MetaECHO 2023 Global Conference: Igniting Transformation in Global Health

In the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico, MetaECHO 2023 unfolded as more than just a conference; it was a convergence of minds, a celebration of collective wisdom, and a catalyst for transformative change. As we delve into the insights gleaned from interviews with the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) attendees from NCCPHT’s Project ECHO Team —Amy Jacobs, Program Manager; Garlie St. Cyr, Program Assistant for Project ECHO; and Serena McCovery, Senior Program Manager—the narrative of MetaECHO 2023 emerges as a vibrant tapestry, woven with enthusiasm and innovation demonstrating the profound impact of the ECHO model.

Insights from the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) attendees—Amy Jacobs, Program Manager; Garlie St. Cyr, Program Assistant for Project ECHO; and Serena McCovery, Senior Program Manager— demonstrate the enthusiasm around the conference and the impact of the ECHO model. In addition to staff members, NNPHI was joined by partners and member institutes working under the Covid Health Equity project. Together, NNPHI and its partners presented four breakout sessions during the MetaECHO Conference to highlight their work using the ECHO model and showcase emerging trends to enhance the model.

The ECHO Model® is a collaborative and transformative learning framework that was originally inspired by the principles of medical rounds during residencies then adapted for broader communities in a virtual space. Embracing the philosophy of “all teach, all learn,” it fosters a virtual community where participants share support, guidance, and feedback. This model’s unique approach involves presenting real case studies for discussion among specialists and peers, creating a continuous loop of learning, mentoring, and peer support that extends beyond traditional educational formats. NNPHI has worked to adapt the ECHO model to serve public health practitioners and build a network to tackle relevant topics in public health.

MetaECHO 2023 left a lasting imprint on the attendees, including Amy Jacobs, a Program Manager with a wealth of experience in community-driven public health. She noted a powerful sense of passion and camaraderie, emphasizing the collective gratitude for the ECHO model and its potential. Amy appreciated the atmosphere which reflected a community grateful for the journey of the past two decades since Project ECHO’s origin and eager to chart the course for the future. Inspired by lessons learned from the MetaECHO Conference, Amy is excited to work with her team to continue to adapt the ECHO model for public health applications with a focus on accessibility, creativity, and community voice.

Garlie St. Cyr, Program Assistant for Project ECHO, provided insights into the variety of sessions at the conference, including those from NNPHI staff and partners. Notable presenters and colleagues
Jannah Bierens, Kady Pecorella, Imani Daniel and Sabrina Selk, “took such a raw and explicit and authentic approach to the conversation and also brought some critiques and calls to action for the ECHO community” during their session called “Using the Project ECHO Model to Address Health and Racial Inequities in Public Health”. These sessions were crucibles of thought, forging new perspectives and sparking critical conversations that will reverberate through the corridors of public health.

Garlie also reflected on a unique ECHO session from presenters based in New Hampshire that focused on political literacy. The session “Using ECHO to Promote Advocacy on the Political Determinants of Health” highlighted an ECHO series that discussed bills on the Congressional floor and bridged the gap between health departments, stakeholders, and policy advocates. This session exemplified the adaptability and innovation inherent in the ECHO model, providing a blueprint for potential collaborations within the advocacy space in public health.

Serena McCovery, a Senior Program Manager at NNPHI, emphasized the rich networking opportunities, connecting with individuals and organizations at various experience levels. “The other Superhubs were very inviting and willing to share expertise and ideas.” The layout of the event fostered natural conversations, and attendees, including Superhubs, were welcoming and open to collaboration. This collaborative spirit bodes well for the future as partnerships formed in Albuquerque can become the foundations for innovative solutions in public health.

NCCPHT’s Project ECHO team expressed the multifaceted nature of community building within the ECHO model. For Garlie, the exchange of ideas and facilitation of growth stood out, while Serena highlighted the model’s ability to mold and shapeshift, creating valuable spaces for organizations to adapt these principles to unique projects. Amy agrees with these reflections and sees the model’s adaptability and community’s growth as important indicators of ECHO’s unique value. These takeaways signify an applied understanding and a profound commitment to the principles underpinning the ECHO movement. The team looks forward to leveraging partnerships built and lessons learned throughout the conference to continue amplifying Project ECHO for Public Health and the ECHO community.

The collective ECHO work discussed at the event, as witnessed by Amy Jacobs, is poised to impact public health efforts significantly. The emphasis on community, capacity building, and the exchange of ideas reflects a commitment to innovative growth and transformative collaboration. As MetaECHO 2023 becomes a beacon for change, its reach will extend beyond its conference walls, influencing policies and initiatives worldwide.

Attendees and NNPHI collaborators, including Jannah Bierens and Kory Thomas, are actively involved in the MetaECHO community, and this participation was observed by Garlie. The future, as she expressed, will see efforts to build a larger collaborative network, strengthening existing relationships innovatively. This commitment to community-building signifies a collective understanding that the strength of the ECHO movement lies in its interconnectedness. As MetaECHO 2023 becomes a cornerstone, the future promises a larger, more interconnected ECHO network that will tackle global health challenges with renewed vigor.

Firsthand experiences shared by Serena, who presented at MetaECHO, and Amy, who attended shortly after starting her role as Program Manager for NCCPHT’s Project ECHO team, exemplify the impactful and encouraging environment fostered at the conference. Accessibility, both in language and space, emerged as a crucial theme with long-lasting implications for their careers. These personal stories underscore the human element of the ECHO movement, where individuals like Amy, Garlie, and Serena are not just attendees but active contributors to the narrative of change.

The ECHO Team expressed gratitude to Meg Ann Traci, a Research Professor at the Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities; Meghan Wolfe, the Associate Director of Capacity Building and Technical Assistance for the NCCPHT; and Melissa Lobato, the Superhub Support Team Manager whom Amy says, “greeted everyone individually and made everyone feel welcome and a part of community.” The MetaECHO 2023 conference is a symbol of inspiration, collaboration, and a springboard for the future of ECHO projects. With eyes set on the horizon, the community eagerly anticipates the next chapter in the transformative journey of ECHO, armed with the knowledge that the seeds planted last September will grow into a forest of change.

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