With the first week of May comes the return of the Grand Challenges Canada Summer Student Program. As always, the program is an incredible opportunity for students to build skills and experience in their fields of interest while supporting Grand Challenges Canada projects and programs across a wide range of departments. This year, Grand Challenges Canada is proud to welcome an extraordinary group of students and recent graduates from a variety of disciplines, who will be working on exciting projects in the programs, communications, investment, and legal departments.
Grand Challenges Canada CEO Dr. Peter Singer greeted the new summer students on their first day in the office with a warm welcome and a piece of advice for the summer, to “find a problem and solve it!”
So who are our incoming summer students and what are they looking forward to solving this year? Here are a few words from each of them:
Anupa Prashad – Saving Brains
My passion for global health emerged as an undergraduate student and since then I’ve had diverse global health experiences in global surgery, community eye health, and working to improve the health of vulnerable mothers, babies and children. I have an MSc from McMaster University, where I established my interest in health professions education as capacity-building. I chose the Saving Brains Program because I think that promoting healthy child development is vital to minimizing the harmful effects of poverty and conflict, and key to helping children reach their potential. Throughout this internship, I hope to learn more about how Grand Challenges Canada operates and how the Integrated Innovation® model works. I am particularly interested in addressing the question of incentives and sustainability in social finance.
Angie Salomon – Cross-Cutting/Innovation Marketplace
I’m a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with a BSc in Global Health and Nutrition, and hail from Hamilton, Ontario. I’m drawn to studying the systematic causes of disease and the conditions in which good health can be achieved, and will be pursuing a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health this fall. Working with Grand Challenges Canada, I hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of how global health projects progress from proof-of-concept to scaling-up, and how the theory of change model helps monitor progress and identify particularly impactful strategies. I look forward to building my skills in ad-hoc research and analytical writing, and supplementing my understanding of how international development contributes to health improvements.
Aylin Manduric – Communications
This fall, I will be entering my fourth year of undergraduate studies in International Relations at the University of Toronto. My interest in global health stems from my passion for equality of access to essential services, and is reflected in my advocacy and research work. This summer, I hope to learn more about global health innovations and programs, and to gain a better understanding of the organization and how it operates. I think that one of the most interesting aspects of Grand Challenges Canada is the fact that it connects to business, government, and community. This summer, I hope to play a role in engaging with and shaping those interactions – learning about the most pressing challenges and the most promising innovations along the way.
Danielle Cazabon – Stars in Global Health
I recently graduated with a Master of Science in Public Health from McGill University and hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Environment, with a minor in Economics. My passion for global health began when I studied in East Africa in 2009, and after working in the environmental field for a few years, I began to understand the intricate link between health and the environment. Learning more about Global Health strengthened my desire to work to protect the health of vulnerable populations. This summer, I hope to learn more about impact investment, and how projects are selected for Transition to Scale. I am excited to be part of such a motivating team of individuals at Grand Challenges Canada!
Dexter Waters – Saving Lives at Birth
Hi, I’m Dexter and I’ll be helping with the Saving Lives at Birth program this summer! I was born and raised in Calgary, and finished my undergrad in biology and international development at McGill last year. For the past year I have been assisting with impact evaluation research in Kenya. I’m looking forward to working with Grand Challenges Canada’s team before starting a Master of Public Health program in September! This summer, I am eager to learn about the problems faced by innovators along the path to transition-to-scale and sustainable implementation. By working with the Saving Lives at Birth partnership, I hope to expand and nuance my understanding of maternal, newborn, and child health problems and the power dynamics that play into them.
Heather Conway – Global Mental Health
Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, I’m currently an M.Sc.Med (Applied Health Services Research) candidate at Memorial University. My thesis research focuses on mapping correlates and patterns of health service utilization among children and youth with mental health conditions in Atlantic Canada through the analysis of Provincial administrative data. I appreciate that sustainable change at any level is best supported when the determinants of success are evaluated through multiple lenses. Having the opportunity to learn from the collaborative, multidisciplinary and integrated approach of the team here at Grand Challenges Canada is invaluable to me as a student. Not only does it align directly with my academic and professional interests, but it will also challenge me to become a more critical, innovative and global thinker going forward.
Harris Qureshi – Knowledge Management
I feel driven to support and lead efforts mitigating the barriers many Canadians experience to fulfilling their rights to health and happiness. This focus led me to sexual and mental health education and support work targeting vulnerable communities in the GTA. Developed in parallel, my academic background at the University of Toronto is rooted in small molecule drug and in vitro assay development to mitigate cost and increase access to medical research. Grand Challenges Canada marries my interests in medical research and health services provision for vulnerable communities. I was drawn to the Integrated Innovation® approach, because it speaks to my passion for supporting communities through locally-based innovation. This summer, I hope to learn more about how medical innovations transition to scale, and about effective project planning, implementation, and validation.
Joshua Abaki – Legal
I am originally from Kenya. I did my undergraduate degree in Microbiology and Immunology at McGill and I am currently in my second year of law school at the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. After working on a Grand Challenges Canada-funded project, I was very excited to join the organization as a Legal Summer Student. It presented the perfect opportunity to merge my passions for health and law. This summer, I hope to further develop my understanding of different IP law regimes used to keep innovations accessible to those that need them the most. I am also interested in learning about the IP regimes used to ensure that technologies and data remain accessible while at the same time allowing innovators to craft sustainable business models.
Mathura Mahendren – Cross-Cutting
I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster University, with a specialization in Global Health. After graduating, I worked at the WHO in Geneva, helped out with TIFF, and lived in The Gambia for the better part of this past year doing health education and strategic planning work! This summer, I have the privilege of working across all programs and hope to understand and contribute to the processes that enable us to achieve desired outcomes. Many of our innovators are now reporting back with how they’ve failed, succeeded, and grown. We have a responsibility to understand and share the numbers and narratives associated with their projects – and that will be my goal this summer.
Mritunjay Sinha – Investments
I am an engineer and an MBA by education, a consultant by experience, and an aspiring impact investor. I have a diverse experience consulting for a major global energy company and thereafter implementing micro finance and livelihood projects in rural India. My personal and professional experiences have exposed me to the inequity that exists in our world. Grand Challenges Canada is working towards reducing this inequity – which is the single strongest reason for my interest in the organization. In the last few months, I learned a lot about the ‘Impact’ aspect. I am now looking forward to work on the ‘Investment’ component. This summer, I intend to strengthen my understanding of Impact Investing, while honing my business skills.
Tina-Marie Assi – Investments
I am an epidemiologist by training with a research background in the areas of global health, vaccines, and cold chain logistics for middle and low income countries. I am currently halfway through my MBA at the Rotman School of Management. I’m originally from Montreal, grew up in Hong Kong, and moved to Toronto from Los Angeles. Prior to Rotman, I worked at the University of California, Los Angeles. I’m interested in working at Grand Challenges Canada because it’s the most effective organization in Canada moving global health solutions forward. I’d really like to get as much exposure to impact investing and social finance as possible, and I’m also excited to learn about the individual innovations within Grand Challenges Canada’s portfolio.
Trillium Chang – Innovation Marketplace
I am a third year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying molecular genetics, global health and politics. An aspiring clinician-scientist, I am deeply interested in the intersection of health equity, social justice and social innovation. I hope to learn more about the “behind the scenes” of global health innovations we see today. I am particularly interested in gaining a greater understanding of smart partnerships, transitions to scale, brokering, funding, and other high level processes. At this point in my career, I am committed to advancing health equity and access to care, and Grand Challenges Canada strikes me as a hub of interdisciplinary individuals with a wide array of skill sets, all with a common goal in mind: making health more accessible to all.
Siobhan Lazenby – Cross-Cutting
After completing my B.A.Sc. in Environmental Determinants of Health and International Development from McGill University in 2015, I returned to Kigali, Rwanda as an OceanPath Fellow to manage the cultivation of community-designed health resources for people living with diabetes. After a year of devouring data, developing documentaries, dodging dala dalas, and dipping my toes into the realm of global health innovations, I am thrilled to be joining Grand Challenges Canada. Beyond learning about our projects and the prodigious people that work here, I hope to gain a better understanding of how organizations in Canada can effectively support projects and work in solidarity with initiatives in the Majority World.