The Lived Experience of Global Public Health Practice: A Phenomenological Account of Women Graduate Students. Academic Article uri icon

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  • There is a dearth of research that aims to understand graduate students' lived experience of global health practice. Difficulties, distress, and trauma occur before and after these students' placement abroad, and they often increase when returning home. Moreover, few articles address the increased vulnerabilities faced by women, such as sexual violence and gender-based discrimination. We conducted a phenomenological study to understand the lived experience of Canadian and US women graduate students participating in global public health practice. Eight participants participated in 21 in-depth interviews, while 17 participants created 35 lived experience descriptions through a guided writing exercise. Our findings reveal participants' underlying discomfort with privilege while conducting fieldwork abroad, as well as depressive feelings once they return home. According to participants, while their global health fieldwork challenged previous ways of thinking and being, limited spaces and avenues for openly sharing these processes contributed to mental health challenges. Participants reported that these interviews were their first opportunity to fully share their global health experiences. Based on our analysis of these shared experiences, we argue that academic institutions participating in global health should provide appropriate and accessible resources, adequate financial compensation, safe spaces for authentic conversations, and time for processing experiences throughout the research cycle and especially in the months and years following fieldwork.


  • McAuliffe, Corey
  • Upshur, Ross
  • Sellen, Daniel W
  • Ruggiero, Erica Di

publication date

  • June 2019