University of Calgary

Graduate students exposed to global health issues

UToday HomeFebruary 15, 2013

By Julia MacGregor

Duyen Nguyen (centre left) at the World Health Assembly with the Canadian delegates and interns, including Chief Public Health Officer David Butler-Jones. Photo by Duyen NguyenDuyen Nguyen (centre left) at the World Health Assembly with the Canadian delegates and interns, including Chief Public Health Officer David Butler-Jones. Photo by Duyen NguyenFor graduate students in the University of Calgary’s Department of Community Health Sciences, summer is more than sun bathing, Stampede and reading murder mysteries. Summer is an opportunity to step outside of Calgary’s academic setting and be exposed to global health issues.

Duyen Nguyen, Helen Tam and Tharsiya Nagulesapillai were a few of the graduate students successful in obtaining internships at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland these past two summers.

Duyen Nguyen, a PhD candidate in Population and Public Health, interned in the WHO’s Social Determinants of Health stream where her project looked at the determinants of tobacco use in older adults living in India.

Helen Tam, a Master’s student, was with the Management of Substance Abuse team. She was able to work on a variety of projects from the development of guidelines for substance use in pregnancy to the creation of technical documents and the utilization of social networks for World Drug Day.

Tharsiya Nagulesapillai, who has now completed her Master of Science in Epidemiology, worked in the Tuberculosis Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of Stop TB Department. Tharsiya conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on childhood tuberculosis prevalence, incidence and mortality rates on a global scale.

The experience, opportunities and networking that these students undertook helped to give them a first-hand experience of what goes on behind the scenes of health policy making. It also gave them an opportunity to get outside of the classroom setting, connect with experts in the field, and collaborate with other students from around the world. Whether attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva or skipping across the border to France (where it is cheaper to buy groceries), they made the most of their summers.

All of these students were under the supervision of Institute for Public Health Members. Helen Tam’s supervisor is Dr. Neil Drummond, Duyen Nguyen is co-supervised by Drs. Lynn McIntyre and Lindsay McLaren and Tharsiya Nagulesapillai was supervised by Dr. Suzanne Tough.