A new chapter

I’m excited to be writing in this journal again. It’s been almost four years since I first contributed my reflections in a public space for viewing and commentary. My previous journal entries reflect on my internship experience at the World Health Organization in the Department of Prevention of Noncommunicable Disease from July-August 2016. I hope my additional journal entries in the upcoming months and year may help shed light and insight into the role of the Canadian youth delegate to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Association (PAHO), including current Canadian and global public health priorities and how to shape and contribute to them. I’m very humbled and excited (and very nervous) to be taking on the youth delegate role, and I look forward to sharing the experience with you. Most importantly, I look forward to having the global health issues and priorities that I focus on as Canada’s youth delegate to be shaped, guided, and advised by you – my fellow valued peers, colleagues, friends, and mentors.

The Public Health Agency of Canada.

You will find that my old journal entries comment on my rationale for pursuing an internship at the WHO with my savings from three part-time jobs and a scholarship. I realize how much of my perspectives have remained the same, and those that have changed and evolved. The memories and insight I gained on international public health, I hold dearly and fondly. Fast forward to present day, and four years of medical school later. It is unbelievable how far I (think) have come since medical school started, and all the learning and growth still yet to come and to be explored. I’m thoroughly bewildered and baffled to be starting my residency program interviews tomorrow in the hopes of being a resident physician trainee in the field of public health and preventative medicine, or pediatric medicine, or family medicine.

As I am currently in the shadows of a turning point or crossroads in my professional life, thoughts on who I am, where I am coming from, where I am going, and what brings me fulfillment are top of mind for me. These existential questions to help guide one’s own trajectory in life do not get any easier over time, is my own personal experience and opinion. However, I must say, reflecting upon one’s motivations, values, experiences, strengths, weaknesses, resilience, among many other areas, is a tremendously useful exercise to deeply reconnect with ourselves and our identity at a fundamental level.

I have many thoughts and reflections from my medical training, extracurricular involvements, and personal struggles and triumphs. I will try to keep things brief for the sake of readability and not dissuade you from reading additional journal entries. One of the major themes that I think about is how much of a privilege it is to be able to think about health and healthcare issues and to be a part of the medical profession to provide care for others. Not one day goes by without me knowing that social and health inequities exist in our world and our communities. Secondly, no one grows and develops as a person overnight, it takes many failures and attempts, and it takes a village of people that support and mentor. I am grateful for the many experiences and opportunities I have been a part of, but there are many others that I had hoped to been involved with which didn’t pan out exactly how I initially envisioned. For example, I applied for the Canadian youth delegate role for three years in a row, with unfavourable news for two years. My failures, obstacles, and faults are plenty, but they have taught me and challenged me more than anything else. I’m thankful for the people that uplift me, inspire me, and motivate me to be the best that I can be – professionally and personally. I was humbled to hear of the many kind words of congratulations for my new appointment, but I am cognizant that as much as I played a role in my own growth – it takes a team of mentors, coaches, friends, and family that make it happen. My successes are as much theirs, and such successes are a reflection of their strength and support.

Mohammad and I at a science policy conference, with Dr. Mona Nemer.

The past few weeks have been with mixed emotions – onboarding for the youth delegate role and receiving words of congratulations, reflecting about my medical school journey for interviews, and losing a friend in a tragic and incomprehensible event. I was recently reminded that we must not ever take life and living our best lives for granted. Before I end this journal entry, I want to share with you some thoughts and memories of someone that inspired me and whose legacy will be surely remembered. Mohammad Asadi-Lari, approached me at a science policy conference in Ottawa around a year ago, and we talked and talked about all these different issues and initiatives related to medicine, science, and health to tackle and collaborate on in the future. Through his various areas of interest and work in advocacy, policy, and research, and in my experiences and roles in global health and medical student leadership, we had many great chats. We were excited about all the possibilities and ideas we had. He humbled me in sharing his praise of my involvements, and I was extremely grateful for his friendship, words of wisdom, and passion for a better world.

We would continue to stay in touch and think of creative and innovative ways to strengthen youth engagement on issues that matter most to people. He cared deeply about youth engagement and doing as much as we can with what we’ve got, to create a better world for each other. His dedication to acting on his optimistic and idealistic values was evident in his tireless work and leadership with youth organizations. He inspired me because he believed in me (more than I believed in myself) and encouraged me to aim high.

Mohammad Asadi-Lari and his sister, Zeynab, died in the Ukraine airlines plane crash a week ago in Iran, along with many others that have made such positive impacts on their communities and loved ones. I am reminded that life is precious, and we must not take our limited time in this world for granted. I am grateful for the people that have had made positive impacts on our lives, and I am reminded to let them know this. I am reminded to see the best in each other and in the world. I am reminded that we ought to tackle the issues and challenges that matter most, whatever they may be for each one of us, and to ’start small to achieve the big’ to quote Mohammad himself.

I want to dedicate this journal entry of a new chapter to Mohammad and hope that there is something you can take away and carry with you from his values, vision, and passion for youth engagement and empowerment, global health issues, and leadership. You can read more about him here: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/remembering-u-t-student-mohammad-asadi-lari.

First in-person onboarding meeting with the team at the Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio.

I realized I have rambled for much too long, and hope that you’ve stayed with me to the end of this journal entry. I want to let you know that I have started the onboarding process for the youth delegate role, and I am working to plan out my time and ideas for ongoing engagement and consultation in the coming months from Canadian youth, students, and young professionals on global health priorities to emphasize and focus on for the World Health Assembly and the Pan American Health Organization Directing Council. Please stay tuned for updates, and please do not hesitate to reach out and start a conversation! Looking forward to connecting and sharing stories and ideas for a better and healthier world.

– yipeng

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