Student Movement: Open Minds and a Passion for Global Health

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Nancy Wu (below, right) is a Bachelor of Medical Sciences candidate at the University of Western Ontario. She is also on the executive team of Western University Students for Partners In Health Canada, and attended our annual student conference for the first time this year. She shares her experience below.

Nancy and Dilani It’s a beautiful Friday summer evening in Toronto—what are you doing? Are your toes in the cool, damp sand of the beaches, or are you heading downtown for some soulful karaoke with some old high school friends? Or maybe you’re like me: you’ve told your friends that you can’t sing your heart out tonight, because you’re spending the next few days at a humble community center to attend the annual Students for Partners In Health (SPIHC) conference, with no idea what to expect.

That Friday was the first of three days that I spent with Students for Partners In Health Canada, following director Mark Brender on a journey through the organization’s timeline, hearing from our guide Ashley Mogg, absorbing expertise from our two guest speakers, Dr. Joy Fitzgibbon and Jon Shaffer. We would also spend a lot of time in discussion with each other, trying to determine the role we will play in Partners In Health’s endeavours over the coming year. This final point especially important to me, because it was my first time engaging with Partners In Health (PIH); the only things I had with me were an open mind and my passion for global health equity.

It turned out that those two things were all that I needed to start. Learning about PIH’s history helped me develop a richer understanding of the student network’s role in the organization’s work. One of PIH’s values that really resonated with me was humility; being passionate about something as a student isn’t always easy—we want to help improve others’ lives as quickly and directly as possible, but we admittedly need a little more expertise to do so. I also learned that PIH ultimately aims to empower local community members, rather than dictate solutions.
Western and Queen's Students for Partners In Health Canada
However, by no means are students left empty-handed. We shifted our weekend energy into propelling meaningful discussions about what SPIHC’s ambitious year will look like; our more established chapter heads shared practical tips for holding fruitful events, and we found answers to good, hard questions concerning fundraising and advocacy. This was also one of my favourite parts of the conference—addressing the elephants in the room so that we could start our school year off with clear goals, resources, and the confidence to grow PIHC within and beyond our community. On the evening of the third day, I walked out of those community center doors feeling connected in many ways—to my peers in our ambition, to the larger cause of global health equity, and to the wonderful feeling that our work with PIH would resonate with the world. All of this? Easily worth missing a night of karaoke (as much as I love my version of Don’t Stop Believin’).

If you’re a student Western University and you’re interested in getting involved, don’t hesitate to contact the club at pih.western@gmail.com. For more information on our other chapters, please click here

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