Supporting the mental health and well-being of people working in poultry science and research has become a focus of the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), according to one of the organization’s leaders.
Naola Ferguson-Noel, DVM, PhD, who is on the association’s board of directors, said the unprecedented challenges created by the Covid pandemic meant that many people were benefitting from support of others in the industry.
And she said the organization’s large network of committees meant it was well placed to engage with members and work closely with them to help discuss and overcome any issues.
Ferguson-Noel — who is also a professor at the University of Georgia — said AAAP has put more emphasis on supporting the mental health of members after what has been a difficult period for many people.
“[We’ve been focusing on] not just if you are able to do your job in terms of can you recognize a disease…but also supporting our membership in terms of work-life balance and financial awareness,” she said.
“[For example] we now have a woman’s network that has been founded in the last few years, and it has been very active. And…it has been very refreshing for us to be able to get together in that type of forum and support our members.”
As part of the support being offered to women — who now make up a significant proportion of the organization’s membership — Ferguson-Noel said the AAAP has introduced mentorship opportunities, as well as “accountability partnerships.”
“We have a thing that sometimes we just get together and drink wine and talk,” she said. “Sometimes we talk about elder care or taking care of children and working, and so it’s been very, very rewarding to look and see how we can support each other as women.
“Our membership is definitely shifting to be very heavily female. So I think this was way overdue, and it has been a very, very successful committee.
“[Another important] committee is the diversity and inclusion committee,” she added.
“I think it is important for us to be aware of our differences as members…and make sure that we are welcoming and inclusive, and that new members understand we are supportive and are aware and welcoming of differences.”
Supporting the next generation
Ferguson-Noel also stressed the importance of supporting the next generation of poultry scientists and making them aware of the travel awards and scholarships AAAP offers.
“I don’t think that enough students know that [these] resources are out there,” she said.
“If you want to go to a poultry meeting…do an internship, if you need support while you’re in vet school, there are awards and scholarships available through the AAAP, and that has grown [in] leaps and bounds in the last few years.
“So I’d like as many students that are interested in poultry and [may] need a little financial help to be able to apply for those different types of awards.”