Asian adventure awaits PhD student

School of Public Health (SPH) student Stephanie Ortynsky has been selected to participate in the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada (AKFC) International Youth Fellowship program.

Ortynsky was selected as one of 12 participants to the program, which offers young professionals with high potential in leadership a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with host organizations in African and Asian countries and become leaders in international development. She was inspired to apply to the program following her Master of Public Health practicum placement at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was introduced to the Aga Khan Development Network and the prospect of an international career in public health.

Currently a PhD student in the Vaccinology and Immunotherapeutics thesis-based program and working under the supervision of SPH Assistant Professor Dr. Marwa Farag, Ortynsky will take a year of leave from her studies to participate in the program, which consists of a month-long international development management training seminar in Ottawa, followed by an eight-month overseas placement in Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia.

Ortynsky will be working as a monitoring and evaluation fellow with Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), an international organization that works within communities in host countries to address continuing development concerns in areas such as health, education and rural development. She explained that the placement will provide a unique chance to gain professional experience to build a career in the healthcare sector in a developing nation.

"What is exciting about this opportunity is that it will provide the chance to have a hands-on international developing country experience" she said, "and an occasion to test and make use of the knowledge that I have acquired up until this point from my formal, travel, and professional education."

Her work will help the AKHS in its mission to enhance healthcare and increase access to quality services in Tajik communities, and provide a chance to make a positive impact on the significant health issues facing the nation, whose economy suffered badly with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

With her PhD thesis focussed on international vaccine policymaking process, Ortynsky hopes the connections she makes in Tajikistan will provide the foundation for future work within the country, and a potential site for one of her case studies on international vaccine policy. 

"The AKFC's network is vast and being plugged into it can only be of benefit to a young person wanting to make a difference in the world" she said.

As for culture shock, Ortynsky is no stranger to different cultures having completed an internship in South Africa, but she anticipates living in Tajikistan will bring a series a fresh challenges. She acknowledges that living conditions in the country will be much different to those in Canada, where technology and access to transport could be particularly problematic. She added that exposure to a new culture can have a humbling effect on a person, but that the time overseas will provide her with an insightful learning opportunity. 

Share this story