Full interview, In English: https://www.canwach.ca/article/global-health-leaders-future-yipeng-ge
What inspired you to pursue a career in global health?
It really goes back to some of the decisions that my parents made as Chinese immigrants. I was actually born in Wuhan, China where the COVID-19 outbreak started, which adds an interesting layer to my intersectional identity and puts everything that is going on in the world into context for me. As an immigrant child, I felt stuck between two worlds: I was a foreigner in Canada and also a foreigner in China. Knowing that my dad actually came from extreme poverty in rural China and that we still have relatives in better, yet still similar circumstances, I was very cognizant of the privilege afforded to me based on the decisions and sacrifices that my parents made to bring the family to Waterloo, Ontario.
When I started my undergraduate studies at McMaster University, I was exposed to the inequities and injustices faced by Indigenous communities in Canada. As I added more layers of information and knowledge to my own world view and understanding of the systems around me, I realized that I wanted to do something about it. This led me to learn from Indigenous scholars, clinicians, anthropologists, community leaders and even patients in Hamilton and Six Nations of the Grand River. I learned more about the healthcare system and how policy can have a large impact on a person’s wellbeing and health.
My undergraduate studies also exposed me to the concept of social determinants of health. I began to recognize that I took many things for granted growing up in Waterloo, like having a roof over my head, having food on the table, having a good relationship with my parents and a stable family income. It shifted how I thought about what makes someone well and healthy. These revelations were a turning point for me in deciding not only to pursue medicine as a career, but to also think about pursuing public health as a career.
You are starting your residency during COVID-19, which must be an exceptionally interesting and challenging time to be starting this next phase of your career. What is that like? How does a typical day look?
It most certainly is an exceptional time for so many different people. There is not a single person who has been untouched by the realities of COVID-19 and how the pandemic has unfolded. You either know someone who has been sick or has been impacted by the public health interventions that were put into place and their economic impacts. It is an interesting time for any person to be entering any field. It is also an interesting time to be a young person trying to learn about the world and where they fit into it.
On July 1st, I’ll be going back for one month clinical teaching rotations in the in-patient hospital wards. What does the day-to-day look like? I think the privilege and pleasure of being a student, a trainee or a young person right now is that your day-to-day can look very different. That’s what is very exciting about residency training–it’s an opportunity to learn how to adapt to whatever issue or obstacle that comes my way.