I had the privilege of participating as the public health trainee in the 2008-2009 Leadership in Adolescent Health (LEAH) program at the Baylor College of Medicine. Being amongst such a dedicated group of budding professionals committed to bettering the lives of youth was refreshing and rewarding. Working on an interdisciplinary team afforded me the opportunity to connect, share, and learn from others who hold different pieces to the puzzle of adolescent health. Adolescent health sometimes does not receive the recognition it deserves, however, the LEAH program ensured that the trainees walked away with both the professionalism and compassion needed to flourish in our respective fields.
The leadership training and skill building I received as LEAH trainee was incredible. Our current economic times call for renewed leadership in adolescent health. Limiting funding to school based clinic services, health education, childhood obesity prevention, teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent mental health services forces my generation of adolescent practitioners and researchers to develop innovative programs to remain successful. Many of our leadership activities pushed us to think beyond traditional solutions to common adolescent health issues. From these activities I felt a renewed sense of responsibility in servant leadership. As a result of the leadership training, I am even more confident in going outside the box to develop creative ways to conduct research and educate alongside the community for the purposes of empowerment not just problem solving.
After my trainee year at LEAH, several opportunities came and I quickly accepted. One opportunity was the chance to assist the White House Office of National AIDS Policy on developing recommendations for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy focusing on adolescents. I have also had an opportunity to examine my own leadership competencies through work as a research coordinator with the UT Prevention Research Center. At the UT Prevention Research Center, I have been out in the field educating school health councils, nonprofit coalitions and local health departments on the need for effective, evidence-based sexual health programs. Additionally, I have started a youth led action research project with middle and high school students committed to decreasing teen pregnancy in their neighborhood. This job and the activities I perform provide a perfect example of interdisciplinary collaboration: the communicating of problems and evidence-based solutions, working with communities and systems, and developing practical advocacy approaches.