New UC grad helping to give youth a voice in health

05 December 2022

Taking theory from the lecture theatre and putting it into practice has inspired University of Canterbury (UC) Health Sciences graduate Therese Yamit to work in community health.

  • Theresa Yamit

    Hands-on experience has inspired Health Sciences graduate Therese Yamit to work in community health.

SDG 4

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: Quality Education

Hands-on experience through UC’s PACE Internship Programme (PACE) and the Bachelor of Health Science third year health internship paper has helped Therese combine classroom learning with practical application through her internships at Kidney Health New Zealand and with the Cancer Society.    

“I really wanted to step up my game in the health sciences field, so I looked at available internships for both my second and third years. I never expected to get an internship with a large health organisation like Kidney Health New Zealand or the Cancer Society.”

Each of Therese’s internships have built on the next, culminating in a fixed-term research position at the University.

Therese says she really enjoyed her first internship as a data analyst at Kidney Health New Zealand, but it was when she worked for the Cancer Society that she found her passion for community-based health work.

“I was able to build on the learnings with Kidney Health New Zealand and take that into my role with the Cancer Society,” Therese says.

At the Cancer Society, she was part of the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan, working to deliver the Cancer Society’s youth engagement programme.

“My role was to research youth perspectives in health, but I found most of the research available was international, there was nothing here in New Zealand, so it was hard to understand the needs of New Zealand youth communities.”

Wanting an Aotearoa New Zealand context to the research, Therese suggested that the team should talk with the people they were trying to promote the programmes to. 

“We started the youth engagement project by talking to youth groups and youth councils to get their perspective and experience around being Smokefree in NZ.

“It was a really positive experience. The youth organisations were receptive to the engagement programmes, knowing they had a voice in the Action Plan.”

However, the outreach was not all smooth sailing, with the programme taking much longer than anticipated due to Covid-19 disruption.

“Applying theory to the work environment, I learnt that in real life you have to be complex and flexible applying knowledge to a large range of situations,” she says. 

The Smokefree youth engagement project has continued with a commitment to encourage submissions and ensure that youth are included in influencing public policy.

Health Science wasn’t Therese’s first choice when enrolling in a university programme.

“I was enrolled at Otago to do medicine, but at the last minute I doubted that decision and changed to a Bachelor of Health Science at UC, and I’m so glad I did.”

Therese says Health Sciences is a natural fit. “If you find something that comes naturally and sparks inspiration then you are doing the right degree – it keeps you motivated.

“The Bachelor of Health Sciences has opened my mind to a different perspective in health. It has changed my thinking of how I can make a difference and opened doors to health promotion.”

Therese is currently working as a research assistant at UC, collating the most successful collaborative community-health projects in New Zealand into resources to provide to all community-based health organisations to help them deliver their programmes.

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