Making a Difference: Looking Back at AMCHP 2008
By Mike R. Fraser, PhD
The 2008 Annual Conference was certainly an event to remember and I remember it well since it was the first AMCHP Conference I ever attended! The Conference was a jam-packed week of meetings, sessions, receptions, early morning “fun” walks (as fun as fun can be at six o’clock in the morning!) and getting to know the wonderful diversity of people, backgrounds, and expertise that comprise AMCHP today. A highlight was getting to know members that I had not yet met due to distance. For example, it was truly a pleasure to meet our members from Guam and other members from the Pacific Islands. They literally traveled for two days to get to Washington, D.C. — now that is dedication to MCH!
The theme of AMCHP’s 2008 Conference was “Making a Difference” — a theme that captures the spirit of state maternal and child health programs and their staff. We heard from experts across the country on how maternal and child health programs are having an impact on the health of the women, children and families in their states. Plenary sessions on cultural competency, using data to inform policy, and the need for health care reform rounded out our general sessions. Particularly moving was the presentation of the first-ever Merle McPherson Family Leadership award — awarded to Bob Cook of Illinois for his work to promote family leadership in his state and across the country. Also honored were Dr. Peter van Dyck of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau with the Vince Hutchins Leadership Award and Dr. William Hollinshead of Rhode Island with the AMCHP President’s Award. In recognition of how world events are shaping our MCH programs, AMCHP honored Dr. Victor Sidel with the John MacQueen Lecture Award and we were all treated to Dr. Sidel’s luncheon address and workshop on “War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things.”
Like so many conferences, “work” took place not only in the general sessions but in the hallways, meeting rooms, breakouts and workshops — and yes, even the lobby bar. Walking through the conference hotel I heard everything from casual conversations among old friends to new graduates having job interviews, lively debates on MCH policy for the future, to ways that states deal with emerging issues and budget cuts. The exhibit hall was chock full of good resources, new contacts, and cutting edge information — including the release of the much anticipated National Report on Children with Special Health Care Needs. It was hard to focus on which workshops and skills building sessions to attend because there was so much on the program and so much in which I was interested. Having participated in many conferences in the past, I had a vague idea what to expect at AMCHP — but I had no idea of the breadth of the topics included on the program, and was so impressed with the commitment everyone had to their work — folks were literally working well into the night talking, sharing data, and working on joint projects. It was a great to see everyone together learning, laughing, leading and taking advantage of every minute the Conference afforded us.
One of the most important functions a national association plays is brining together members from across the country to share ideas, learn new things, and network with colleagues and peers. AMCHP’s convening and connecting work is a large part of what we hear members value about their membership in AMCHP. The Conference is a major way that we move our strategic plan forward — it offers opportunities for workforce development, partnership, and professional enrichment and yes, even raises funds for AMCHP’s activities throughout the year. All told, I believe our Annual Conference to be one of the most important things we do. The Conference takes months to plan, involves our entire membership, and connects us to the work of others in local, state and federal agencies, academic institutions, other for-profit and non-profit affiliated MCH groups.
I look back fondly on AMCHP 2008, maybe as a debutante looks back at her “coming out ball.” Being new to AMCHP, the whole event was a great way to get to know you and find out about all the great work you do. Planning for our 2009 Conference is now in the final stages and hopefully you are making plans to attend. Our next issue of Pulse will feature some of the great content to be shared this February in addition to a number of the many networking and social events that make an AMCHP Conference fun. I hope to see you in Washington!
Content from AMCHP’s 2008 Conference is posted online! See what you may have missed, and get ready for AMCHP 2009!