A terrible storm

The COVID-19 pandemic hit like a terrible storm, hurting people and communities in many different and often disproportionate ways, and we aren’t in the clear just yet. The crisis response and recovery effort has been and will continue to be extraordinary, providing an opportunity to build back better – how we will invest and grow a society that we value and reflects the values of equity and justice.

My attention was drawn initially to COVID-19 back in early January 2020, when the outbreak initially began in Wuhan, China – my birthplace and where many of my relatives live. I’ve been acutely aware of the individual impacts of self-isolation and quarantine – learning of the psychological and health struggles directly from family members as the epidemic grew and public health interventions were put in place.

As the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canadian communities, and where I learn, work, and play – the traditional, unceded, and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin people – I was finishing up my final clinical rotation of medical school in geriatric medicine at the Ottawa Hospital. This came also during my preparations, holding consultations and roundtable discussions, as the Canadian youth delegate to the World Health Assembly (the decision making body of the World Health Organization) taking place in May 2020. Soon after the widespread implementation of public health interventions, I reached out to the team at Ottawa Public Health with my fellow incoming co-resident to lend a hand with the Public Health Medicine Unit (PHMU) team, a team responsible for case and outbreak management and public health technical guidance, among many other areas of work (e.g., priority populations and health equity, digital solutions, and advocacy and innovation) related to the COVID-19 public health response working in close collaboration with community partners, hospitals, physicians, and other partners.

As my 8 weeks with the PHMU team comes to an end this Friday, May 15, 2020, so that I have enough time to study for my upcoming MCCQE Part 1 exam (licensing exam for Canadian medical graduates) prior to residency training starting in July 2020, I am thankful to see first-hand the local public health response to a pandemic and very grateful for the opportunity to work with a dedicated and extremely hard-working team working to promote and protect the health of the Ottawa community. Despite the visibility of public health leaders during this pandemic, one thing that has gone less noticed is the incredibly large amount of work that public health workers (nurses, inspectors, infection prevention and control teams, case management and contact tracing teams) contribute to ensuring we continue to prevent disease and promote health and wellbeing.

The World Health Assembly also takes place in a few days, on Monday, May 18, 2020. With leaders from around the world discussing a coordinated and collaborative response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related socioeconomic considerations. I’ve been humbled to work closely (virtually) with Canadian youth on the perspectives I ought to bring to the table, as I sit with the Canadian delegation (Public Health Agency of Canada) on the perspectives, ideas, and values to ensure that we build back better.

I find myself in a privileged space of intersectional identities and roles that have provided me with insight and reflection on many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic response – from a personal lens, a clinical lens, a local public health lens, and from a global health diplomacy lens. And among this, I continue to navigate how best to take care of myself (physically, psychologically, spiritually) and manage as a medical student graduate transitioning into residency training and preparing for clinical work in July 2020.

I continue to learn of how so many different peoples and communities are working tremendously hard to ensure an optimal response to COVID-19 – ensuring that we are working to protect those that are most vulnerable to negative health and socioeconomic impacts. We all win the fight against COVID-19 and will only win when no one is left behind.

– yipeng

World Health Assembly dates and times (with the Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio, Public Health Agency of Canada)

  • The virtual 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) will be held on May 18, 2020, with three sessions, 06:00-09:00, 10:30-13:30, and 15:00-18:00 EDT

Upcoming dates and events (with the IFMSA – International Federation of Medical Students Association):

  • 15th of May between 13:00 and 14:15 GVA for the session “Global Health Governance”;
  • 23rd of May between 15:15 and 16:15 GVA for the session “National Meaningful Youth Participation”;
  • 24th of May between 14:15 and 15:45 GVA for the “Youth Constituency Event”.

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