Professionals at all points in their career know that APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo is the perfect place to get some networking done.

You never know who you’ll meet or the connections you might make. But perhaps no one is more excited about such opportunities as APHA’s Student Assembly members.

During their National Student Meeting on Saturday in Atlanta, Assembly members shared what they’re looking forward to in the days to come.

“The more people you know and connections you make, you never know where your life and career will take you,” said Allison Casola, a PhD candidate from Temple University College of Public Health. Casola, the Student Assembly campus liaison co-chair, said she’s excited to take advantage of networking opportunities throughout the meeting, particularly with other student members.

“(I’m looking forward to) connecting with the other leaders you don’t get to see throughout the year,” she added. “We make these professional friendships, and now we really get to put all of it together (and) put it in action.”

Casola’s co-chair, Erica Oliver, an MD candidate from Ross University School of Medicine in Atlanta, agreed, calling Casola her best friend who she’s worked with for two years, but only met for the first time in person today. Oliver also said she was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about advocacy. As Oliver pursues a career in pediatrics, she hopes to be a bridge between the public health world and the people she’ll serve.

”Doctors tend to forget that they’re connected,” she said. “I want to be that middle man.”

Terrill Flakes, co-chair of the National Student Meeting and a clinical data support analyst at Augusta University Health, said she was especially appreciative of the way the student meeting brought public health practitioners from a swath of disciplines together to discuss common topics, such as climate change. Getting perspective from epidemiologists, midwives and other health practitioners helps spur students to action, she said.

“You think of climate change as huge, global — my itty-bitty self can’t do anything about it, but we can!” Flakes said. “That’s a dynamic you don’t necessarily hear all the time.”

Other students mentioned their growing excitement for the field, fed by their experiences at Saturday’s meeting. Sam Kareff, a MD/MPH candidate at the University of Miami, serves as the Student Assembly’s Action Committee co-chair and represents the Student Assembly on the APHA Governing Council. He said he felt “invigorated” being surrounded by like-minded students and by the opportunity to talk with leaders in the field, including U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is scheduled to appear at several sessions during the Annual Meeting, including Tuesday night’s APHA Public Health Awards Ceremony & Reception.

“Networking (allows me to) discuss ideas and visions, and gives me a realistic career path,” Kareff said.

Students still have plenty of opportunities to make the most of their Annual Meeting experience. Emily Bartlett, an MPH candidate at the University of New England and programming co-chair of the Student Assembly, said that since joining APHA, she’s found more and more opportunities for getting involved and deepening her understanding of the Association.

To connect with Bartlett and other Student Assembly members, check out the student social at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Atlanta Braves All Star Grill (200 Peachtree St. NE) or swing by the Public Health Expo, where the Student Assembly will be sharing games, activities and merch at booth 641.