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Affiliate mentoring programs help pass the public health torch.

To guide and grow future public health professionals, some APHA affiliated public health associations are flexing their mentoring muscles. The Connecticut Public Health Association, the New Jersey Public Health Association and the Ohio Public Health Association are among a growing list of Affiliates tapping their resources to provide a range of mentoring opportunities to students and public health professionals.

At its November 2007 annual conference, the Connecticut Affiliate rolled out the Mentoring Registry for the Public Health Workplace in conjunction with the conference theme of work force development.

"We started this because of the public health worker shortage," said program co-chair and APHA member Kristin Sullivan, MA. "We thought the public health career pathways were not well defined, which makes it difficult to recruit young people into public health careers from junior high through college."

The Mentoring Registry for the Public Health Workplace provides opportunities for Connecticut students in grades six through college to learn about public health from public health professionals working in both the public and private sectors. CPHA maintains a list of public health organizations and individual experts wishing to participate in the program and makes the list available to teachers and teaching institutions around the state that request career experiences for their students. In addition to getting students interested in careers in public health, the program helps prepare young people for community service and encourages them to make healthier lifestyle choices.

"We talk about a public health issue and say, 'here are some areas in public health where you could work on this issue,'" Sullivan said.

Organizations that join the mentoring registry receive packages of materials, including curricula and model presentations to take into the schools. In addition to providing speakers, organizations are encouraged to offer tours of their facilities, job shadowing opportunities, internships and curriculum development assistance.

Fortune 500 companies have long used workplace mentoring in their recruitment strategies, and public health organizations should follow their lead if they want to compete for the best talent, said program co-chair Cyndi Billian Stern, MPH, MA, who is an APHA member.

"If you can get an employer to have a successful experience by just going in and doing a career talk, or having a student job shadow, you will find they are much more willing to take a student in for an internship," Stern said. "It is opening the doors of your workplace."

The doors may also be virtual ones. The Ohio Public Health Association's GURU Mentor Program, or Guidance U Receive by URL, aims to provide online mentoring to public health students and young public health professionals. Launched in 2004 by the Ohio Affiliate's Academic Section, the program currently boasts 15 career categories. Students or young professionals can come to the site, click on their area of interest and contact the listed online mentors. The mentors post their profiles on the site and list their top three tips for career success. Students can ask questions via e-mail or arrange to meet with a mentor in person.

Academic Section Chair Amy Lee, MD, MPH, MBA, said the program presently has 21 mentors, most of whom are located in Ohio. However, "anyone can become a public health (mentor)," she said. "We do not restrict the use to people from Ohio." The Ohio program is offered free, but mentees are asked to provide feedback about their experience, said Lee, who is an APHA member.

Recognizing that a trusted mentor is one of the most valuable assets of a public health professional's career, the New Jersey Public Health Association has offered a mentoring program since 2003. Through the program, public health professionals interested in sharing their knowledge and experience are paired with public health professionals who are at the beginning of their careers or students who are contemplating careers in public health.

As a mentor, Jay Goldring, PhD, MSPH, immediate past president of NJPHA, has helped students write resumes, counseled them on how to search for jobs and coached them on how to ace job interviews.

Goldring said he created the mentoring program in part to fill what he saw as a gap in the level of career counseling offered by schools of public health. A range of career counseling opportunities are available to students interested in pursuing careers in government or academics, Goldring said, but skills learned in programs of public health "are applicable to a much larger field of jobs than just those two, and the role of a mentor is to teach students the skills and the vocabulary words needed to get those jobs."

Nationally, APHA's Student Assembly has long had a mentoring program for its student members. An online database for the program is in development.

For more information on the Affiliate programs, visit www.cpha.info/mentoring.htm, http://njpha.rutgers.edu/mentors.jsp and www.ohiopha.org/index.php?page=Mentor_Program.
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Title Annotation:Students, mentors connect online, on the job
Author:Johnson, Teddi Dineley
Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Oct 1, 2008
Words:808
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