A blog featuring Sarah Boop from the Washington County Health Department in Tennessee. Sarah was one of the DIS Engage scholarship winners from STD Engage 2019.
My favorite part of STD Engage was being surrounded by so many people who are enthusiastic about sexual health and can relate to both the benefits and burdens of the work we do. During the conference, I was able to connect with people from all over the country and share in our collective success stories and challenging outcomes. Seeing so many people with such a passion for moving the sexual health needle forward was truly inspiring. I came home motivated to tackle challenges head on and implement some of the lessons I learned at the conference.
There are a lot of things I learned at STD Engage that I would like to implement in our region, but the top two are the need for more DIS-specific training and provider education/engagement. I attended multiple workgroups and breakout discussions related to DIS training and population-specific needs. Some of these included Mobilizing for Racial Equity in the STD Field, Addressing the Intersection Between STDs, PrEP, and Substance Use, Sex-Positivity: Changing the Way Health Centers Address Adolescent Sexuality, and Reimagining DIS Training, Quality Improvement, and Success. These talks gave me information to use when re-thinking some of our DIS training needs. Additionally, in session after session at the conference I heard stories about miscommunication between patients and providers, as well as outright judgement of patients for their sexual practices. I think that by building better bridges between community providers and STD partner services, we can ensure better experiences for the patients we both serve.
I think our DIS face two main challenges at the moment: heavy workloads and anonymous partners. Between increasing rates of STDs and turnover among our regional DIS staff this year, we’ve had larger caseloads than usual. Add to that the number of people having sex with anonymous partners through apps, and it creates an uphill battle for our DIS. Our central office recently revamped our Internet Partner Notification protocol and we are brainstorming how we can better utilize apps to reach partners who we are currently unable to reach out to. STD Engage showed me how people are tackling these problems in other areas and gave me more tools for addressing them in our region.
Sarah Boop is currently the STD Program Manager for the Northeast region of Tennessee. Prior to this, she worked as a registered nurse and DIS in Northeast Tennessee and as a research assistant and program specialist in Memphis, TN. Sarah earned undergraduate degrees in global studies and nursing from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, as well as a graduate degree in public health from the University of Memphis School of Public Health. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys mountain biking, reading, traveling, gardening, and playing guitar.