Summer Student Blog: Asia attends SER Conference in Seattle

By Asia Przepiorkowski, Community Health Educator: Early Study, Heart Niagara

Getting your foot in the door isn’t always easy. But it is definitely possible and achievable.

During the third week of June, I was lucky enough to be able to fly over to Seattle, Washington to attend the annual Society for Epidemiological Research conference. The reason for my attendance was due to the fact that I was able to analyze some of Heart Niagara’s Healthy Heart Schools’ program data for one of my university classes this past spring.

This data was from the 2013 cohort of Grade 5 elementary school students who had participated in Heart Niagara’s Healthy Heart Schools’ program from around the Niagara region.  

My project was to examine the non-HDL-c and over-weight/obesity status in elementary school children. From the cohort, I was able to analyze a total of 471 subjects (245 boys and 259 girls) aged 8-12. Within the cohort, the prevalence of overweight/obese in this sample was 39.1% (n=191).

The results suggested that the levels of non-HDL-c are highly correlated to children’s overweight/obese status. Both two are well-known cardiovascular risk factors and the early detection of them could identify high-risk groups among school children to initiate possible prevention/intervention measures to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

Presenting the research at the conference was an amazing experience.  Since this was my first major conference, I wanted to share a list of advice for not only those who like me are new to conferences, but just general workplace/career tips as well:

  • Don’t be intimidated by your peers: At conferences, there will be individuals with many different backgrounds and levels of scholarly achievement. Don’t let that scare you into thinking you are not able to talk to them. Each of us started out the same way, so chances are they too attended conferences as young students as well! Get yourself out there and ask about their experiences and about any advice they have to offer. They will definitely not hesitate to help you out and share their wisdom.
  • Attend lots and lots of talks: The great thing about conferences is that you have a plethora of various different themes and areas of topic that are being presented each and every day. As soon as you get your schedule, skim through, and highlight any topics of interest that you would like to listen. This will provide a great way for you to not only stay organized, but to also make the most out of your time at the conference.
  • Ask lots of questions: Again, along with not being intimidated by your peers, it is very important for you to ask lots of questions. How else will you be able to learn?! Depending on what you’re interested in, it is definitely important to ask your peers, how they got into their field, what advice do they have to enter into a certain career path, what I can do more to enhance my knowledge/training. Conferences are the perfect opportunity to learn from the experts and take that experience and put it into your own practice.
  • Explore: Often times, conferences are in cities where you have never been before. This is a great time to not only learn AT the conference but learn about a new city as well! Seattle has a lush history of amazing cafes, delicious restaurants, fascinating art and their famous Pike Place market. Try to plan at least a day or two before or after the conference just to explore around the area and be a travel bug for the day. There is always something to see, and it will make your trip even more memorable!

Lastly, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  It may seem tricky or impossible at first, but with baby steps, you will grow more confident in yourself and will realize that trying new things and connecting with others really enriches not only your professional life, but your personal as well.

Have fun and good luck!




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