassie Yackley, PsyD, was the Keynote Speaker. She focused her talk on adverse childhood experiences, their impact, and the opportunities that public health has to develop resilience in our children.

Sixteen graduate and undergraduate public health students from six New Hampshire universities presented the results of their research projects. The posters were scored by public health professionals. Graduate student Vanessa Grunkemeyer and undergraduate student Sage Lincoln received the highest scores. They both received free registration to the New England Public Health Conference.

Sage Lincoln, an undergraduate student at Colby-Sawyer College, conducted a project entitled “Improving Sexual and Reproductive Health While Reducing Stigma in College Students at Colby-Sawyer College.” Sexual health becomes increasingly important as young adults gain independence. However, due to the current state of sexual education in the United States, many individuals are not properly educated on sexual health topics or safe practices. This hypothetical intervention project considers a mandatory sexual education graduation requirement at the college level, supplemental education opportunities outside of the classroom, and additional resources for students. The potential intervention is designed for implementation at Colby-Sawyer College to improve health outcomes in the college-age population. Completion and evaluation of this program could influence other colleges to implement similar programs to benefit their student populations.

Vanessa Grunkemeyer, a graduate student at UNH, conducted a project entitled “Assessment of Biosecurity at Live Poultry Vendors in NH.” Every year thousands of hatchling poultry birds are sold at secondary vendors, such as feed and garden stores, in NH. These birds represent a public health risk primarily because poultry can asymptomatically shed multiple species of enteric bacteria, including nontyphoidal Salmonella spp., that are potentially zoonotic. This project consisted of the development and application of an assessment tool to evaluate the biosecurity at second-party live poultry vendors in NH. The ultimate goal in analyzing the data from these assessments is to identify areas for improvement in biosecurity to reduce the risk of disease transmission from these birds.

The Rising Stars Pre-Session this year was a Career Panel of public health professionals who work in a variety of capacities all over the state. We hosted Victoria Adewumi, MA, Public Health Specialist I/Community Liaison at the Manchester Health Department; Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP, Director of the Infection Prevention Department at Catholic Medical Center; Katrina Hansen, MPH, Chief of Infectious Disease Surveillance Section for Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services, DHHS; Melissa Schoemmell, MPH, Program Coordinator at Community Health Institute/JSI; and LCDR Torane Hull (TW), RN, MSN, MPA, CPH, CDC Public Health Adviser for the United States Public Health Service, NH Immunization Section at Bureau of Infectious Disease Control for New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services, DHHS. The panel was well received by the students who participated, particularly the round-robin discussion at the end. This is a great way for students to learn what types of public health exist in NH, as well as the variety of paths one can take within public health.

This year, NHPHA hosted its first annual Silent Auction at the Annual Meeting. The auction launched one week prior to the meeting, via an online platform, culminating in an in-person live auction. We were thrilled with the support from local businesses and artists. We were able to offer gift certificates to restaurants, passes to movie theatres and entertainment venues, tickets for games and adventures, local artwork, handmade crafted items, wine tastings, and so much more! Thank you to our supportive donors and to everyone who bid! It was a new and exciting addition to the Annual Meeting, and we were thrilled with its success.

The Annual Meeting and the programs of the NHPHA depend on our individual and corporate members. It is their generosity, commitment, and activism that are the lifeblood of this organization. In the past three years, under the guidance of the Board of Directors, NHPHA has accepted the challenge of championing public health policy and practice, enriching the workforce, and inspiring leaders to improve the public’s health. To that end, we have hired an Executive Director and a Workforce Development Coordinator. We continue to move forward with our three-year growth plan and strategic imperatives. This summer, we will once again convene a strategic planning session to ensure that we are listening to our members, identifying our weaknesses, and leveraging our strengths.

In 2018, NHPHA was named American Public Health Association’s “Affiliate of the Year.” This award tells us that we are doing something right and have the elements in place to make a real difference for the public’s health. The Board of Directors will be asking for your help.