The Circumpolar Health Research Network (CHRN) is an organisation focused on the cooperation and collaboration of health scientists working on research in the circumpolar region. Each year, the CHRN offer travel scholarships to student members, helping them to attend conferences and summer schools around the world.
Read on to hear how these scholarships helped two student members, Katie Cueva and Charlotte Brandstrup Hansen, to join fellow researchers at the 2016 NunaMed conference in Greenland.
Tell us a bit about your research, and why the Circumpolar Health Research Network travel scholarship was important for you.
Katie: As a public health student, researcher, and practitioner, I was excited to learn I’d been offered the opportunity to travel to Nuuk, Greenland to attend the 2016 NunaMed conference; both to learn with colleagues across the circumpolar north, and to share information about work I’m a part of. I’m honored to be part of a team based at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium that works to support Alaska’s tribal primary care providers on cancer prevention and control. I was hopeful that going to Greenland would allow me both to learn information that I could share with our team back home, and to offer stories of our work with others in the north.
Despite the incredible opportunity to learn and connect with colleagues in Greenland, I was unsure how I would find the funding to cover travel expenses to make it to the conference and summer school, particularly given the high cost of travel to Greenland. I gratefully received partial funding support from a grant through the coordinator of the PhD summer school. This made me realize travel to Greenland was a real possibility, however a gap in funding support remained. As I considered my options, a mentor from Alaska encouraged me to apply for a travel scholarship with the Circumpolar Health Research Network.
Charlotte: My bachelor thesis explored the effect of contextual factors on the mental health of adolescents in Greenland, and I was planning to attend the NunaMed conference to present the results. As the conference has a specific focus on Greenlandic health and medicine, it was the perfect forum for my research. The scholarship made it possible for me to participate, and it was a great opportunity for me to be able to present the results of my research about the Greenlandic Inuit.
How did the scholarship application process work?
Charlotte: I was made aware of the possibility to apply for the scholarship by Christina Viskum Lytken Larsen, the president of the Circumpolar Health Research Network. It was simple to apply – I prepared an application describing my reasons for requesting the grant, and presented my travel budget. I sent the application to CHRN and was shortly notified that I had received a scholarship of €1000. As a follow up after the conference, I sent an experience report to the CHRN.
Katie: I simply submitted my personal statement, CV, evidence of my accepted abstract for the conference, budget, and reference to a senior scientist. Within two weeks, I learned I’d been chosen as one of the recipients of the CHRN travel scholarship 2016!
What were your highlights of attending the NunaMed conference?
Charlotte: The conference included a lot of different topics which were both informative and entertaining. I’ve learned new things and made a lot of promising acquaintances which have made it possible for me to make other study-related travel. Besides attending the conference, I had the opportunity to visit Nuuk and Greenland for the first time. I was very impressed with the city and the nature surrounding it, and was very happy I had time to explore the area.
Katie: Connecting with other public health practitioners and researchers in the circumpolar north was an incredible learning experience. During the PhD school, I explored the ideas of Community-Based Participatory Action Research and the ethics of research in small populations. During the summer school and conference, I enjoyed learning from people from around the circumpolar north, including individuals from Greenland, Denmark, Canada, and the United States. I connected with individuals involved in work similar to mine, and heard about ideas and pursuits in the circumpolar north that were new to me. My experiences nurturing friendships, cultivating professional connections, and exchanging ideas on supporting the health of people in the circumpolar north, were made possible thanks to the Circumpolar Health Research Network.
What advice would you give to other young researchers who are considering applying for similar programmes?
Charlotte: I would recommend any young researcher with an interest in circumpolar health to apply for this scholarship when available. The scholarship gave me the opportunity of travelling to Greenland where I contributed to a conference for the first time. It was a great experience which wouldn’t have been possible without this scholarship.
Charlotte Brandstrup Hansen is a master student in public health at Copenhagen University, Denmark, and a student at Center for Health Research in Greenland, part of the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark.
Katie Cueva graduated from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health in 2017 with a Doctor of Science dual degree, and works as a Senior Research Professional at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage.