A conversation Amanda Sunderdas

A Discussion with Amanda Sunderdas by Aisha Saleem:

Today I am posting the second story for “A Student’s Voice”. The stories of students I share are either currently students or newly graduated. Our goal with this blog is to share stories of their experiences and ask them about why planetary and global health is important to them. Through sharing their stories, students will also tell us about what drew them into this field. The blog today is with Amanda who tells us about her journey as a Global Health student and her experiences in the field. This blog will continue in the upcoming months, highlighting passionate individuals in Global Health, on the fourth Thursday of every month.

Let me introduce Amanda Sunderdas: Amanda is a recent graduate from the Global Health program at York University. Amanda graduated with a BA in Global Health with a Specialized Honours in Health Policy, Systems, and Management. Regarding her professional experience, Amanda has worked various jobs, including a three-month practicum with the Caribbean Public Health Agency. It was in Trinidad that Amanda gained valuable experience working with the organization’s planning and coordination team. The real-world exposure she received through this program helped strengthen her interpersonal communication skills, identify areas of improvement, and created various reports/templates needed for the strategic planning and development process. Now back home, Amanda is currently looking for work in her field while pursuing other passions, including fitness and embroidery. She is also focusing on her mental health, an area of self-care that she feels strongly about. Amanda hopes to find someday herself working towards creating upstream change through the non-profit sector. You can read more about Amanda’s experiences on her LinkedIn profile.

How do you see your role in maintaining and facilitating Planetary health?

As a recent graduate, my role in maintaining and facilitating Planetary Health revolves around spreading awareness and knowledge about the intrinsic relationship between our environment and health, on top of promoting the blog itself. Throughout my degree, we examined how various environmental issues, such as pollution, deforestation, climate change, and many other problems, are directly related to health outcomes around the world. Sharing our knowledge about the importance of ecological wellness and taking better care of our planet should be at the forefront of global health discussions moving forward.

Did you enjoy your time at university?

I believe that university, like many experiences in life, had its ups and downs. I definitely learned a lot from my time at York and took away valuable skills and memories. The work was not always easy, the workload itself was often overwhelming, but the feeling of success that came from a finished project or particularly challenging presentation was unexplainable. I met people I would never have met had I not gone to York and will continue with those relationships for many years to come. I have also learned a great deal about myself, my interests, passions, and study areas that genuinely interest me. Overall, my university experience helped improve my confidence in myself and has driven my willingness to take on new challenges.  

What motivates and inspires you to work in this field?

My motivation and inspiration for working in the global health field stem from the knowledge and social awareness I gained through the program. Going into global health, I had no idea where this degree would take me or what I would come to learn. However, over the last four years, I have developed newfound insight into understanding issues surrounding health equity and injustice throughout all different kinds of communities, both locally and globally. The most captivating part of global health is its emphasis on examining systemic health inequities and understanding how the lack of access to health resources and inadequate quality of services available have directly contributed to poor health around the world. This motivates me to work in the field as it points us in the direction of being better equipped to tackle the emerging study of what would constitute long-term and sustainable changes for these issues and what is needed to create inclusive policies and protections for those most vulnerable to these harmful environments. 

What roles have people around you (parents, siblings, teachers, friends, mentors, managers, etc.) played in motivating you and facilitating your career journey?

My supportive network has definitely played a large part in shaping my career journey. From the endless physical and emotional support of my family to the advice given to me by peers and mentors alike, my journey thus far is a representation of all my experiences to date. It is those times when I felt overwhelmed, confused and scared to step out of my comfort zone that I have looked to the guidance and wisdom of academic mentors and peers for reassurance. In terms of what drives my journey moving forward, I have always been fuelled by the idea that we are living in a time of significant change. Although there is still a long way to go, we’ve come this far in our fight for equity and inclusivity, and I hope the future sees us through that.

 What would be your advice to students and how to best use their time?

Personally, I believe we put too much pressure on time. The “best” use of someone’s time will look different for everyone. Often, we think that to be successful means being always productive or continuously setting and achieving goals. This is objectively true, and for some students, the best use of their time may include obtaining additional certificates and taking those extra online courses. But for most students, I think a lot of us are still in the overwhelming process of figuring out what our goals are and trying to dissect what it is that truly motivates us. This limbo period tends to be a really overwhelming, confusing, and often fearful period that people don’t necessarily talk about. I truly believe that the best use of a student’s time would be to spend it with themselves, reflecting on how to work through unravelling what truly drives them in life. As I am continuously learning, there is no clear-cut roadmap to success. So, use your time to do whatever it is that makes you happy and makes you truly inspired to continue learning and growing as an individual.

Pictures from Amanda’s three-month practicum in Trinidad with the Caribbean Public Health Agency:

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