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Work-integrated learning goes virtual for global health students

Global Health student Alim Samnani

Global Health student Alim Samnani is completing his field practicum virtually at Body Brave, a non-profit focusing on eating disorders. 

By Ruth Adair, June 23, 2020

Work-integrated learning is a core component of McMaster’s graduate global health program, which requires students to complete a ten-week practicum to gain hands-on experience in the global health field. Students work with organizations that put into practice the theory, concepts, and methods taught in the program, with activities targeted to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. But this year, for students like Alim Samnani, the experiential learning is taking place virtually due to the situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A total of 93 Global Health graduate students are completing virtual practicums in various organizations, including CARE Canada, AMREF, and Health4theWorld. Most of these organizations are located in Canada, while others are based in countries including the UK, US, Pakistan, Uganda, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, and South Africa. 

Samnani began his practicum last month at Body Brave, a Canadian charity dedicated to helping people recover from eating disorders, where he will be working as a data analyst.

His work is focused on SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), target 3.4: “By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.”

“I’m lucky that my work can be completed off-site and that I’ve learned how to collaborate effectively in a virtual environment,” says Samnani. “Because several components of the global health program are focused on virtual learning, the transition has been pretty seamless,” he explains.

With the organization experiencing a period of significant growth, Body Brave is aiming to increase revenue and expand its team. Samnani’s role will ensure that this expansion will be data driven. He will be creating and implementing a comprehensive business intelligence (BI) dashboard – a job he feels will segue nicely into his next endeavour: another master’s degree, this time in Business Analytics at Western University’s Ivey School of Business where he will begin in the fall.

“I’m interested in pursuing a career that merges business and health care,” says Samnani, who spent the Global Health program’s winter term specializing in health care management – a stream that focuses on the business of global health. The specialization explores the economics of health systems and fosters the development of career-relevant skills ranging from health care marketing to strategic and financial decision-making at a macro level.

Prior to joining the Global Health program, Samnani gained a degree in Life Sciences from McMaster.

Now, as he begins his field practicum for the graduate global health program, he reflects on the last few months, which have been challenging but also rewarding.

“This situation with COVID couldn’t be more relevant in terms of global health, and I feel like I’ve learned so much,” he says.

“I’ve learned that you need to be able to adapt to a constantly changing landscape, and that so much of health is tied up with economics, environment, and societal factors, and we have a responsibility to do what we can to achieve health equity.”

See where Global Health students are completing practicums targeted to SDGs.