As a student currently enrolled in zoom university, I find it hard to motivate myself and feel I am working towards my goals. Every day feels the same and I am always thinking about life after university. Specifically, I dream about what my career and life would look like in 5 or 10 years. To motivate me, I look up to other professionals in my field for inspiration. But I always wonder, how did they land that job or internship? What keeps them motivated? What issues do they see in the field I hope to enter?
If you have ever asked these questions about the global health sector, you have come to the right place!
Welcome to the third instalment of our Emerging Leaders Campaign. A campaign dedicated to celebrating health professionals in all areas of global health.
We have reached out to a variety of emerging global health leaders who are either in school, working in policy, hospitals and/or academics to ask for their advice and experiences for those who wish to enter the field. This week we feature 5 outstanding emerging leaders who are inspiring me to work towards my goals.
These individuals did not have linear career paths, but they all have worked extremely hard towards promoting health equity and creating human connection.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post featuring another 5 amazing global health leaders!
For up to date information, check out #celebrateGHleaders on our social media channels for daily updates. We hope they inspire you as much they have inspired us!
Our dreams can only become reality when we commit to making them so.
Research Fellow, Global Strategy Lab; MD Candidate, University of Toronto
My path to global health was far from linear. In fact, it was my journey as a trauma patient that sparked my interest in health policy management and innovative, patient-centred healthcare. From my time as a patient, I began to recognize the need for robust health policy in both upstream and downstream interventions.
My interaction with other critically injured patients allowed me to better understand the complex relationships that exist between the social determinants of health and their influence on an individual’s recovery and general wellbeing. Ultimately, being a trauma patient and a patient advocate has allowed me to appreciate the impact of global and public health policies at the local level and on my own survival.
Following the completion of my undergraduate degree in 2018, I went on to pursue a Master of Science in Global Health degree at McMaster University. During my practicum, I had the privilege of joining the Global Strategy Lab as a summer student. With guidance from many of the investigators and research fellows, I was able to contribute to all stages of research and investigate key health challenges in the global arena, including the effectiveness of public health campaigns. This was done through an interdisciplinary lens where I gained an appreciation for the intersection of law, medicine, political science, and epidemiology, among others, in guiding collective global health action.
More recently, I have had the opportunity to work alongside Steven Hoffman, Susan Rogers van Katwyk, and Lindsay Wilson to investigate the role and impact of global governance on addressing antimicrobial resistance. With the recent opening of the WHO Collaborating Centre on the Governance of Antimicrobial Resistance, I am looking forward to working with international researchers to strengthen global strategies to combat drug-resistant infections across borders.
In my opinion, there is no one definition of global health. In general, it is an area of research, practice, and study that aims at achieving health equity worldwide and promoting the health and wellbeing of all. I strongly believe that this starts at home. You do not need to be a global health professional to integrate global health practices into your everyday work.
Here are a few skills that I have learned through my personal, academic, and professional global health experiences that I believe can be applied to several disciplines:
1. Be culturally aware
Be conscious of how your culture and others’ cultures shape one’s values, beliefs, biases, and perceptions at the intersection of health.
2. Remain informed
Stay informed about the wide range of complex global health challenges and their impact at the local and regional level.
3. Iteratively self-reflect
Reflect on how your position in the world, your privilege, and intersectional identity can impact your worldview, behaviour, and a general understanding of global health concerns.
4. Keep an open mind
Keep an open mind to new ideas, world views, opinions, and beliefs. Avoid preconceived notions, stereotypes, or perceptions, and instead, practice humility and compassion for everyone you meet.
Project Officer, World Vision Canada
“Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to go to bed by 9:00p,” “Why is…?”
I confess I was that child; I questioned everything and anything. Early in my high school career, my grade nine geography teacher homed in on my curious nature and suggested that I join the school’s Model United Nations team. Doing so changed my life forever as it gave me a new perspective on the way I viewed the world and my position in it.
During my involvement, it became quite evident that even though each country, theoretically, had the same international rights as sovereign nations, historical, economic and political factors made some countries more powerful than others. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, this was my first real grappling experience with the concepts of equality and equity that have guided my professional pursuits.
As a first-generation Canadian, I subscribed to the adage that one’s position in life is directly reflective of their input and hard work. As I grow older and continue to work in the global health field, I have come to realize that self-determination is only one part, of one side of the coin of this complex problem. Similarly, to countries, the positions that individuals find themselves in are a net result of the capacity that each person has to make choices from a predetermined set of options.
As such, I feel called towards working for a world where these predetermined options offer equal opportunities to every member of society to reach their fullest potential. This is why people are and continue to be the focus of my work.
MD Candidate, University of Toronto; Co-Chair, Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit; Director of Operations, Institute for Youth Health and Development
Community-building is one of the many reasons why I love global health. The field brings people from across the world–who speak different languages, come from different cultures, undergo different experiences, and work in different sectors–to collaborate and learn from one another. Rather than perpetuating the existing gaps between us, global health serves as a bridge that connects us.
As a student and young professional, I’ve learned three key lessons which I’d like to share:
1. Be Open to Learn
Seek out opportunities to learn about the numerous topics that intersect in global health. For instance, I’m grateful to have attended conferences (e.g., Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit, Canadian Conference on Global Health, International Conference on Public Policy) where I was able to dive deeper into subject areas that I’ve been passionate about, including health equity and community engagement.
2. Global Health Can Be Anywhere
In addition to working abroad, there are numerous community-based initiatives you can be involved with. Discover your passions and allow them to inform where you work and in what type of work you engage. For example, at The Institute for Youth Health and Development, I’ve had the privilege of learning from racialized and newcomer youth in Toronto. With the youth leading the way, they developed a participatory action research project exploring issues relevant to their communities such as self-esteem and body image.
3. Always Critically Reflect
Critical reflection is essential and must be an ongoing process. Ask yourself questions, such as “who needs to be at the decision-making table and are they there?” and “what should my role be in this setting?” Understanding your power and privileges can allow you to determine when it is appropriate to lean in or out.
I hope these three lessons can help facilitate my colleagues’ personal and professional development as they did for me.
MD Candidate, University of Toronto
My name is Tali Filler and I’m a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto. Before medical school, I completed my master’s degree in Global Health and subsequently worked in global health-related research. I also had the pleasure of working with Hayley and the rest of the ThriveHire team during their first year of operation as a volunteer content developer.
As I reflect on how my time as a Global Health student and researcher shaped my approach in medical school, I keep coming back to the idea of one crucial global health principle; what the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research calls “authentic partnering”. It is the mandate to ensure authentic partnerships with the communities we are working with, which is a lot more nuanced than I first thought.
It is one thing to join forces with local community organizations in the global (or local) contexts that we are working in. But how do we ensure these partnerships are authentic? How do we ensure everyone has a seat at the table, and are actively engaged in advocating for their own health? These concepts are not exclusive to global health, but global health is an excellent training ground to gain an appreciation for these concepts.
As I entered medical school, I was able to better understand how to engage with different populations in the context of authentic partnerships. Some questions I would ask myself in class, on projects, and in extracurricular activities: How did I feel during that meeting? How did the others that I was working with feel? Did I ensure everyone was engaged and felt comfortable? How can I improve the way I communicate for the next meeting, to ensure the communities I’m working with feel empowered to take control of their own health?
This year, I am one of the executive members of a club called the Toronto Political Advocacy Committee where we train medical students on how to conduct advocacy in the political sphere. At the end of the academic year, we meet with Toronto City Councillors to discuss solutions for healthcare inequities. Through my time on this club, I have become increasingly aware of how my global health knowledge is needed in these contexts:
Communications and Engagement Officer, Health Bridge Foundation of Canada
The year 2020 has come with a unique set of challenges for global health professionals. From the COVID-19 pandemic to the shadow pandemics of gender-based violence, poverty, food insecurity, racism and gender inequality, I often pause and ask myself what the root causes of these worldwide issues are and how we, as a global health community, can tackle these issues with a new lens of intersectionality.
As a bi-racial, African Canadian woman, the colonial history of global health work weighs heavy on my shoulders. There is no doubt that many of the issues we try to address in the field of global health, from neglected tropical diseases to gun violence and civil unrest, have strong roots in racism, colourism, gender inequality, and colonialism. Yet, when learning about and/or addressing those very issues, their roots in racism, colourism and colonialism often go unmentioned.
As someone who belongs to a group that has been racialized, I’m learning how to leverage my unique intersectional insights, leadership skills, power and privileges, in addition to my lived experiences to my work in global health equity. I have encouraged and challenged the organization I work with and those in my network to re-evaluate their position and work in the field through a historical lens that takes racism, colourism, gender inequality and colonialism into account.
As global health professionals, we also need to be agents of change, who challenge our very own practices, to improve, adapt and evolve to the needs of the world.