Graduate student works with Body Brave to provide compassionate mental health care while advocating for health equity
Over the 2022 Summer term, while working with local and global organizations, graduate students are able to integrate knowledge and skills gained throughout the Global Health program.
Completing a work-integrated learning practicum (WIL) with Body Brave, MSc in Global Health student, Alyssa Adamo, gained hands-on experience with the theory, concepts, and methods taught in the program.
Body Brave offers person-centred compassionate care for anyone struggling with or at risk for an eating disorder by providing accessible eating disorder treatment and support, as well as advancing community education. Working for a Canadian-based organization such as Body Brave and with her interest in SDG 3 (Good Health and Well Being) and SDG 10 (Reducing Inequities), Alyssa learned the importance of doing global health work locally.
Interested to hear about Alyssa’s experience and future aspirations as a global health professional, here is what she had to say:
What types of projects did you work on with Brave Body?
At Body Brave, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate 10-week treatment programs and drop-in group sessions for those struggling with restriction and/or purging behaviours as well as the various types of eating disorders. Their curriculum based programs such as Living Body Brave, Grow Together, and Nutrition for Every Body, are outlined further in the organizations 2021 Impact Report.
My role also included completing clinical intakes guiding clients through a series of probing questions to understand what they are struggling with and providing recommendations for treatment. In addition, alongside another MSc in Global Health student, we synthesized literature about the connections between irritable bowel syndrome and eating disorders. We then presented the findings to the inter-disciplinary clinical team composed of social workers, dietitians, family doctors, and other graduate students.
As you are working with a Canadian-based organization, can you discuss your experience of doing global health work locally?
As seen through the organization’s work, it is possible to advocate for global health issues locally such as health equity and improved access to mental health supports, both of which are seen here in Canada but also abroad. The clients at Body Brave are very culturally diverse, and in some cases cultural directives may exacerbate disordered eating symptoms to progress into an eating disorder, particularly when certain foods are restricted due to cultural and religious reasons. While this is evident in the client base at Body Brave, this also highlights the prevalence and burden of eating disorders globally because of cross-cultural differences.
What global health program competencies or skills have you been able to build on or develop?
Throughout my practicum, I was able to build on my communication and incisive decision making skills. When working with vulnerable populations, like those who are accessing Body Brave’s services, you need to be able to approach clients with compassion and empathy while also maintaining a high level of professionalism. In addition, you need to provide tailored recommendations for treatment based on their current struggles, which was difficult in the beginning because you need to have quick and accurate decision-making skills as each client case is unique and complex.
Do you think that your work-integrated learning opportunity prepared you for the world of work after you graduate?
I believe that my WIL opportunity allowed me to explore my interests aside from what I was doing academically, while also preparing me for the workplace. The organization structures their intern program in a way that allows students to work with many accomplished professionals on a variety of tasks from clinical to research. Because of the experiences working with Body Brave, I feel very equipped to enter the workplace in a field I am passionate about such as community mental health because of the opportunity I had to communicate with clients in intakes or during group sessions and preparing presentations.
Any unexpected learning opportunity or fun experience you can share?
Body Brave is an amazing organization to work with as they are truly one big family working toward the shared goal of improving eating disorder care for marginalized groups across Ontario, Canada. Each week, they facilitated community meetings where we had the opportunity to participate in team building activities like Pictionary, trivia, or just a general opportunity to chat with each other about non-work-related things. These meetings made me feel a part of the organization’s family right from the start and sincerely made my experience so memorable.
What aspects of your placement inspired you the most as a future global health professional?
Working with vulnerable populations and being able to make a difference in their lives is what has inspired me the most as a future global health professional. For many, seeking treatment at Body Brave can be quite emotional because they may have never spoken about their eating disorder and/or disordered eating with others before, and some have never received treatment. Having the opportunity to work with these clients, wherever they may be in their recovery journey, was always so rewarding. I look forward to more opportunities to work for an organization that places great emphasis on person-centred and compassionate mental health care, while advocating for health equity.
Through opportunities with local organizations such a Body Brave, students enhance their analytical, networking, and collaborative skills within a self-directed learning environment all while gaining real-world global health experience for careers in a globalized world.Global Health News