Alexa, one of our 2017 Global Health Scholars

We asked law student Alexa Franczak to talk about her experience being a Global Health Scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Argerie Tsimicalis and traveling to India during the Summer of 2017.

Alexa was one of 21 McGill undergraduate students who had the chance to participate on a global health project with a McGill Faculty member during the summer of 2017. With Dr. Argerie Tsimicalis of the Ingram School of Nursing, she worked on costs incurred by families of children with cancer in India.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am third year law student at McGill. I studied art history and anthropology [before that]. Prior to my experience as a GH Scholar, I had almost zero background or understanding of the complexity of the field of global health.

2. Can you give an overview of the project you worked on last summer as a Global Health Scholar? What was your role?

My project was conceived and supervised by Dr. Tsimicalis, who wanted to continue to work on describing and understanding the various costs incurred by the parents of children with cancer in India, arising from their child’s illness. The [original] idea was to analyze data collected by a previous masters student in nursing and come up with a paper which was suitable for publication in an academic journal on my own. My supervisor wanted to focus on either one of two themes: either uncertainty, or social support. However, after much discussion with the other GH scholar also supervised by Dr. Tsimicalis (Matt Desruisseaux), and having a look at the data, we found that there was quite a bit of overlap between the two themes. Accordingly, the project became developing and writing a qualitative paper on how caregivers of children with cancer use their social support networks to deal with uncertainty arising from cost of illness.

3. If there is such a thing, what was a typical day working on the project?

While in India, a typical day would start at in the office of Dr. Arora, the corresponding supervisor in India. His office was located a major private hospital in Delhi. I would meet my co-GH scholar who was working on the project at the hospital, where we would work on analyzing the data we received together and brainstorm about our paper and hypothesize about the patters we were discovering. Some days, we did some tours of other health institutions in Delhi, such as a public hospital, and the building of an affiliated charity (Cankids).

4. How did you benefit from the experience?

I benefitted from the experience by building a strong mentorship with my supervisor. Her guidance and encouragement throughout and after the summer has helped me academically and professionally. We still keep in touch, and she often sends me opportunities that she thinks I should apply for.

I also benefitted by  incorporating the work that I did through the program into my legal studies by applying a human rights framework to the issue of children’s health access in India and expanded on this this idea in one of my law classes. I was able to develop an academic interest in the intersection between law and global health.

5. What did you learn about global health during your experience?

I learned how global health is multi-disciplinary and expansive. So many different conceptualizations and ideas are needed to solve health equity, and GH picks up a little bit from each.

6. Did you feel like part of the team during the summer?

I did feel like a part of the team during the summer. Even though I had the least experience and background knowledge on health care and the process and requirements of developing an academic work for publication, I was included in every discussion and at every stage of the project.

7. What would you say to students thinking of applying to the global health scholars in 2018?

I would foremost encourage them to apply for projects, even those which might not align with their backgrounds or interests, because you might end up having an experience which you never thought possible, or discover a field that interests you outside of your traditional academic work. Even so, there is so much variety to the projects that there seems to be something for everyone.

8. Any final thoughts on your experience?

I am very grateful that McGill has this program for students, especially that the program is open to students not from clinical disciplines or are not traditionally associated with GH. My experience with the program is by far one of the most memorable of my time at McGill.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions Alexa! Find out more about how to become a Scholar for the Summer of 2018 here.


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