MCHSO spring symposium highlighted family planning, preconception health

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The Maternal and Child Health Student Organization at the USF College of Public Health presented its sixth annual spring symposium in the Sam Bell III Auditorium on March 20.  The topic was family planning.  A two-hour meet-and-greet with the speakers at the WELL set the stage the previous evening.

Seven speakers were featured at this year’s symposium.  The keynote speaker was Merry-K. Moos.

“She’s basically the pioneer of preconception and interconception health, which is a huge proponent of family planning,” said Taylor Caragan, an MPH candidate in maternal and child health and 2014-15 president of the MCHSO.  “She exceeded our high expectations for her presentation.  All of our other speakers did an amazing job, as well.”

Merry-K. Moos, keynote speaker

Preconception/interconception health pioneer Merry-K. Moos was keynote speaker.

Other speakers were from the Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough County, Planned Parenthood’s global headquarters in Miami and Planned Parenthood’s central Florida office in Sarasota.

Dr. Donna Petersen, COPH dean, delivered opening remarks, and Dr. William Sappenfield, chair and professor of Community and Family Health and director of the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, introduced the keynote.

Dr. Bill Sappenfield, Chiles Center director and Community and Family Health chair, introduced the keynote speaker.

COPH’s Dr. Bill Sappenfield, Community and Family Health chair and Chiles Center director, introduced the keynote.


 The event was aimed at everyone, Caragan said.

“Professors, community, students – everyone,” she said.  “It went really well!  We had about 75 people in attendance throughout the day, and the tables for local organizations set up in the lobby were busy all day.  It seemed like everyone was really interested in our up-and-coming topics such as Lactogenisis and Family Planning, Health Literacy and Family Planning, and Global Perspectives of Family Planning.”

“The MCH students did an outstanding job with the symposium, inviting high-caliber presenters on an important women’s issue,” Sappenfield said.

It was Caragan’s second year helping with the symposium.  She helped with the general planning last year.  As MCHSO president, she has been leading this year’s planning since day one.

“As soon as I found out I was president, I knew I wanted to center the symposium on family planning, because every symposium before this has been on something else,” she said.  “We’ve never focused on family planning, which I think is very important.  It’s a very hot topic right now.  It encompasses so much.  It really spans the life course from being a child to a young adult to you’ve had a baby, now what do you do?  How do you live your life accordingly?  How long do you wait before you have your next child?  How do you decide not to have a child?  If you’ve decided that one day you want to adopt, how do you prepare for that?”

Caragan said the universality of the symposium’s topic also led to a valuable new partnership.

Taylor Caragan (center), MPH candidate and MCHSO president, enjoyed discussions with COPH Distinguished Health Professor Dr. Russell Kirby (left) and some other guy.

Taylor Caragan (center), MPH candidate and MCHSO president, enjoyed discussion with COPH Distinguished Professor Dr. Russell Kirby.  At right is Caragan’s fiancé, Jon Hickman.

“This year, we did something different,” she said.  “We teamed up with the Preconception Peer Educator Student Organization.  They provided tons of resources for us.  It’s been a really good collaboration.”

Caragan also noted the contributions of other entities.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Preconception Peer Educators or my executive board,” she said.  “And it wouldn’t have been able to happen without the support from REACHUP Inc., the MCH Leadership Training Program and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.”

Caragan’s enthusiasm for the 2015 symposium’s in-depth examination of family planning is tethered firmly to her belief in its significance for the public good.

“It’s all very important, and it’s something the entire community should be involved with,” she said.  “One of the things we want to discuss is community engagement.  We want to do a better job of explaining family planning so that every member of the community can understand it and know why it’s important.”


Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health.

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