Public health students share their work at Practicum Poster Day

On October 20, SFU’s master of public health (MPH) students gathered to share their experiences from summer practicum placements around the world.

The master of public health program is in the faculty of health sciences at SFU. After two semesters in the classroom, MPH students spend 11 weeks working for an organization in the healthcare field. Kate Carty, coordinator of the public health program in the faculty of health sciences, said this experience is important for “bridging the academic world and seeing how it works in the real world.”

Carty plays an active role in the practicum program, and tries to find a good fit between students’ interests and organizations’ needs. This year’s practicum students worked across Canada and the world, including placements in Ottawa, South Africa, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic. MPH students were involved in everything from literature reviews, compiling data, and evaluating programs to hands-on implementation.

Tatiana Popovitskaia worked with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS to research the effects of policing practices on sex workers in Metro Vancouver. She said her experience, which included analyzing research and conducting interviews with sex workers in Downtown Vancouver, helped her apply what she had learned in the classroom in a meaningful way.

“This is not only research for research,” Popovitskaia said. “It’s research for advocacy.”

She added that the work she and her colleagues do in their practicums may be used as evidence for future policy decisions and, as she said, “That’s pretty cool.”

Hadia Samim completed her practicum with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “I always wanted to work with vulnerable populations,” said Samim, who researched refugees’ access to health services. Samim assisted with the planning, coordination, and evaluation of health services for the over 92,000 refugees in Malaysia. “It’s emotionally draining,” she admitted of her work, but said it was highly rewarding to see tangible interventions and resettlement taking place.

Richard Han worked with the First Nations Health Authority evaluating student engagement in First Nations youth. Han was inspired to work with First Nations youth after volunteering on a reserve in Bella Bella. Data is lacking on reserves across BC, Han said. He plans to study the relationship between culture and student engagement for his capstone project.

The event allowed returning MPH students to share their experiences and offer advice to first-year students in the program who will be applying for their own practicums soon. Second-year MPH students will go on to complete their capstone project, in which they must apply a theoretical lens to a topic they are interested in, often something the students learned while on their practicums.