Meet the graduates of Spring 2021: Harman Kahlon, MPH (Health Policy and Management)

Shelby Soke - 23 June 2021

The former president of the School of Public Health Students’ Association worked to maintain connection and engagement with her peers during the pandemic to learn from each other and build a strong community. She will now continue her public health career with the Government of Alberta. Harman Kahlon

What impact do you wish to have as a public health professional?

All things considered, I hope to simply make a positive impact in the community through my values of empathy, equity, and justice.  These values drive my passion for change and improvement. I am beginning a new role as a council member with Edmonton Police Services and hope to use my public health expertise and values to drive change in the community.

What was the greatest lesson you learned in or out of the classroom while completing your graduate degree that you will take with you into the future?

Just listen and show compassion. During debates and conversations in class, I had many moments where I wanted to share my opinion and interject with an idea, but the greatest lesson learnt was the power of just listening and reflecting. Reflect on what biases you bring to the table – we all have them – and unlearn them. Have compassion for your fellow students (and yourself) and always try to see the bigger picture.

Who made the greatest impact on you during your time at the School and why?

The students. I met the most fascinating students from across the world that challenged me physically (eg. turned me into an avid hiker) and mentally (such lively debates). We are the future of public health and having the opportunity to learn from diverse student perspectives was invaluable. They helped me grow as a person and for that I will always be thankful.

What was the greatest obstacle you faced/the success you are most proud of while a student? How did you overcome/achieve that?

Well, the pandemic sure didn’t make our lives as students easier! I think one hard obstacle was learning how to make the most of the situation we were in. I dwelled on all the events and opportunities that were missed, instead of focusing efforts on what we can still do. I think it took a few months to adjust to the life of Zoom and understand how to hold events, engage students, and attend virtual classes and meetings. Hats off to the 2020 and 2021 School of Public Health Students’ Association team for doing an amazing job navigating the virtual world. Our cohort successfully graduated through a pandemic and I believe we overcame a lot of our obstacles because of the tremendous support from each other.

Where did you do your practicum? What did you learn, and how do you feel that experience prepared you for your future career?

I did my practicum with the Government of Alberta (Health System Planning and Quality Branch, Alberta Health and Public Opinion Research, Communications and Public Engagement). I learned about the intricacies of working for government organizations and how to manage expectations in a very short period. I identified the links and disjunction between theory and practice and how to navigate this. As I continue my career journey through government, I am constantly reflecting on school teachings to challenge current processes and norms to build continuity in the system.

Why is public health important?

The pandemic showcased the importance of public health, especially that it starts at an individual and community level, not just population level. Our society and system does not focus on the individual or community level enough when providing information to support decision making, but public health professionals excel here. Public health is crucial because it acknowledges the greater context, teaches us to be empathetic, and prioritizes vulnerable communities to achieve the greater good.