Trust yourself to dream big, with former refugee & global health advocate Yasir Essar, MSc

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In our latest podcast episode, we delve into a story of transition, courage, and the unwavering human spirit as our guest, Yasir Essar, swapped his dentistry scrubs for a career in public health amid the chaotic backdrop of a global pandemic and geopolitical turmoil. Yasir shares how visualizing achievements can provide a push to overcome challenges and demonstrates the powerful role mentors and community support play in guiding career paths, particularly for international students and professionals in new environments. His career transformation teaches us that with resilience, the right mindset, and community support, we can navigate through uncertainty and emerge with renewed purpose and aspirations.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How the COVID pandemic led Yasir to public and global health and steps he took to transition into the field from dentistry
  • Yasir’s experience continuing his education and career as a refugee in Canada, how he persevered through the uprooting of his life, and how his background shaped his current interest in refugee and global health
  • Building and relying on a social support group and mentors to achieve your dreams and other ways to visualize your goals
  • Tips for international students and remembering to take the time to care for yourself in a new country
  • Using LinkedIn with intentionality as a tool to network, facilitate advocacy, tell stories, and make an impact

Today’s Guest:

Yasir is a former refugee from Afghanistan who holds an MSc in Global Health from McMaster University.

Prior to moving to Canada, he lived as a refugee in Tajikistan after fleeing Afghanistan. During his time as a refugee, he continued to share his lived experience of refugee life.

Currently, he works as a Research Assistant at Western University in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and as a Community Scholar at the University of Calgary. Additionally, he holds a visiting academic position with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton. 

Yasir’s professional journey is marked by an unwavering commitment to knowledge and a passion for making a real-world impact. His scholarly work has been published in prestigious journals such as The Lancet, BMJ, and PLoS. He is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and holds multiple certificates from Wayne State University, the University of Geneva, McGill University, and the LinkedIn Learning Academy.

During his tenure as a Research Assistant at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center, he focused particularly on tuberculosis research, further enriching his expertise in infectious disease research.

Yasir is always eager to connect with like-minded professionals, share insights, and explore collaborative opportunities. He is open to guest lecture invitations on the topics of refugees, mentorship, and global health.

Featured on the Show:


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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