MDGs, SDGs and Me

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)…

  1. Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Create global partnership(s) for development


The facts as the Sustainable Development Goals are being implemented…

Global poverty is declining.

More children attend primary school than ever before.

Child mortality has drastically decreased.

Clean water is increasingly available.

There have been numerous disease interventions that have saved millions of people all around the world.


But what about…


Better education?

Better healthcare? Better access to healthcare?

Markedly increasing equality between men and women?

Increasing the availability of more affordable and nutritious food?

The stigma associated with some illnesses and/or diseases?


How can we measure success? Is a ‘little bit’ enough? What is the significance of an end date? How can we sustain the MDG momentum? What or who has been neglected? How can you balance the need for clarity in setting goals and still adequately reflect the complexities of development? Have we asked developing nations what their goals are? I’m reminded of the Nestle baby milk scandal.  How could we better represent the concerns of low and middle-income countries? How can we move towards a less top-down approach? Are we missing crucial dimensions of development? Are these our aid dollars? How many Canadian tax dollars are allocated to the UN, to aid, to development? Are we on par with other member nations? Were we in 1990 or 2000? 10 years ago? 5 years ago? What is our role!? My role?


These are just a few of the questions I had going into my second meeting with my mentor, Dr. Loh.


Dr. Loh, Nina Nguyen (a medical student from Université de Sherbrooke) and I had a very productive and stimulating discussion. We were able to discuss some strengths and weaknesses of the goals and brainstorm not only what the MDGs could look like beyond 2015, but what helped develop (and perhaps sustain) their momentum from the 1990s onwards. Branching off from there, we discussed the context and bigger picture of the goals; calling attention to some of the ways LMIC’s could have more of an equal yet tangible role. I think Dr. Loh summed it up pretty well by saying that “perhaps we should try and privilege the input of countries that haven’t had as much of a say, but often carry much of the burden, rather than just leaving the discussion forum open; the current structure unfortunately tends to prioritize the views of the bigger players.”

It was also interesting to discuss Canada’s role… I didn’t think that Canada allocated much funding (for foreign aid) and that our relationship with the UN could be ‘better’. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true or not, if that’s changed since March 2015 (when this conversation took place), or if it will perhaps be changing in the future. Should Canada strive to match the funding of other [developed] nations? I’m a little unsure what my personal role is, but as I mentioned to Dr. Loh and Nina, for now it’s spreading awareness about the millennium and sustainable development goals, and being real about both their strengths and their weaknesses. I feel as if keeping up with the post 2015 plan and tracking it’s progress, perhaps learning more about Canada’s involvement, is a good place to start.

Nicola Paviglianiti (SYP 2014-2015)

I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in MentorNet as a young 3rd year undergraduate student, and for the chance to be connected with a strong and experienced female role model in the field. I attended the Canadian Global Health Conference in Ottawa in 2014 and came to realize that Global Health had infinite avenues and many options, and I was eager to learn more. Where did I belong in it all?

The program helped me foster critical reflection, and helped me understand the many opportunities and options within Global Health. I was able to explore my interests, and satisfy my eagerness for knowledge-stimulated discussion. My mentor was always available for consultation, and I enjoyed our Friday morning skype chats – a time that wouldn’t conflict with our busy schedules during the day.

What I found most valuable was the chats about life in general. In particular what stands out as most memorable for me were our discussions of my upcoming summer internship in Kenya, women’s health, and the experience of being a working woman in global health. It was a time for me to listen to her first hand experiences and tid-bits of advice that I could apply to my own life and university studies. For example, my mentor was a grounding force while I participated in a 4 month university internship abroad. It went beyond modules, and my mentor constantly provided me assurance, advice, and was a sense of security through the ups and downs.

MentorNet has motivated to continue my journey within Global Health, and has inspired me to pursue grad studies within my passions in the field.

‘Lessons 1, 2 and 3’

It was this time last year.

I was growing increasingly frustrated over whether or not I should apply for Masters programs and ever-discouraged at the lack of ‘entry-level’ positions in a field I wasn’t even sure I understood. I had applied to be a SYP for MentorNet… a program I’d heard about over a year previous but been far too busy at the time to even think about. I remember receiving the e-mail on New Year’s Eve 2014, welcoming me to the program. After wrapping up a month long vacation, I finally met my mentor, Dr. Lawrence Loh, in early February. When working through the first module, we were asked to set goals for the program. For me that was the easy part. I wanted to learn, to grow, and to be wrong.

Twelve months ago, I was primarily interested in mental health, HIV/AIDS awareness, and hunger/food security. I had dreams of moving to Southern India and living in a remote village; learning Tamil or Hindi or whatever language was required of me. I’d still love to do that. Through MentorNet, my interests have evolved to include mentorship and career planning, navigating domestic and international projects/programs, and Indigenous (First Nations/Inuit/Metis) health.

At the end of our first meeting, Dr. Loh and I were discussing a few different hypothetical situations when he said:

“…Just know, I’m telling you this so that you can leave here today—think critically about things— and form your own understanding”.

When I asked him for general advice moving forward, he had two simple suggestions:

“Never break ties”

“Maintain your interests in whatever ways that you can”

Those were lessons 1,2, and 3.

So instead of jumping into a Masters degree, I decided to do a Graduate Certificate in Project Management. However before arriving at this decision, I had also applied to Ryerson’s Public Health & Safety program (to eventually become a public health inspector). I remember discussing this with Dr. Loh and asking for his input. His answer made me recall lesson 1: form your own understanding. 

SYP Stories

With their mentors as a guide, each year our SYPs experience a great deal of both personal and professional growth. From grand realizations related to the nature of global health, to more intimate revelations about maintaining a healthy work-life balance, throughout the program there is no shortage of learning. To showcase some of the lessons, insights, and ‘a-ha’ moments that our SYPs experience, we have developed a collection of mentorship anecdotes. This mini-series, entitled ‘SYP Stories’ aims to facilitate learning not only between MentorNet SYPs, but also among other students and young professionals interested in building a career in global health.

Part 1: Lessons 1, 2 and 3 – Kali Mullins (SYP ’15)

Part 2: MDGs, SDGs and Me – Kali Mullins (SYP’15)





MentorNet Testimonial – Nicole Cousins (SYP 2015)

Participating in MentorNet has been a wonderful addition to my education and career in global health. Having just finished my MSc in Global Mental Health, the informal learning and discussion from the modules expanded my understanding in different facets of global health, from women’s health to social determinants. Health is not about stand-alone themes, but an amalgamation of the areas up for discussion in the MentorNet modules. This mentorship experience was a key driving force in my career in medicine, and I am so thankful for the discussions and lessons from my wonderful mentor Deirdre. I am excited to continue my involvement this year as a Program Liaison and see others benefit from the power of mentorship.

Reflecting on MentorNet – Kali Mullins (SYP 2014-2015)

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of reflecting on and engaging with global health issues through the MentorNet curriculum this past year. From MDGs post 2015, to social determinants of health for First Nations, to considering some of the consequences of global health interventions… I was able to thoughtfully examine some of the complex problems that truly reach beyond national borders. Mentorship has been an invaluable tool in developing personal understanding, confronting some of my preconceived notions, and helping me effectively assess my goals moving forward. My mentor, Dr. Lawrence Loh, is an inspiring and insightful individual who challenged me to think critically, build relationships, and strive to maintain interests in the field. I am thrilled to continue my journey with MentorNet as a Program Liaison and Steering Committee Member for the 2016 program year and look forward to learning from both the incoming SYPs and Mentors!

-Kali Mullins, SYP 2014-2015, Steering Committee Member 2015-2016

SYP REFLECTIONS – Yoshith Perera

“I’m honoured to have had this opportunity to cultivate a professional and lasting relationship with a great mind and amazing leader within the field of global health. MentorNet provided just the right kind of seeds in terms of a mentorship platform. The experience built my awareness and knowledge of the various dimensions of global health equity determinants. As a passionate global health professional, I would recommend this opportunity to those committed global health visionaries. Give yourself the chance to bounce your innovative dreams off like minded leaders in the field. That being said, I suggest having a specific plan for yourself and being strategic in your application and overall implementation of this program.

I find MentorNet a worthy platform which is quite instrumental in the pursuit of one’s career aspirations. As a dedicated SYP for the year 2014 – 2015, my experience coloured my approach to building a career. I will continue my participation with this program as a member of the Steering Committee for 2015-2016. I wish everyone the very best in their applications and look forward to epic collaborations in the near future.”

-Yoshith, former SYP, Steering Committee Member