GHMe’s 1st Program Mixer: Creating Safe Spaces for Global Health Professionals
On March 6, 2021, Global Health Mentorships (GHMe) held its first program mixer for the 2020 cohort of global health students and young professionals (SYPs) and their mentors. An impressive 74 people attended for an afternoon of socializing and reflection on the lessons learned over the course of the program. It was an opportunity for participants to network with individuals outside of their immediate SYP-mentor group, especially for those looking for contacts within their respective countries or continents.
This is a word cloud representing where the SYPs and Mentors were currently located:
The mixer kicked off with a welcome from the co-chairs Danielle Agnello and Margaret Zou, and a group check-in. Seven SYPs and Mentors from the 2020 mentoring program, were invited to provide brief verbal presentations about their GHMe experiences. Each story was inspiring with striking versatility in the SYPs’ backgrounds.
“...joined for support in personal and professional development but got so much more out of the programme...expanded horizons with mentor and learned the importance of grassroots”
- Stefanie Kong, SYP, GHMe 2020
Later on in the programme, we had similar presentations from GHMe’s Mentors from 2019 and 2020. The presentations were hugely motivational and encouraging, with key take home messages such as, ‘be ambitious, be bold, be curious.’
“Embrace failure, don’t get mad, get even, when you make it big pay it forward, make your glass ceiling the floor for those who come after you”
- Shubha Nagesh, Mentor, GHMe 2019-2020
BREAKING THE ICE
Zoom breakout rooms were used to facilitate smaller, in depth discussions between the SYPs, Mentors, and team members that had not gotten a chance to connect during the mentoring program. This created an engaging platform where participants could network and share experiences with ease. Crucial to encouraging participation within groups was the use of icebreakers in breakout session one.The first icebreaker was called ‘You are more alike than you may think,’ calling for the group members to develop a list of all the things that they have in common, avoiding obvious things such as gender or age. The most common result, unsurprisingly, was the participants’ passion for global health. In addition to this, all members were based at a university either as an academic or a student, and many were interested in research. Common qualities included being motivated and open-minded. Some more light hearted similarities were also suggested, such as liking dogs, the beach and having poor eyesight, as they were all wearing glasses.
The second game was called ‘How would you invest your winnings?’ In this game, participants were asked to imagine that they had just won 25 million Euros in the lottery! After thinking individually and discussing as a group, they created a short-list of items that they would purchase or invest their collective winnings in. The most common answers were solutions to climate change and equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Another frequently mentioned item was the creation of a Non-governmental Organizations offering community interventions, teaching and entrepreneurial skills!
In a final breakout session, SYPs were encouraged to discuss their future plans, memorable moments and whether they would recommend mentoring to other SYPs.
Many were close to graduating from university courses and finishing PhDs. Several had plans to work in mental health and family health roles. A huge positive and frequently mentioned outcome was significantly increased confidence in job applications! They expressed keen interest in maintaining relationships with their GHMe Mentor and fellow SYPs, as well as building their GHMe network via this mixer and via social media. It was evident that the program has had a significant impact both personally and professionally.
SYPs reiterated that they have felt supported throughout the process and inspired by their mentor as well as peers. They would all recommend mentoring because the GHMe experience afforded them the opportunity to experience the benefits of mentoring first hand. Furthermore, they felt that they gained different perspectives on their skills and career paths from their mentors. Most importantly, they felt as though they were provided a place to be vulnerable with their peers — to acknowledge the power of vulnerability and to know that they are worthy. Above all, they agreed it was a life changing experience and have already recommended the program to peers.
Mentors were encouraged to participate in small group discussions reflecting on their experiences of the program, what they feel the future of global and / or public health is and how they would describe the role of mentor to someone who’s interested in becoming one too.
Many mentors felt that being a mentor was a two way street — they also developed and felt supported by their SYPs. A particularly memorable moment for one mentor was when she found out one of her SYPs secured an internship position she helped them apply for!
A common discussion topic amongst the Mentors was that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely gutted health systems from the top to bottom and reframed the narrative around health. A lot of transparency has been created including issues with government and universal health coverage. The future should be focused on strengthening health systems and health security. Since the acceleration of globalization over the last decade, global health hasn’t been able to keep pace, and health systems have been built on legacy systems fit for the last century.
One mentor suggested that if he could change two things about health systems, he would encourage 1) countries to think about global health security while expanding the health system, and 2) make sure plans around new systems are staffed adequately, now that migration is easier.
Ultimately, being a Mentor is being a critical friend: someone who will tell you what they think you should do, in an honest and considerate way. Mentorship is a two-way relationship with effective communication, one where you learn from each other’s life experiences. Fundamentally it is a shoulder, an ear and a guiding hand.
The first GHMe Virtual Mixer was a great success! It achieved its goal in facilitating networking and information sharing between Mentors and SYPs. It was a truly global event, showcasing the personal and professional impact that GHMe mentorship program has had on the next generation of the global health workforce.
Save the Date for our 2021-22 Virtual Mixer: May 8, 2022! (details to follow soon)
Thank you Ailbhe and Jasmine for capturing these wonderful reflections on the GHMe Virtual Mixer. For any inquiries related to the GHMe Blog, please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This blog was prepared by the author, in her/his/their personal capacity. The opinions, views, and thoughts expressed in the blog belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Global Health Mentorships.