Young Professionals Advisory Committee, Community Wellness and the Road Ahead

Just like that, it is April! We are well into the swing of 2021, and I hope everyone has been honest with their New Year Resolutions! One of mine was to journal every day, and at the time of writing this column, I think I stayed true to my resolution about 50-60% of the time. I am quite content with that (obviously, would want to be 100% efficient) as it is hard when there is snow outside and “work from home” is the norm. I wonder if you have had any … unexpected challenges because of the pandemic? Do write to me and share!

While some of you have had some amazing winters with snow, I have kept myself occupied with research, Young Professionals Advisory Committee discussions, and pictures of pets seeing snow for the first time (thank you, social media!). Being originally from India, I don’t think the snow will ever get old. Besides, first Glasgow snow for me; which is a lot more than I experienced in England a few years ago.

This month, I want to share:

• Updates from the Young Professionals Advisory Committee
• Our Global Strategy Representatives joining the Advisory Committee
• A case study about community wellness, and mental health within and beyond the Society

Young Professionals Advisory Committee
I have long considered and known that the best work can be compounded in impact through a team. While my visions of the direction of the Young Professionals within the IEEE spans far and wide (equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), mental health and overall wellness, support and opportunity for professional development regardless of career stages and levels, and many more), these goals would be impossible to achieve without a team that both reflects these motivations and spans across the globe and do-mains. While we intend to serve the needs of the young professionals within the Society, our team must and will be reflective of the incredible diversity in the Community. I have been in conversation with two of the most wonderful IEEE Photonics Society staff, Lauren Mecum-Smith, and Kristen Mahan, to bring together a group of individuals who are well on their journey to making a positive impact.

The Committee members will bring their wealth of experience and the zeal to execute initiatives that are focused and intended for young professionals within the Society, and beyond. We also welcome suggestions and volunteers throughout this journey. As teamwork is key to this initiative, I felt the words of Helen Keller and Henry Ford were rather befitting.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”
Henry Ford

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much
Helen Keller

The YP Advisory Committee will include members of the IEEE Photonics Society community, with five Global Strategy Representatives and five positions in the areas of (1) Student Transition and Elevation Partnership (STEP) and Graduate Transition Rep, (2) Publications, (3) Conferences, (4) Education and Mentoring, and (5) Leadership, Training and Professional Development. These roles encompass the motivation of my term and seamlessly integrate into the various IEEE themes.

Young Professionals Global Strategy Representatives
he Global Strategy Representatives within the Young Professionals community holds a very interesting position. A Global Strategy Representative is responsible for supporting the strategy, planning, and execution of a region of interest for the Society. There are (3) three Global Strategy Representatives, i.e. International, Regional, and Young Professional, per each region. Regions of interest are identified as regions emerging within the photonics community and in need of membership or volunteerism growth.

The Young Professional Global Strategy Representatives specifically support both the Society’s Globalization Commit-tee and Young Professionals Advisory Committee by steering outreach, educational offerings, and membership growth strategies for young professionals within their respective target regions. This includes but is not limited to facilitating local academic exchanges and chapters; fostering student transition programs; identifying geographical trends and needs; developing creative solutions to better reach and engage with marginalized groups within their region; etc.

Each representative is also actively involved in initiatives and studies that are commissioned by the Young Professionals

Advisory Committee and the Committee’s Chair, the AVP of Young Professionals. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you members of the Advisory Committee–our Young Professionals Global Strategy Representatives.
This is a brilliant step towards the mission of the Advisory Committee and devising a Charter as our Global Strategy Representatives have contributed significantly to our Society (watch out for their YP Spotlights!).

Community Wellness and Mental Health Initiative
While professional development and initiatives are undoubtedly key for individual performance and progression, we must not forget about the individual’s wellness. With more and more evidence showing the impact of mental health and isolation during this pandemic, I am extremely concerned about our membership’s personal wellness. Let me share with you something I heard about in a podcast that highlights the power of belonging and a community, a feeling I intend to facilitate and promote for the IEEE Photonics Society Young Professionals.

Frome is a town and civil parish in Somerset, England. The town has a rich history and was one of the largest towns in Somerset until the Industrial Revolution. At the beginning of 2016, the Frome Medical Practice initiated an incredible and innovative model of healthcare in Frome and the surrounding Mendip area. Without replacing available social care, the Frome Model1,2 focuses on (1) making the most of supportive networks within the community to build care, compassion, connectedness, love, laughter, and values, (2) building support networks in routine, daily tasks, and (3) promoting participation and links to community activities for people to make friendships and share life’s events.
While simplistic in design, the project achieved something remarkable—a 15% reduction of emergency admissions to the National Health Service (NHS) when the overall admissions in Somerset rose by 30% in the same period. Dr. Julian Abel, the Director of Compassionate Communities UK says, “Medicine until now has not seen the social relationships domain as part of clinical care. However, it is the most effective intervention we have in improving health and wellbeing across populations. The project in Frome has found a way of making compassionate communities an embedded part of care. The results of doing so are startling.

In the hope of a similar outcome with the sense of community and overall wellbeing within the Young Professionals of the Society, in the IEEE and beyond, I am extremely proud and happy to announce our first steps towards promoting wellness within the community—a collaboration with Dragonfly Mental Health (DMH). DMH is a globally operating non-profit organization that is partnering with the IEEE Photonics Society and the Young Professionals Advisory Committee to create awareness and a safe space for conversation to cultivate better mental health. More on this in the article, “Mental Health within and beyond the Society” in this Issue.

Finally …
The Young Professionals Advisory Committee is motivated to enhance the community’s experiences at their study/workplace and within the IEEE Photonics Society. With improving conference experiences, learning opportunities, outreach activities, career transition support, and so many more objectives, we are optimistic about this positive impact. We are just a few weeks away from getting the Committee together, creating a Charter, and beginning our work in service of the membership. We hope that we have your support, initiative, and volunteer efforts to help us achieve our objectives.

About the Column
This regular column is written on behalf of and for Young Professionals in the IEEE Photonics Society. The eligible membership for YP is broadly anyone after their first graduation/qualification and up until many years into their professional careers. This makes the IEEE PS YP community one of the largest groups within the membership. Through this column, with inputs from me and other invited authors, I hope to be representative of a subcommittee that caters to the needs of this diverse community. The expectation of this column is to provide a forum for me to share the subcommittee’s progress. I encourage you to write back to me with your insights and promote a positive, ever-progressing outlook. Please reach out to me ( if you would like to comment, support and write for this column. Reach out on Twitter (@OptoPhysAkhil) too!

A Bit About Me

I (Akhil Kallepalli) grew up in the vibrant coastal town of Visakhapatnam in India. My background is diverse and of a “jack of all trades” nature; I have worked on remote sensing, hyperspectral imaging, biomedical optics and biophotonics, and novel modalities for sub-diffraction level imaging. After completing my Ph.D. in biomedical optics and biophotonics at Cranfield University (Shrivenham, UK), I am now based at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow as a postdoctoral research associate.