The Power of Connection at ASPHN

In 2016, Flint, Michigan was in the midst of a full-blown public health crisis. A few years earlier, the city had changed its drinking water source from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. Inadequate water treatment and testing had resulted in contaminated water that had exposed over 100,000 residents to elevated levels of lead.

The state’s governor had tasked Diane Golzynski, PhD, RD to gather information on essential nutrient requirements for exposed citizens. Without hesitation, Golzynski picked up the phone and called Diane Harris, PhD, MPH, CHES at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The reason was simple. Golzynski and Harris had connected through ASPHN.

Harris and her CDC colleagues quickly gathered the necessary research and information, and Golzynski was able to promptly respond to the governor. “Something that could have taken hours or even days to nail down took very little time thanks to the power of connections,” says Golzynski.

While every ASPHN member may not have a story of connection with the same level of urgency as Golzynski’s, the sense of trust between members is universal.

“It all comes down to community,” states Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RDN. “ASPHN provides a sense of belonging. Members are respectful. It’s not hierarchical or rigid.”

Stang values the connections she’s made through ASPHN’s Maternal & Child Health Nutrition Council, of which she is a founding member. Working with professionals who share similar goals and passions, she finds that everyone in the group is open to sharing their expertise, creating opportunities to learn and grow.

Coming from academia, Stang sees how research and practice inform one another. “At the University of Minnesota, we’re doing cutting-edge research in public health nutrition. Through the MCH Nutrition Council, I’m able to learn how the research is translated when it’s put to practice out in the field, and my fellow ASPHN members are a constant inspiration for meaningful research questions.”

For Stang and Golzynski, their own connection resulted in an outstanding learning opportunity. Golzynski was invited to conduct a webinar for the MCH Nutrition Council about her work during the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Stang now shares the webinar with her graduate students to demonstrate public health nutrition in practice.

Both members agree that the connections they’ve made through ASPHN have been both personally fulfilling and professionally rewarding.

“ASPHN offers safe spaces for a variety of interests, reminding us of why we originally got into this field,” says Stang. “It’s just a matter of getting involved and finding your community,” adds Golzynski.

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