SPHSA president plans to make public health more accessible

Kaman Sandhu, MPH student at the School of Public Health, aims to create systems-level change that empowers communities to take charge of their health.

Looking back at December 2019, Kaman Sandhu remembers her last class before the winter break. “We were talking about this virus that's spreading around in China and we were all wondering what’s going to happen next.” As a master of public health student amidst a pandemic, Sandhu says that the experience in itself has been a learning opportunity. “Day by day, you get to see how things quickly change and with public health at the forefront, this is the time to be a public health student because you’re learning as you’re living.”

After a class in her undergraduate education exposed Sandhu to epidemiology and disease surveillance, she discovered the multi-disciplinary world of public health. “I found the bigger picture approach to be very interesting, and that’s why I wanted to pursue public health,” said Sandhu. “What really sparked my interest in public health was learning about the social determinants of health and realizing that public health truly impacts every facet of our lives.”

Currently pursuing a specialization in health policy and management, Sandhu is eager to make an impact working with communities and to help push through policies that support population health. For now, she’s leading the School of Public Health Students’ Association (SPHSA) as their president.

“As the president of the SPHSA, I’m in the position to make change and help empower other people on my team. Before the start of 2021, we had a ‘hopes and dreams’ meeting where the sky was the limit for any ideas the team had,” shared Sandhu. One of these ideas is to create a pan-Canadian council of public health student associations to unify future public health professionals and practitioners. “It’s important to know there are other people who are in the same boat as you. Sharing those experiences and ideas just helps to make us all better,” explained Sandhu.

This council would act as a virtual network of students and public health organizations and showcase the value and sheer impact of public health in Canada. And hopefully, establish a public health school tradition similar to the Canadian Medical Association backpack. “All medical students across Canada get a backpack that identifies them as a medical student. One of the things the pan-Canadian council could do is work to get a backpack or an item to unify future public health practitioners across Canada,” said Sandhu.

Since discovering her passion for public health, Sandhu has created a laundry list of ideas that she can move the needle on. “Having an MPH is such a marketable degree, because you learn core skills that you don’t necessarily learn in other niche programs. Every time a class ends, I write down another thing that I want to do, where I want to make a difference.”

When prompted to choose one thing, Sandhu said she wanted to make sure that people knew that their health isn’t solely dependent on them. It exists in an interactive system between our systems, our policies, and each other. “Five to ten years ago, the phrase was ‘health is in your hands.’ Now, if you’re not healthy, it’s no longer a personal burden. With the pandemic especially, we are seeing a paradigm shift happen in real time, turning health into more of a community burden.” Sandhu believes that by making public health more accessible, we can help more people realize the role their community plays in bettering their own health.

When asked whether she had any advice for budding students considering a public health education, Sandhu says not to hesitate. “Every part of our life is connected to public health, and this education ties in to so many different fields. For example, if you went to school for business and took economics, anything you learned could be applied to public health by just adding an additional health lens.”

Looking forward to graduation, Sandhu shares that she’s eager to work in a corporate or government setting, so that she can start to bridge the gaps she has noticed as a student. “Sometimes, the biggest change you can make is by working in bureaucracy, by working within the system, and then finding ways to change it,” said Sandhu.


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