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From the President: Emerging Issues

 Trainee Ambassador Group Connects MCH Trainees, Enhances the MCH Training Program Network

Julia Fantacone, M.P.P.
Project Manager
Center for Healthy Women and Children, ALTARUM 
 
Samantha Croffut, M.P.H., R.D.N.
Public Health Analyst
Division of MCH Workforce Development, Maternal and Child Health Bureau
U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration
 
Claudia Brown, M.S.N., R.N.
Senior Public Health Analyst
Project Officer for LEAH/PPC
Division of MCH Workforce Development, Maternal and Child Health Bureau
U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration
 
Alyssa Bosold, M.P.H.
Program Analyst
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs 

Across the United States, maternal and child health (MCH) training programs educate and train the next generation of leaders in the field. The U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau's (MCHB) Division of MCH Workforce Development (DMCHWD), part of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), established the Trainee Ambassador Group (TAG) in 2015 as an ongoing vehicle for working collaboratively with current and former MCH trainees.

The TAG is comprised of 10 ambassadors representing eight MCH training programs: Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH), Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND), MCH Nutrition, MCH Pipeline, Pediatric Pulmonary Centers (PPC), Centers of Excellence in MCH (CoE), Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP), and MCH Public Health Catalyst.

The TAG meets virtually to conceptualize, develop, and lead efforts to facilitate trainee connections. Each TAG cohort spans 12 months, with ambassadors collaboratively determining their priorities and activities. As a trainee-led group, ambassadors take turns contributing to agenda development, facilitating meetings, and leading subcommittees to work on trainee-focused products.

TAG products include:

  • A trainee orientation video and Trainee Starter Kit slide deck to orient new trainees.
  • A virtual mentoring platform, MCH Connects, to improve communication and connections between current and former trainees. (Email  Mch.mentoring@gmail.com for more information.) The TAG is also conceptualizing new ways to engage trainees via social media.
  • Interactive plenary sessions at the annual Making Lifelong Connections meeting.

TAG.jpg

DMCHWD Staff and TAG Ambassadors after presenting at the 2018 Making Lifelong Connections meeting. From left to right: Samantha Croffut, Suzanne Stern-Brant, Alyssa Bosold, Kiana Hardy, Claudia Brown

As described by current and former ambassadors, working with the TAG to complete products and participate in conferences has facilitated networking and skill building:

As an ambassador, I experienced hands-on, multidisciplinary collaboration. By working with Alyssa and Raven [fellow TAG ambassadors] to develop a webinar on MCH Connects, I had the opportunity to strengthen project-based skills while connecting with two exceptional trainees from other MCH disciplines.

 Shelly Johnston, TAG 2017

The TAG is in many ways about mentorship – peer-to-peer and established-to-emerging professional.  TAG members participate in developing trainee initiatives, shape discussion through plenary sessions at Making Lifelong Connections, and hone communication skills at a national level while being guided by accomplished and committed MCH professionals.

 – Suzanne Stern-Brant, TAG 2018 and 2019

The TAG exposes ambassadors to practical tools:

The MCH Leadership Competencies Version 4.0 and the MCH Navigator are tools I will continue to utilize throughout my career.

 – Suzanne Stern-Brant, TAG 2018 and 2019

In addition, the TAG offers an opportunity to see different ways to effect change in MCH:

As a participant you learn how you can effectively improve the lives of women and children through other means that don't focus around academics and/or policy related work.

– Kiana Hardy, TAG 2018

Ambassadors also appreciate the opportunities provided by the TAG for collaboration, self-reflection, and professional growth:

The TAG experience has helped me successfully function in a multidisciplinary team at the University of New Mexico Hospital. My MCH/PPC training centered on the multidisciplinary model in the clinical environment and the academic setting.  My work on the TAG has helped me internalize this team approach: drawing on views from other disciplines to problem-solve and realizing that my professional perspective has equal weight in developing solutions.

Suzanne Stern-Brant, TAG 2018 and 2019

My experience with the TAG cemented my interest in effective, sustainable trainee programs and the integration of peer mentorship and networking for MCH professionals.

Shelly Johnston, TAG 2017

The TAG allowed me to learn about so many different facets of maternal and child health while also reminding me why I consider myself a lifelong learner. Information is the most powerful tool that we have to be successful in both our professional and personal lives.

Kiana Hardy, TAG 2018

Connections through the TAG have also helped to spur additional networking opportunities for MCH Trainees, including trainee networking at the AMCHP Conference:

As a former Trainee Ambassador, I can attest that working with the TAG helped me to build networks across maternal and child health training programs and form strong connections with other MCH trainees.

I work at AMCHP and helped to organize a Trainee Networking Session with the DMCHWD at the 2019 AMCHP Annual Conference. The idea for a networking session was spurred by a TAG colleague, Christina Gebel. She organized a similar event at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Expo through MCH in Action, an initiative to connect MCH students and alumni across the nation, and provided her insight in the event planning process.

Alyssa Bosold, TAG 2017 and 2108

Through TAG and other initiatives, trainees are forging connections to make change and encourage collaboration across disciplines in MCH.

The DMCHWD is now recruiting current and former MCH trainees for the 2020 cohort. Application materials are available on the TAG webpage and submissions will be accepted through mid-October. Trainee engagement suggestions for future consideration by the TAG and questions about the TAG or the application process can be sent to mch-trc@altarum.org.

To learn more about MCH training programs across the U.S. and the support they offer, visit https://mchb.hrsa.gov/training/about-programs.asp.  For more information about the TAG and MCH Connects, please email the TAG at Mch.mentoring@gmail.com.