Ambitious. Hard working. A dedicated leader. These are all words that describe Carina Zhu. With her vivacious personality and enthusiasm for work and for play, it is not hard to imagine her as an award winner.
Zhu was recently awarded the School of Public Health Graduate Scholarship valued at $5,000. Currently in Ottawa on a practicum placement with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the money came right in time to help Zhu pay for tuition and living expenses.
This scholarship is the only School based award that is given annually to students who have completed at least one term of coursework and are registered full time in a master of public health degree program. Candidates are selected by their superior academic record, exemplary achievements, related experience and contributions to the community and the School.
Helen Madill, co-chair of the School's awards committee, believes Zhu was an excellent choice to receive the scholarship. "If you look at the curriculum vitae and letter of intent that Carina submitted, her strong motivation and leadership qualities simply shine through."
Zhu's CV is a testament to her hard work. Prior to entering her graduate program, she was an experienced community health nurse with Safeworks and family planning clinics at the Peter Lougheed Centre, all of the former Calgary Health Region, and all at the same time.
Living and working in Ottawa this term has been a different experience for Zhu. Her previous education and outreach work gave her plenty of hands-on experience. Now she is working in the Chronic Disease Surveillance Division of PHAC on a population study.
"My background is more in the area of infectious diseases and I've done a lot of community work,"says Zhu. "My practicum has given me a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into setting up and maintaining a surveillance system."
Zhu recently learned that she was to receive the scholarship. "I feel so lucky to be able to receive this funding," says Zhu. "There were a lot of really qualified candidates out there that applied for the scholarship, so I feel very grateful."
While in Ottawa, Zhu has been completing an elective as well as working in her practicum placement. "I am very close to graduating with only one class and this practicum to complete. I can't believe how quickly the time is flying." The money from the scholarship allows Zhu to focus on her practicum while living and paying bills in Ottawa. "It's nice to have a cushion," she says.
So what are the next steps for this bright young mind? Although she is enjoying her experience in Ottawa, Zhu has confirmed she wants to continue to work in the community with marginalized people. "I'm definitely getting a feel for where I may want to be employed. I want to be working with people in the community."
Ideally, Zhu would like to take her background in health promotion and apply it to the work she has done with marginalized populations, creating a preventative, proactive approach to health care. "Eventually," she says, "I want to influence policy change."