As a Health Studies’ student, I think this conference really opened my eyes to just how endless the possibilities are in global health and social entrepreneurship. It was inspirational to be in a room full of so many accomplished people who were having such a positive impact on the international world. I think attending with a group of like-minded students as opposed to individually really made a difference in the conference experience. Being with other Health Studies’ students allowed an immediate dialogue following each session to reflect on the presentation and share our differing viewpoints.
A particular session that I think enhanced my experience as a Health Studies’ student was being able to see the “Student Leaders in Health” presentations, which were 10 minute presentations by graduate and doctoral students about their research. A point that was made in almost all of these student presentations was how we should never underestimate the local community’s capacity – just because we know what works in our own community, does not mean it will ever transfer to a different community. It was inspiring to see young people like myself being able to make a difference in global communities and it has motivated me to pursue higher education in the future to try to have the same impact.
Another session I found particularly interesting was the presentations on global mental health. As Health Studies’ students, we’re aware of the surge in mental illness in our own communities, but often don’t think twice about the impact of the issue in low-income countries around the world. International aid efforts tend to focus on basic necessities like food and water, and although these are important, the presenters stressed just how great of a change their programs are having on people with mental health disorders in the developing world. As well, in Canada, mental health has become less stigmatized but it is still a huge issue, and the speakers’ emphasized that this shift in our perspectives is not the case internationally and families in the developing world still do not accept mental health issues. These presentations really changed my ideas of what types of issues need more attention in the world.
Overall, attending this conference was a great experience as a Health Studies’ student because it allowed us to listen to the presentations and apply our knowledge gained throughout our education. The experience changed my perspective on global health and it was incredible to see all of the innovative work currently being done to address international health issues. After attending this conference, I think Health Studies’ students would benefit from courses that focus on global health and allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the health issues around the world.