PRESS RELEASE: 2015 Undergraduate Global Health Forum an Outstanding Success



AN OUTSTANDING SUCCESS!   The  2015 CCGHR Undergraduate Global Health Forum engaged a full house of students who explored “Glocal” Sustainability. Through our interdisciplinary speakers, workshops and poster presentations, students learned how to leverage resources and opportunities at a local scale to address challenges faced by the global community.


Our keynote speaker, Dr. Richard Heinzl, inspired students with his wealth of experience, yet remarkably humble perspective of lessons learned through his time as an undergraduate and medical student at McMaster, his experiences with Médecins Sans Frontières in Cambodia, and his collaboration with the Kalinago people of Dominica on a research project to improve their community’s health.

Five concurrent workshop sessions were held in both the morning and afternoon that provided students nuanced perspectives of global health’s interdisciplinary barriers to sustainability. The spectrum of topics included Community Engagement, Poverty and Equity, Environment and Health, as well as two workshops on Health and Development. Dr. Karen Bailey (McMaster University, powerpoint here) and Christina Marchand (University of Waterloo) facilitated the Health and Development 1 workshop that focused on the social determinants of health. Our second Health and Development workshop focused on food security and was facilitated by Dr. Ana Sanchez (Brock University) and Julie Marshall from the United Nations World Food Programme. The Environment and Health workshop was led by Dr. Liette Vasseur (Brock University) and Dr. Susan Elliott (University of Waterloo). Dr. Olive Wahoush (McMaster University) and Daniella Bendo (Brock University) facilitated our Poverty and Equity workshop. Finally, the Community Engagement workshop led by Sue Carr (Executive Director of 541) and Dr. Sheila Sammon (McMaster University) emphasized the importance of partnerships with local actors to create sustainable change in a community.

A highlight of the Forum featured poster presentations to engage undergraduates new in global health research to share their own work and gain feedback from others. Fifteen posters from all three universities were selected to present to all attendees at the Forum, as well as the poster review committee of Laura Banfield, Dr. Vic Neufeld, Dr. Craig Janes, and Dr. Liette Vasseur. Of note, was the incredible diversity of these insightful presentations, which addressed a large range of global health issues through a number of quantitative and qualitative methodologies.


The Forum organizers were also excited to provide an artistic outlet at the Forum through our photo contest. We were pleased to have received many diverse photo contest submissions reviewed by our photography expert, Dave Heidebrecht. It was great to see a mix of local, global and abstract submissions capturing sustainability challenges both overseas and in our own backyards.

Another unique component to this year’s Forum was the panel presentation featuring our four global health experts (Dr. Vic Neufeld, Dr. Lisa Schwartz, Dr. Craig Janes, Dr. Lynn Rempel) who were presented with questions specifically formulated and voted on by students ahead of time. This structure not only allowed for topics to be tailored towards their global health interests, but also resulted in stimulating dialogue on a spectrum of issues ranging from global health advocacy to health system strengthening.

Moving forward, we hope that participants strive to “mind the gaps” they identify in their local communities, and commit to carrying out the “action item” Dr. Neufeld prompted all participants to reflect on following the end of the conference. Health inequities continue to exist locally and abroad, and undergraduates should recognize that as increasingly connected global citizens, they have the ability to create meaningful and sustainable change.



We thank our photographer Patricia Nguyen for capturing the all the highlights of our forum, which can be viewed here. Please contact if you would like your photo removed.

Scroll down to read more about the conference from the attendee perspectives by Joann Varickanickal (University of Waterloo) and Afnan Naeem (University of Waterloo).

Congratulations to all of our poster presentors: Danielle Aubin, Harsukh Benipal, Saumik Biswas, Kelsi Breton, Elizabeth Chan, Ruth Chiu, Matt Driedgar, Matt Hughsam, Peter DeMaio, Salwa Fooqi, Jose Gabrie, Yipeng Ge, Alexandra Liu, Deepti Shanbhag, Sharon Yeung, Esaba Kashem, Ramya Kancheria, Alex Lemay, Kelsea Levesque, Tanishq Suryavanshi, Ben Li, and Rachel Thompson.

Congratulations to our photo exhibitors: Gali Katzelson (3rd place), Ben Mcisaac, Lyndsey Merry, Patricia Nguyen (1st place), Whyishnave Suthagar, Janet Zanin, Brianna Cheng (2nd place), Nicola Toffelmire, Georgina Omoro. 



Global Health Forum Reflections

Joann Varickanickal, 3A Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo


The 2015 Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research Undergraduate Global Health Forum Conference was a great time of learning for students from McMaster University, Brock University and the University of Waterloo. The keynote speaker, Richard Heinzl reminded students about facing inevitable trials and failures as he shared his experiences in working with others to begin the North American chapter of Doctors Without Borders. He also encouraged us to pursue the work we were passionate about anywhere in the world, while reminding us that travel in itself was a gift.  His talk was inspiring and set the tone for the rest of the conference, as we broke off into our workshops.

During the workshop sessions, we were able to hear from more professionals in various backgrounds and work with students to discuss solutions to complex problems related to global health. Personally, this was a great opportunity to work with students from different schools and backgrounds’, reminding me that collaboration is a key component to solving problems, and developing sustainable policies.

During the breaks, seeing the various projects undertaken by undergraduate students was also a great opportunity to see the different research that is taking place locally, and abroad. All of these students were passionate about working to solve health problems, and this was clearly evident in the work that they were a part of!

Overall, the conference was a great success, as students were able to connect with like-minded individuals from various backgrounds, while also learning more about the complex field of global. At the end of the day, this left students feeling encouraged, but also challenged to get further involved in addressing global health issues.


Global health research: a lifetime of passion

Afnan Naeem

“Put passion into learning, it is the only way you’ll get by.” I still remember these words from my second-year professor, who spoke to the class at the end of the term. Although his class was far from my field of interest, these same words strongly resonate with me two years later. Perhaps, it is because two years later, I have witnessed and met incredible individuals who are driven by passion. Perhaps, it is because two years later, I attended the Annual Undergraduate Forum on Global Health, and my sense of passion for global health became even more powerful. The forum was filled with speakers and attendees who left me with larger-than-life questions about my purpose and motives in global health. Both the speakers and attendees of the forum taught me that in order to pursue my passion, I needed to: take risks, make mistakes, ask questions, share ideas, and build relationships. I believe global health research is driven by all of the above.

As a student, the future seems scary and uncertain. However, meeting inspiring faculty members along the way, and collaborating with fellow students who share the same passion, lights up the dark tunnel of the future. The global health forum transformed my fears and uncertainties into a series of seeds and planted them in the forefront of my mind. I looked up to all the speakers and members, at their experiences, at their wealth of knowledge and passion for global health, and most importantly at their humble interactions with students. Being among such inspiring and humble individuals made me proud to belong to the global health community. I hope that from now onwards, my passion for global health grows stronger, pushing me to overcome challenges and barriers, while looking up to mentors, and asking for help when I can.

At the end of a long Saturday, we didn’t solve any pressing global health issues, nor did we change the course of our lives. Instead, we instilled passion and purpose in each other. We thought beyond the classroom, beyond exams and papers. And, we learned that our undergraduate education was merely a step towards a lifetime of learning, a lifetime of being committed to global health research.