Students & Young Professionals Committee – PHAA
The PHAA’s nine-month mentoring program unites experienced public health professionals (mentors) with early career PHAA members (mentees) who have similar interest areas. The program aims to increase the skills of mentees, provide experience in mentorship to public health professionals, and offer valuable networking opportunities.
Shayal Prasad, of the Students & Young Professionals in Public Health Committee, discusses the National Mentoring Program with 2021 mentee Chelsea Riviere.
Where/what did you study at university, and/or what is your professional background in?
My background is in physiotherapy. I have previously worked in rehabilitation settings and in the international development sector. I am currently studying a Master of Public Health.
Which PHAA Branch/Special Interest Group are you a part of?
I am a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Special Interest Group.
What does your current role involve, and what is the current project/report you are working on?
I am currently undertaking a remote internship with Think Pacific and their partner organisation, Diabetes Fiji. My project involves producing a report on prevention of type-2 diabetes.
What prompted you to apply to the mentoring program?
I was prompted to apply for the National Mentoring Program to help navigate the (wide, wide!) world of public health, and to learn from someone much further along the journey. Having come from an allied health background where study, graduate positions and career paths are relatively clear, I discovered quickly that public health was not as straightforward. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to receive individual guidance at this foundational stage of my career.
Additionally, I recognised the PHAA as an avenue through which I could genuinely engage in public health issues, even as a student. I saw the mentoring program as an opportunity to support me as I began my involvement with the organisation.
What stage of your career/study were you at when you applied and participated in the program?
I applied for the National Mentoring Program during the first year of my Master of Public Health. Participating in this program during a time of transition in my career helped me to understand how my interests, skills and experience fit within the public health sphere. Being mentored during my study helped me to apply a practical lens to what I was learning.
What did you gain or learn from participating in the mentoring program?
This program has helped to develop my understanding of the scope of public health, as well as the role of public health professionals in practice. I have learnt about career entry points and pathways and have gained perspectives that have helped clarify choices during my studies.
Connecting with other mentors and mentees has helped me recognise the diverse public health community that I am already a part of.
Through this program, I have been encouraged to pursue areas of interest, and I have gained the confidence to step into new opportunities. The insights, encouragement, and confidence that I have gained from this program have helped prepare me for my career and will remain with me.
What elements of the program stood out to you?
I appreciated the program structure which involved collaborative goal setting at the beginning, and opportunities to review these goals as the program progressed. Mentor/mentee pairs were matched based on areas of interest, and this provided an excellent starting point for conversation and connection.
The program itself was very flexible and allowed my mentor and I to choose the schedule and mentorship activities that would best help to achieve the goals we had set.
A highlight for me was the commitment of my mentor, Paul, who has been generous with his time, his insights and in sharing his experience.
From your perspective as a mentor/mentee what advice do you have for prospective mentors/mentees interested in applying?
To students and early career professionals considering applying – I would say absolutely go for it, even if it feels outside of your comfort zone. This program is a unique opportunity to learn from an experienced public health professional who is dedicating time to invest in your development.
To maximize your learning as a mentee, I would recommend seeking out resources and professional development opportunities to discuss with your mentor. Prepare for each session, actively reflect on what you have learnt, and bring a willingness to grow and be challenged.
What’s next in your public health career?
My next step is to finish my Master of Public Health. After developing an interest in epidemiology through my courses last year, I plan to pursue this stream. I hope to undertake a research project as part of my program, possibly in disability.
I’ll remain an active member of the PHAA and look for opportunities to contribute through the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Special Interest Group.
Beyond my MPH, I want to promote health equity for people with disability, whether that be through research, advocacy, or policy work.
About the PHAA National Mentoring Program
The PHAA National Mentoring Program coordinates and facilitates the pairing of PHAA members early in their public health career with experienced members in the mentees’ area of interest.
The program runs over the course of nine months and primarily functions to initiate a mentee-mentor relationship. The program is purposely flexible in design to allow mentees and mentors to work together in identifying the mentoring needs of the mentee and develop corresponding objectives for the mentee-mentor relationship over the program’s duration.
The program aims to build the capacity of early career members of the PHAA through teaching, training, networking, and providing them with appropriate resources.
Mentee Program Benefits
- Guidance and advice regarding your career ideas, helping you make more informed career choices
- Opportunity to meet a public health professional with experience in your area of interest
- Advice on resources relevant to your area of interest
- Enhanced professional development and increased confidence