by Christine Saleeb, SYPN Student Chapter Executive, Elizabeth Opiyo Onyango, SYPN Events Executive (originally published on May 3, 2021)
On March 20, 2021, the student chapters held their 7th annual student chapter forum for first time ever, online. With no prior experience planning for a virtual Student Forum, the Student Chapters Executives from McMaster University, Laurentian University, University of Waterloo, Brock University, Queens University, and the newly formed McGill University Chapter embarked on a journey of learning while they planned this memorable event together.
The theme this year was Navigating a Colonial Institution: systemic biases in global health research”. The SYPN Student Chapter Forum explored the colonial roots of global health research to understand the longstanding effects and future implications. Attendees got exposed to current discussions on the effects of unequal engagement on global health research and learned to recognize their own biases and work towards dismantling them as they contribute to creation of equal partnerships and engagement in global health research.
Although an important topic in the achievement of equity, this is a topic that most global health researchers shy away from and is less discussed in global health conferences and meetings. Seeing the student chapter leaders in liaison with their members settle for this topic was quite exciting for us as the SYPN Executives. The Chapters Executives also did a great job reaching out to the right individuals as workshop facilitators and keynote speakers. See the Participant Guide for more details of the speakers.
The Forum provided a great opportunity for the attendees to discuss and ask questions about some of the pertinent issues on systemic biases. Here is what a student Chapter Executive had to say:
The forum was a great opportunity to engage in important conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion in global health. I learned a great deal from our wonderful speakers who shared such interesting perspectives. I enjoyed planning the forum with the other university student reps who were all wonderful and so diligent in adapting the program to the online forum. Planning the forum was a great opportunity to collaborate and share ideas.” (Katrina Streef, Queens University Student Chapter Executive)
The Student Chapters’ Executives held several biweekly and weekly meetings between October 2020 and March 2021. The planning was a great experience for most of the planning committee members as reflected on by the planning committee members:
Despite the forum having to be online, I really enjoyed the opportunity to weekly meet and coordinate with other student chapters across Canada. We not only got through the difficulties of online forum planning, but also developed meaningful relationships with other CCGHR student chapters – making this an educational and memorable experience! (Katia Shatalova- University of Waterloo Student Chapter Executive).
Having the opportunity to virtually involve all the chapters in the planning process provided an opportunity for all the chapters to gain experience in planning for a Forum. The students were able to connect more deeply and create some friendships with their team members.
Planning the first online CCGHR Forum online was a challenge, but also a super rewarding experience! I had the opportunity to collaborate with student chapters from across Canada and expand my knowledge about global health and its colonial roots. (Claire Lawrence- McMaster University Student Chapter Executive).
It was a really great experience planning the forum and getting to know/work with all the other student chapters! In addition, I am happy we had the opportunity to explore the theme of colonialism in global health. It is such an important topic and so important for us as students and future practitioners in the field to understand our own biases and the structural problems within Global Health so that we can dismantle them. (Lily Yang- McGill University Student Chapter Executive)
Some other highlights learned throughout the planning process for this virtual Student Forum, are included below. For more reflections on the planning process for the student forum, please see here.
- Technology has made it quite convenient to still create sessions for genuine discussions. The planning committee mainly used slack, zoom, and google docs to stay connected. The team liked slack for the most part as they could share most of the communication through this. Zoom was also quite convenient for hosting the forum as it allowed for the creation of the breakout rooms for the workshops and the poster presentations.
- Involving all the student chapters was such a rewarding endeavor as the students could harness the strength of and learn from the experiences of each other. Additionally, the student’s chapters that had never hosted a Forum before were able to gain some experience in planning and hosting a Forum. By bringing in all the chapter executives into the planning process, there was some level of commitment as all the chapters contributed not only their time but also financially through their respective institutions. As a result, finances were not a limitation at all in the planning process.
- The benefits of an online forum include the diversity it brought. There were people from all over the world that attended, which really brought a diverse perceptive to the workshop discussions.