My journey in public health was accelerated when I became a member of the students and early careers committee of the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). I joined CPHA to take action on policy working groups after recognizing the multitude of health inequities present in my community. I began advocating for the organization and was then nominated for the student director position by established members of the organization. The following year, I was elected as the youngest student director and represent 633 and growing, student and early career members on the board. Through this position, I was able to voice student concerns and issues on the board. In this role, I helped create many professional development opportunities for students and young professionals such as a webinar series, public health issues blog and a national mentorship program.
Recognizing my privilege of access to these opportunities, I established the McMaster Public Health Association (MPHA) to foster early engagement in public health for undergraduate students. Through this organization, we were able to connect students to existing opportunities in the community such as working on campaigns (i.e. a smoke-free campus) with our local public health unit. We also relayed opportunities from our provincial and national public health associations. Furthermore, recognizing the unaffordability of many professional public health conferences, our association also organized the first student-run free public health conference in Canada. This innovative approach to foster early engagement was selected for presentation at the World Congress on Public Health (WCPH) in Melbourne, Australia. After WCPH, I had an idea of creating a guide that can be disseminated to other institutions hoping to follow the same model. The guide was also created to gather implementation feedback required for future improvements. This guide was selected for poster presentation at the American Public Health Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
This year, due to all my efforts as a student director for CPHA and the work pursued by MPHA, I was invited to the Women Leaders in Global Health (WLGH) conference at Stanford. The conference highlighted problems faced by women, whilst inspiring attendees to give a voice to other vulnerable populations such as refugees. These opportunities led to me learn more about the variety of career options in public health even after receiving an MD degree.