The Annual Research Meeting (ARM)—the premier gathering of health policy and health care stakeholders—is just weeks away. ARM has been an important intellectual space where I have met many like-minded scholars and change-makers whose research and practice are advancing population health and health equity in the U.S. and across the globe. So, like many of you, I am excited to reconnect with old friends and to learn about the transformative work that people are leading.
This year’s ARM is particularly special since it will be my first as a new faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). Thus, I am not only participating in ARM with renewed energy and excitement but also with specific objectives that I think will build and strengthen my research program. With such a packed agenda, I have found that spending a few minutes reflecting on what I want to get out of ARM helps maximize my time and opportunities. Here are four goals that I have set for myself in Seattle, which folks at various career stages may also find relevant.
Discover what’s new
As a junior investigator, my main goal is to generate research that is both meaningful and relevant to addressing the challenges of our health system. ARM is a suitable place to develop and fine-tune my ideas because it is a platform for cutting-edge and transdisciplinary research in health services, health policy, and public health. ARM’s diverse participants are also willing and excited to discuss ideas and issues with each other, increasing the potential for innovation and collaboration.
My goals at ARM are to learn from and connect with researchers in mental and behavioral health, where most of my work is focused today. Thanks to the user-friendly ARM website, I have easily located all the talks and posters that are relevant to my interests. I am personally thrilled to see several abstracts on the intersection of alcohol misuse, policy, and health equity, such as this podium presentation on state alcohol policies and infant morbidity and this poster on disparities in alcohol use treatment.
Meet collaborators and partners
ARM is where professionals from various backgrounds, geographies, and interests meet, and it’s possible that your next collaborator is someone you will have a chat with during a break or networking event. In my first year as an assistant professor at an institution where I had few connections, I spent a lot of time reaching out to other faculty and scientists to establish and nurture relationships that we know are key to long-term, productive collaborations, such as grant-funded research.
With ARM, meeting new people can be done more easily and, in my opinion, more enjoyable because of the collegial, energetic, and convenient environment it provides. Casual conversations can happen anywhere, and you can connect with potential partners from various locations and organizations in person. You can also meet members of special Interest Groups who share your research focus. (You’ll find me at the Mental Health & Substance Use Research Interest Group and the Quality and Value Interest Group sessions.)
Support trainees and colleagues
AcademyHealth has been a model for engaging the next generation of health policy leaders. As a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, I was fortunate to receive the Alice S. Hersh Student Scholarship to attend the National Health Policy and Health Datapalooza in 2021. This opportunity influenced me to serve on AcademyHealth’s Membership Committee, where we advocate for trainees and early-stage professionals whenever possible.
Today, the tradition continues, and a new generation of trainees are finding ways to thrive with support from AcademyHealth. For example, James Baffoe, PharmD, a Health Outcomes Ph.D. student in my division, was selected as a 2023 AcademyHealth Diversity Scholar and contributed to two presentations at ARM this year. Similarly, Hannah McCullough, a graduating PharmD student, is presenting our work on the economic evaluation of an mHealth care coordination intervention for people experiencing homelessness in Austin, Texas. I’m pleased to attend ARM to show my support and appreciation of their accomplishments.
Recharge, refocus, and replenish
Finally, I plan to recharge and refocus at ARM by spending time with friends and recognizing the accomplishments of colleagues I have not seen in some time. Faculty life can be equal parts exhausting, isolating, and fulfilling because of the often-incredible expectations that are asked of educator-scientists. One way to replenish our energy and motivational reserves is by being with people who value and respect what we do, and I have found that ARM can provide this opportunity.
I also plan to catch the Seattle Pride Parade happening on June 25th. While there is a lot that the queer community can celebrate, several states have adopted policies that threaten the safety, health, and wellbeing of queer folks, particularly trans youth and young adults. As an openly gay cis male academic, I take these matters seriously and personally. But as leaders in health policy and health equity, we have a collective responsibility to this community, and I hope we remain advocates and champions for them, including at ARM.
ARM offers a unique opportunity to grow professionally and personally. I hope you are excited as I am to reconnect with our AcademyHealth community. For those joining ARM this year, safe travels and see you in Seattle!