Mariah McCrank

Mariah McCrank is the 2017 Communications and Operations Summer Student at Grand Challenges Canada.

The future looks bright for the Grand Challenges Canada team with the arrival of their 2017 summer students! On May 1st, the students began their activities with staff, learning more about the organization, company culture and various projects that are on the go. As their first day came to an end, the students were each given their first assignment and are excited by the incredible opportunity in front of them to take initiative on projects and learn more about innovation for impact.

This year, the students will be tackling and assisting with various initiatives, ranging from the implementation of Grand Challenges Canada’s outreach strategy to the curation and brokering of projects in the innovation pipeline. Working together alongside project leads, the students will build skills and expertise in their fields of interest while supporting Grand Challenges Canada’s work. We asked our students why they applied to Grand Challenges Canada and what they hope to learn over the summer. Here’s what they had to say:


Programs & Investments Summer Student

Currently completing a Law  Degree (York University), Completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science (McMaster University)

I was once told that Grand Challenges Canada is a textbook example of a Canadian organization that ‘punches above its weight’ in terms of impact. As most of my explicit experience in the global health sphere has been through research and academia, the prospect of working with Grand Challenges Canada presented a rare opportunity to get hands-on and tangible experience with the wide portfolio of innovations funded. Grand Challenges Canada’s clear focus on addressing health inequity and its Integrated Innovation approach were both significant pull factors, but most of all I was excited at the prospect of learning from the team and their wealth of experience.

Broadly, I want to learn more about the role Canada can play on the global stage in addressing health disparity. On a smaller scale, I’m particularly interested in learning more about the financing side of global health, better understanding impact investing, and engaging with both the inner workings of the organization and the realities of working in this field. Beyond improved financial literacy, I’m very interested in Grand Challenges Canada’s new gender strategy and hope to learn more about gender-lens investing.  


Programs & Investments Summer Student

Currently completing a Bachelor of Health Sciences (McMaster University)

I was initially intrigued by Grand Challenges Canada’s bold vision to couple technical, social, and business innovation to address grand health challenges. I believe there is a great deal to be learned from Grand Challenges Canada’s role as a funder, relationship manager, and agreement broker in the global health community. I previously conducted informatics research in statistical genetics, and supported ethics consultation with open data and crowdsourcing in personal genomics and Global Health research. I am looking forward to exploring the art and science of producing outcome measurements to track the progress of Global Health innovations.

I am also interested in the methodology and strategy driving impact investment at Grand Challenges Canada, and the broader governance function of granting organizations in Global Health. I hope to develop skills in impact modelling and explore its relationship to social investment and finance. I am also interested in exploring ways to support innovators to adopt best practices with open data and research reproducibility.


Programs & Investments Summer Student

Currently completing a Law  Degree (University of Toronto), Completed a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations (University of British Columbia)

I was interested in working at Grand Challenges Canada because I am attracted to their targeted, impact focused, approach to development. My long term goal is to pursue a policy career at the nexus of health policy and innovation – I knew that Grand Challenges Canada would be an excellent place to start.

As a person without a background in science, I know that a big part of my career in health policy and development will be constantly learning about new concepts and quickly transitioning to thinking about those concepts in a strategic manner. This summer, I am looking to learn how to methodically analyze an investment, along with how to effectively analyze the sustainability and potential for success of health programs and innovations that I am unfamiliar with.


Programs & Investments Summer Student

Currently completing a Doctor of Medicine (University of Toronto)

I was attracted to this role because I find healthcare innovations fascinating, and I wanted to use some of my skills in finance within a field I am passionate about. I heard from a close friend that Grand Challenges Canada was a fantastic place with great people and interesting work. Furthermore, since I am interested in healthcare leadership later in my career, I believe that exposure I get from Grand Challenges Canada would be very valuable.

I want to know more about global health issues that exist and possible ways to tackle them. I hope to get greater insight on some of the strategic challenges faced by organizations involved in global health and how they are managed. I want to gain a deeper understanding about how financing and investment decisions are made for global health startups. Finally, I want to learn more about the strategy and logistics side of innovations and how these innovations are implemented in various countries.


Programs & Investments Summer Student

Currently completing a Bachelor of Arts in Peace, Conflict, Justice and French (University of Toronto)

Throughout my undergraduate degree, my research has been primarily focused on labor rights and union movements in female garment factory workers in Bangladesh and India. Over the past year, I have also been conducting research on the delivery of a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cash assistance program for Syrian refugees in Jordan. My interest in working for Grand Challenges Canada was stimulated after seeing the team present at the Results Canada conference. The evidence-based approach really spoke to my interest of not only improving the lives of people living in the Global South, but finding more efficient and innovative ways to do so.

I am particularly interested in learning about how innovations overcome challenges as they scale, and how a gendered lens can be applied to social impact investments as a whole. I’m also interested to learn more about the general workings of the investments team and the due diligence process for health innovations.


Programs & Investments and Innovation Marketplace Summer Student

Currently completing a Doctor of Medicine (University of Toronto)

During my undergrad, I learned that the success of global health innovation relies on its ability to be accessible, sustainable, and affordable by the target population. I was drawn to Grand Challenges Canada because it embodies these principles while striving to address the root cause of health inequities throughout its diverse array of innovative projects and services.

Having previous experience being part of Queen’s Health Outreach, a student run NGO, I am extremely excited to build on this background to develop a more multifaceted perspective of global health innovation. Striving to develop sustainable solutions to current global health inequities is no easy feat, and I hope to gain further insight into the varying roles of government, business, and technology stakeholders in this interdisciplinary, collaborative process.


Innovation Marketplace Summer Student

Currently completing a Master of Public Health (University of Alberta), Completed a Bachelor of Health Science in Biomedical Sciences (University of Calgary) 

My passion for global health developed after I was provided the opportunity to conduct research with the Maasai population in Northern Tanzania in 2012. Looking to expand my knowledge in this field, I am interested in working at Grand Challenges Canada because I would like to learn more about the Integrated Innovation approach and how it can lead to successful and sustainable results.

Grand Challenges Canada plays a significant role in saving and improving lives in low- and middle-income countries and I am very excited to be learning from a leading organization in global health.  In addition, I am interested in learning about the factors that contribute to a successful innovation, and the process involved in the transition to scale. I would also like to improve my knowledge in the area of maternal, newborn, and child health.


Innovation Marketplace Summer Student 

Currently completing a Master of Public Health (Université Laval), Completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) in Microbiology and Immunology (McGill University)

I was interested in working at Grand Challenges Canada due to their slogan, “Bold Ideas with Big Impact,” and constant projection to help save lives through innovation. I recently went to India to collect data for my thesis project and noticed numerous barriers when attempting to implement a mHealth intervention into a new environment. Grand Challenges Canada’s mission and goals helped enforce my interest in finding a solution to allow innovations to reach their desired target populations, with minimal difficulty.

I have also worked with numerous infectious diseases, namely TB, HIV, parasitic infections and viral infections and hope to increase my scientific knowledge at the Innovation Marketplace this summer. I hope to learn how to build partnerships, assuring desired outcomes of innovations disseminated to low-and middle-income countries. I also hope to understand the process which allows global health projects or innovation technologies to have a high impact in the target population.


Communications & Operations Summer Student

Currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce (Queen’s University)

My desire to work for Grand Challenges Canada is due to its commitment to make long-lasting impacts in communities through improved access to healthcare treatment. Last summer, I co-founded a company that focused on eliminating ocean pollution, as well as improving the Haitian economy and healthcare system. What I learned from this is that although my organization was helping Haiti, there are so many other developing countries that need our attention; but are often dismissed. I am excited to join the Grand Challenges Canada team to aid in improving the lives of others in regions that need assistance.

I am looking to learn more about the grant making process at Grand Challenges Canada – from the RFP to the funding process.  I also look forward to developing a deeper understanding of the communications side of an organization, and various ways to analyze data and research in order to develop/execute a marketing and communications strategy.

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