Emerging leaders are not just the future of global public health. Their unique insights and contributions are rather essential to understanding, evaluating and innovating challenges in our current health systems.
This fall, we launched an Emerging Leaders Campaign to celebrate emerging professionals who are making big impacts in various areas of global health. Over the past 4 weeks, we’ve shone a spotlight on the inspiring work of 20 people working in policy, academia, clinical work, communications, program implementation and social entrepreneurship.
This past week marked the final week of this campaign. Although we’re sad to see this campaign ending, we’re feeling inspired and refreshed by the insightful motivations and questions that push these leaders to pursue their work.
Read below to be inspired by 5 more emerging professionals!
Feel free to leave us a comment on what you’ve learned from these leaders, or a question you may have for any of them.
PhD Student, Johns Hopkins University
I spend a lot of time trying to untangle my role in global health and how I’ve chosen to define this vast, complicated field. This ongoing exercise of reflexivity has left me with numerous questions – here are a selected few I wanted to share:
We talk about privilege a lot these days, particularly in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, where privilege – of working from home, of having access to care, of having savings to fall back on, of being emotionally and physically healthy – has visibly separated those at risk from those who are safe. Global health is one such arena where privilege and othering is rampant, from structural imbalance of powers and the funding architecture to LMIC representation at the table.
What does working “there” vs “here” really mean? How did we get here, and how do we move forward?
The world is interconnected and with it, our responses to transnational issues must adapt and encompass unity. It is no longer sufficient to restrict strategies within boundaries: viruses know no borders! How can we work together to face pandemics, climate change, and antimicrobial resistance? And how can we make sure that our responses are based on equity and need, knowing that systems, capacity, and resources vary from place to place?
The uptake of vaccines and scientific innovations require that we understand context, historical and current: think smallpox vaccination campaigns reliant on coercion and intimidation, politicization of science, facts being diluted to fit narratives and ideologies – and I worry.
We must do better, listen first and foremost, and recognize that there are no easy fixes but plenty of unintended consequences. When the reaction to a potential COVID-19 vaccine ranges from fear and visceral refusal to blind acceptance, how can we cultivate trust in the scientific process? How do we include communities into this process, and do so in an inclusive, ethical, and humane fashion?
Project Lead, Sagitarix
Global Health Project Coordinator, William Osler Health System
I started university studying Kinesiology thinking I was going to pursue physiotherapy, but my career aspirations changed when I started to see the potential for broad, structural change through public and global health. As I transitioned my focus, it was hard to figure out how to shape my career and overwhelming choosing where to start.
Something I really valued early in my career were opportunities to learn from community members and experienced colleagues about the ethical considerations of global health and cross-cultural work. Witnessing how thoughtfully people approached their work helped me develop a critical lens and made reflection an important part of my process.
Another impactful experience for me has been working across different disciplines and sectors both within, and outside, global health. The field is incredibly diverse, and the value of interdisciplinary work has never been greater. Having worked in global health through local non-profits, research, innovation and now a social enterprise, a really important part of my experience has been that basic exposure to diverse personal and professional backgrounds. Working with different stakeholders has highlighted that people think about health equity differently across industries and how important it is to be able to communicate with people who are not familiar with your work, or perhaps even your field. Learning how ‘community impact’ is discussed and measured in different circles has helped me become a more effective communicator and better understand the drivers of change.
No matter how much experience people have, it feels like there’s an unspoken understanding that no one has it all “figured out”. While that can be an uncomfortable premise, it also makes me feel like I have control over how I approach my work and apply my principles. I’m not sure where this field will take me, but the possibilities feel endless.
MA Student, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs
Co-Chair, Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit
Youth Board Member, HealthBridge Foundation
When I made the move to Ottawa for my undergrad, I was ready to dive into the exciting world of politics one might expect from Canada’s government HQ. In my first summer in the city, I did a short internship with the Canadian Society for International Health. Those two months were pivotal, leading to a full-time job in non-profit programming and communications, subsequent opportunities to volunteer and network with various global health organizations, and sparking a deep commitment to health equity I take with me beyond the workplace.
This year I started my MA with a focus on health and humanitarian policy and am currently involved in a research project assessing the impact of gender norms on access to health services in fragile contexts.I often say that I stumbled upon global health by accident. Looking back now, I see my entry into global health as a natural progression in the causes that had me excited about politics in the first place.
A saying that I’ve long prescribed to is “the personal is the political.” This call-to-action, which has its roots in the feminist movement, is fundamentally about centring community experience. By starting small, we lay the groundwork for challenging the broader systemic issues and dynamics shaping the world we live in. The more I navigate the global health space and witness fellow SYPs push back against the power imbalances that underpin “development”, the more I’m convinced that the personal and political are part and parcel of global health too.
My story is not a unique one. It’s energizing to hear from peers on their diverse career paths into global health. My message to anyone finding their way through the sector (as I am!) is to embrace the unfamiliar. Confront your biases and try to get even a basic understanding of professional and research niches unique to your own. An eagerness to learn will get you far, and your global health experience will be more rewarding for it!
MPH Student, Columbia University
Co-Founder, BacharLorai Movement
Tahmid Hasib Khan is a passionate Global Health leader currently pursuing his MPH in Epidemiology from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. He shared a short video clip with us at ThriveHire (https://te-in.facebook.com/ThriveHire/videos/tahmid-hasib-khan-is-a-passionate-global-health-leader-currently-pursuing-his-mp/820423068747198/), where he talks about the challenges faced through his work with #BacharLorai, a social movement which emerged as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh (for more info, visit www.bacharlorai.com).
Lead Program Officer, McGill University Health Centre
I knew I wanted to be impactful, but didn’t know where to begin. Throughout my career, I quickly learnt two things – 1) impact isn’t generated alone and 2) identify the common goal or vision for your field.
Using these and pushing the envelope a little further, I have 3 pieces of advice for my fellow global health leaders:
1 – Listen
Every single person on the table, brings something to the table. Great ideas can come from anyone and you can only hear them if you listen. The solutions presented by community health workers in India or Nigeria were so much more impactful than the ones taught in my public health textbooks.
2 – Adapt
Global health is an ever-changing stream, it will always keep you on your toes and requires you to adapt quickly. Taking those 5/6 am calls to solve data management concerns, changing protocols based on new insights discovered during meetings with stakeholders – it’s all part of the job. We’re all striving to stick out of the crowd, but learning to adapt to the crowd may become your strongest asset.
3 – Partner
I’ve always been taught and strongly believe that there is no “I” in team. Global health is a team sport, and impact isn’t generated alone but through partnership. The excitement of a successful project, a promising proposal, or a well-functioning data system, is only exhilarating when you have a team to share it with. The best part of my job is working with different partners and stakeholders around the world. I have learnt so much from them in the past few years, complimenting the theory from my MScPH degree. I’ll leave you with the words from my mentor, Dr. Madhukar Pai, “if enough young people are enthused about global health, impact will naturally flow.”