Graduand Nicola Toffelmire at the United Nations in New York City, where she interned with the World Health Organization.

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International experience spark's new career interests

October 03, 2017
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By Emma Keeler-Dugas

Health sciences student Nicola Toffelmire graduates on Oct. 5 not only with a Master of Public Health, but with the title of Canada’s Youth Delegate to the World Health Assembly (WHA) and a completed internship with the World Health Organization (WHO).

As WHA’s Canadian Youth Delegate, Toffelmire consulted with youth and young professionals across Canada on public health issues. She spent two weeks in Geneva where she delivered Canada’s position statement on the draft Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia, which was adopted by member states.  

“I was determined to strengthen the level of engagement among students and young professionals,” says Toffelmire.

“Youth engagement is critical in public health initiatives. The perspective from youth is an untapped resource, and we have a strong voice.”

While serving as Canada’s Youth Delegate, she applied for an internship with the WHO Office at the United Nations.

“I had an interview on the phone and they offered me the job two days later. I had nine days to relocate to New York City.”

During her internship, Toffelmire worked on the Commission on the Status of Women, an annual two-week convention that overlaps with International Women’s Day and other high-level, public-health-related projects and events.  

“It was overwhelming, but every minute was amazing,” she says. “It was surreal to have my United Nations employee badge and to be someone who belonged there. It turned a light on inside of me, and created an interest in diplomacy I want to further pursue.”

Toffelmire says her SFU education set her up for success.

“I was in a field school with SFU health sciences professor Angela Kaida in South Africa and I think that was a pivotal moment in my educational experience,” she says. “Being in a classroom filled with different cultures, knowledge and experiences is something I will take with me.”

Toffelmire begins a one-year Master of Science in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at the London School of Economics and Political Science this fall.