From first-time meeting participants to long-time veterans, the excitement is brewing as APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo kicks into high gear.

First-time attendee Antoinette Parris, who works as a program coordinator at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said she’s eager to meet fellow early-career professionals who can offer advice on jumpstarting a career in public health. As she looks towards getting her MPH, she’ll use the Annual Meeting to scope out the variety of jobs and opportunities available in the field.

Parris said she’s most interested in attending sessions on maternal and child health as well as climate change. Like many of her fellow attendees, she thinks it’s a particularly ripe time to focus on this year’s Annual Meeting theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Climate Changes Health.”

“With all of the tornadoes and natural disasters going on, I think there has to be a discussion,” Parris said. “And see what role we can play if our government isn’t going to do anything.”

AsherLev Santos has attended the Annual Meeting before, but is excited to see that the program has changed over the years to include more topics on the social determinants of health. He’ll be presenting research at a session organized by APHA’s Trade and Health Forum that examines how Brazil’s international relations impact its public health activities. Beyond the opportunity to present his work, Santos thinks the meeting is a key opportunity to engage with public health colleagues and encourage professionalism in the field — concepts he hopes to inspire among his MPH students at California State University San Marcos. In fact, he’s already planning for next year’s Annual Meeting in San Diego.

“I’m already prepping my students that everyone has to submit (an abstract) and to make everyone feel incentivized to participate in a local, national conference,” Santos said.

Now a contributing faculty member at Walden University, Shirley Gerrior is a retired nutritionist who previously worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She’s been an APHA member since 1990 and now serves as an APHA Section councilor for the Food and Nutrition Section, where she’s working on a policy statement to update a 1965 food aid policy.

During this year’s meeting, Gerrior said she’s excited to connect with people she doesn’t work with on a regular basis. Like Parris, she is also interested in the meeting’s climate change theme.

“The topic — climate change and health — is extremely important, especially with our current administration,” she said.

This is the fourth time that Filimona Bisrat Semunigus is attending the Annual Meeting with the nonprofit CORE Group, where he leads a project on polio. An international attendee from Ethiopia, Semunigus will present on immunization readiness among health center workers in Ethiopia. Semunigus said he’s looking forward to browsing this year’s exhibitions and poster sessions.

“This year’s theme on climate and environment — I think this is the time for it,” he said.