This fall, we launched an Emerging Leaders Campaign to shine a spotlight on the impactful work of global public health professionals.
While working in areas such as advocacy, program management, academia, clinical care, and more, these leaders are working hard every day to eradicate health inequities and promote people’s well-being across the world.
Last week, we published insights and contributions from 5 emerging leaders. And this week, we are equally fortunate and inspired by 5 other incredible leaders. Read their work and advice below!
We’re amazed by their overall levels of self-awareness, humility, and the various intrinsic motivations that push them to pursue their work.
Want to read more? Stay tuned next week for insights from more emerging global health professionals. Or see daily updates via our social media channels using the hashtag, #celebrateGHleaders.
Executive Director, The Reach Alliance
As the Executive Director of The Reach Alliance, I have realized that my passion lies at the intersection of non-traditional approaches to problem solving and translating actionable insights into scalable interventions. In essence, how can we take meaningful risks, challenge business as usual, and apply this learning to drive impact at scale.
There are three practices that guide me in this process.
1. Determine what problems interest you most
We are all moved to action by different questions:
How do children living without fixed addresses have their birth registered? How do women and girls living in conflict-affected regions access sexual and reproductive health care? How do communities impacted by draught access safe drinking water?
I spend most of my time asking questions about the challenges that drive me in order to inform my efforts.
2. Work with people that are different than you
Each of us brings a unique and valuable perspective to the world. I surround myself with people that have studied different disciplines and worked in different sectors than I have, and people that have lived or worked in different parts of the world than me. With the goal of learning from each interaction that I have, I am continuously broadening and deepening my perspective on the issues that I work on.
3. Practice communicating
The majority of my early career has been about communicating.
Communicating my questions and insights with different stakeholder groups and sectors, ultimately translating knowledge from one form to another. I practice communicating with different audiences as often as I can.
We have 10 years left to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and we have a long way to go. The only way that we will achieve these Global Goals is by challenging the status quo, thinking outside the box, and engaging stakeholders who are willing to take meaningful risks. To do this, I believe we need to be passionate about the problems that we tackle, collaborate with and learn from a diversity of perspectives, and improve quality communication with different stakeholder groups.
MMASc student, Western University/Program and M&E Coordinator, The Global MINDS Collective
What I love most about the field of global health is the interdisciplinary approach used to tackle critical global health problems. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I was able to combine my interests in both Health Sciences and Geography, which provided me with a foundational understanding of the social determinants of health, the complex interaction between individuals and their environment, and how to apply this lens of thinking towards analyzing global issues.
The experience that truly sparked my passion within this field was when I had the opportunity to work in Tanzania through a partnership with Western University and local women’s rights groups that used probiotic foods to contribute to health and sustainable development across East Africa.
From my experience there, I witnessed the disproportionate impact of poverty towards women and children and understood how unmet nutritional needs impacted social, economic and educational realms of life. I also learned of the immense potential for social enterprises to act as knowledge and nutritional hubs while contributing to sustainable economic development within communities.
This experience was instrumental in paving my ambition to continue supporting, empowering and advocating for health equity amongst vulnerable and marginalized populations, evoking my interest within the international development and innovation sector.
Throughout this journey so far, I’ve learned to take risks and be open to embracing new challenges and experiences. It is only through stepping outside of our comfort zones that we truly grow as individuals.
To my fellow and future global health leaders, I would say don’t be afraid to take the first step – apply for that interesting opportunity, send that message, introduce yourself – you never know what may follow. Most importantly, never place limits on what you think you’re capable of, it’s probably more than you think!
Public Engagement Coordinator, Results Canada
My go-to advice when asked about how to get where you want to be in your career is to volunteer. There are tons of great organizations out there that are looking for committed and passionate people. Volunteering is a great way to network, get practical experience, hone your skills and explore what you’re really into.
I’m a very practical person so while I enjoyed studying, being able to do some hands-on work is what really helped me figure out what I like. I can safely say that if I hadn’t volunteered, I would not be where I am at today: my volunteer experiences gave me the extra nudge I needed to get my first job in the non-profit sector.
I know that it may not be possible for everyone to volunteer extensive hours. Do what you can because a couple of hours per week can make the difference in strengthening your skills and getting to know the right people. I’ve been in the job market for a decade and truly enjoy what I do: collaborating with committed volunteers who take action as they deeply care about global health and a world free of extreme poverty.
PSSST – Results Canada recruits volunteers across Canada and has just launched a brand new Results Canada Fellowship program.
Clinical Research Project Assistant, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health
In 2019, I learned to see things in a new way during a research study period abroad. In a small town situated between Thailand and Myanmar called Mae Sot, I worked with the Burma Medical Association, an organization that collected the dataset for my thesis. During this time, I supported operational and knowledge sharing activities.
Surprisingly, my most meaningful insights emerged from daily, informal activities. In the evenings, I would enjoy the warmth of a steaming bowl of fish soup or lahpet thoke (fermented tea leaf salad) with my host supervisor’s family and other international students. Our conversations would shift to Myanmar’s political development, which helped me become more aware of the country’s complex history and factors affecting the present-day realities of ethnic minority groups.
The nighttime silence that followed dinner, broken only by cicada calls, were times I reflected on our increasingly interconnected community and my role as a global citizen.
Structured events provided yet another avenue to see differently. I was invited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a primary healthcare clinic and the successes of a local art collaboration. I explored the clinic grounds and walls of colourful lines drawn by migrant pregnant women, who benefited from the proceeds of the artwork sold. In a tangible way, I saw how these community-championed initiatives played a central role in empowering the health and economic livelihood of immigrants and refugees from Myanmar.
Through these moments, I came to understand the value of global relationships. Living and learning with the community was worthwhile for reasons beyond benefits identified by researchers alone, such as improving research operations.
By being willing to listen with an open mind, cultural exchanges can challenge assumptions and cultivate newfound respect and appreciation for the strengths and expertise of communities. My relationships brought into sharp focus the real lives of my research.
I intend to carry this experience with me in my future work in the hopes of redefining the role of community relations in global health narratives.
Student and Young Professionals Network Coordinator, Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research
A great deal of what I know about global health, and indeed the advice that I provide to students and young professionals that are interested in this field, comes from one of the most pivotal experiences of my global health career to date: being a part of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR).
For the last 6 years I have been involved in this dynamic community and have had the privilege to not only be exposed to countless ways of thinking about enhancing equity-informed global health, but the incredible researchers and practitioners actually moving the needle in this space.
This experience has provided me with MANY realizations and “a-ha” moments, but perhaps none as compelling as the importance of engaging in critical reflection. The Coalition is such a special community because it is a group that is constantly interrogating what doing global health work really means, and the importance of considering your own intentions for getting involved in this field.
Being involved in the Coalition has taught me so much about the importance of thinking very carefully about “what you are putting under the microscope” (a metaphor Coalition member Stephanie Nixon uses to describe how the problem is being framed) and how this framing may unintentionally reinforce inequities.
Learning to constantly self-reflect and check in with my own motivations for being involved in global health work has been critical for my personal and professional growth, and is something I try to pass along down the mentorship cascade that I am fortunate enough to be a part of in my work with the Coalition.