Meeting this Moment: Highlights from the 7th Health Communication Leadership Institute

Meeting this Moment:
Highlights from the 7th Health Communication Leadership Institute

by Nick Brothers

On the heels of a global pandemic that illuminated every facet of our public health systems, health communicators have their work cut out for them in the new decade ahead. It’s undeniable the need for effective and compassionate health communicators is at an all-time high.

For seven years, the Center for Health Communication has focused on producing the Health Communication Leadership Institute for health communicators to help them develop the practical skills and ideas needed to meet the demands of an evolving field — and culture. After all, communicators can only “move at the speed of trust” with stakeholders (shout out to attendee Tasha Banks, assistant director of community engagement and health equity in Dell Medical School’s Department of Population Health for that quote).

To meet the moment, we hosted experts from throughout the country to share their hard-earned insights. Panelists covered how values, inclusion, and growth are essential to leadership and how communication through engagement builds the best relationships.

Let’s revisit some of the highlights:

  • Meg Poag from Mission Squared returned to HCLI this year to walk everyone through their PAIRIN leadership skills assessment to help attendees understand their leadership style and skills so they can get practical about improving their unique blind spots.
  • In a research panel designed to help us learn from failure, we heard from Navkiran Shokar, chair of the Population Health Department at Dell Medical School, Doreen Lorenzo, assistant dean of the School of Design and Creative Technologies, and Brad Love, an associate professor of public health communication at UT.
    • The three talked about humbling, major mistakes ($60 million in one case) in their careers in research and how they grew from them as leaders. Lessons learned? You can say “no” graciously so you can give your tasks the attention they need. When creating a product for an audience, make sure you incorporate what the audience actually thinks through audience involvement every step of the way. Put your research interests aside and build your research from what will help and matter to your subjects.
  • In an exciting health communication campaign review panel, attendees got insider looks at public health initiatives for HIV prevention and testing, anti-vaping, and vaccination drives for COVID-19. We learned about the power of micro-campaigns within bigger campaigns and how using influencers might mean giving up a bit of message control. The main takeaway was building campaigns from people’s experiences and including them in your campaign’s content can go a long way in its success.
  • Keynote speaker Mini Kahlon, vice dean of health ecosystem at Dell Medical School, touched on how to keep working at getting health communication a seat at the leadership table. Her answer? Stay resilient with a smile as you provide direct value to the needs of the decision-makers at your organization, and their gratitude will pave the way for you.

With five in-person and two virtual conferences down, not even a global pandemic can stop us. An advantage to this year’s virtual format lent itself to a lively chat that ran sidecar to the presentations, where attendees chimed in on their experiences and thoughts on the panelists’ ideas. It was great seeing veteran HCLI attendees claim their bragging rights to being there from the start.

If you attended HCLI this year, thanks for Zooming in. We're excited thinking about you bringing what you learned to your work and your organization. If you tell your colleagues about your experience? That’s even better. Word of mouth is the best way for health communication professionals to find out about HCLI.

Next year, we’re hoping to see everyone in person. While it was fun to host everyone digitally, it’s hard to beat the real deal. See you in June 2022!

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