A blog featuring Travis Eckman-Rocha, a DIS from the Minnesota Department of Health. Travis was one of the DIS Engage scholarship winners from STD Engage 2020.
The opportunities to learn from other DIS and professionals in the STD field were the best part of STD Engage 2020. Seeing people who have had the same experiences, questions, and struggles that I have and learn how they have dealt with those situations was incredibly valuable. I am so grateful to have been able to attend STD Engage for its focus on the work of DIS and people that are making this field more equitable, youth-friendly, and sex-positive. Despite not being able to gather in person, the virtual platform and the content focused on health equity met the demands of the current moment defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice.
I walked away from STD Engage with so many nuggets of brilliance from other people that I have already started using, with great success, in my work. Some of the best takeaways came from the pre-conference workshop called “Enhancing DIS Motivational Interviewing: COVID-19 and STDs” and listening to other people talk about how they do their jobs as a DIS, hearing new ways of explaining complex health topics in simple, straightforward terms, and learning tips for completing successful partner services interviews. Another takeaway was a renewed inspiration. Virtually gathering with others in this time of isolation energized me and made me proud to be doing this work alongside so many passionate individuals.
Virtually gathering with others in this time of isolation energized me and made me proud to be doing this work alongside so many passionate individuals.
COVID-19 has exacerbated almost all existing challenges faced by DIS and has created a completely new set of its own challenges. Balancing priorities with COVID-19 redeployments and staying motivated through changing job functions have been challenges that many of us have faced in the last year. I heard in many sessions the extent to which COVID-19 has affected the work of so many people in our field. These challenges are going to have to be met with creativity and resilience. Fortunately, problem-solving is an essential skill to be a DIS and our work is adapting in new ways. A great example of how COVID-19 has encouraged us all to address long-standing problems in new ways is the work being done by the speakers of the session titled, “Looking Beyond STDs: Tackling Homelessness and Substance Use Disorders Through a Health Equity Lens”.
Travis Eckman-Rocha is a Disease Intervention Specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health. His career in the field of sexual health and STD/HIV prevention and services spans over 8 years and includes sexuality education, HIV community outreach and testing, and HIV prevention program coordination. He studied Biology and Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University. Travis has a passion for sexual health that is rooted in breaking down stigma, reducing barriers for people, and empowering them with knowledge. In his free time, Travis enjoys the outdoors, traveling (while not in the midst of a global pandemic), ambitious cooking and baking projects, and sharing his kitchen creations with friends and loved ones.