Q&A with Dr. Kate Tairyan

On virtual learning for global health leaders and bolstering capabilities in local health systems

Dr. Kate Tairyan is a Senior Lecturer at Simon Fraser University and the Director of Public Health for www.NextGenU.org, which is the world’s first online platform that provides free, accredited education and training on public health. Her public health experiences include several positions at the Ministry of Health of Armenia and collaborations with international experts on health policy development.

CCGHR is committed to supporting equitable approaches in global health research and training. In this interview, we discuss NextGenU’s mission to reduce barriers to public health education and training.

Interview by Zeba Khan, CCGHR BCCI SYP

What motivated you to get involved with NextGenU? 

So we have identified barriers to education and one of them is cost, of course. The second one is physical access. Our model shows that it’s possible to do it (provide public health education) at a very low cost. We don’t create anything new for NextGenU, we repurpose existing resources. And even if the costs associated with traditional forms of learning isn’t an issue, some may have to relocate to a new place. Leaving families or jobs behind is not always an option. This is why we chose an online model of delivery. NextGenU is there to fill a gap that exists; millions of people are deprived of opportunities because we limit education in brick and mortar schools!

What are some of the exciting projects that you are currently working on? 

I am developing a competency-based public health leadership course, in collaboration with PAHO. PAHO has established a virtual campus for public health education. We are co-developing a course that is high quality, endorsed by our partners and academic institutions. This can help us provide training to WHO staff and local health managers on public health. This has been a big professional goal of mine, and as I am in my sabbatical year, I believe it’s the perfect opportunity to do this. The course will be ready in September and available to everyone globally.

How can this course help in developing local leadership in public health? 

So only a part of the training provided will be online, and the remainder will be in the community where the learner is located. The training can be made more relevant by bringing the training program to the learners, instead of having them to relocate. Access to the internet and technology is growing fast, and we can easily create local learning opportunities.  We are developing peer and mentor activities that we are hoping will enhance the local experience. For example, most of our new courses have an assignment where students work on a case study relevant to their local context. They are encouraged to connect with local organizations and non-governmental agencies to apply what they have learned. 

How can someone get involved with NextGenU?

We use an open-source learning platform and learning resources. We are all about openness, and we welcome anyone who is interested to work with us! There are many ways to get involved. Right now, a lot of my time is dedicated to developing the public health curriculum for next year. If you have any existing connections to a country or region and are interested in promoting education, access to education in public health, I would be more than interested to work with you on these kinds of projects. We have many ongoing projects you can help with as well. For example, I’m working with the CDC and we’re developing courses on cancer prevention, cervical cancer prevention, HPV vaccinations, cervical cancer prevention. Anyone who is interested in getting involved should get in touch with me! 

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