November 4th: The True Size of Africa

4 11 2014

A friend of mine is working on a WatSan (water and Sanitation) project in Malawi. Her blog has some insightful pieces (like this one on the real size of Africa) which are reader friendly and are good for getting the brain thinking! Be sure to check it out. (Safe travels Megan!)

According 2 Megan

I have come to realize something this past week, something  I am a bit embarrassed to say I hadn’t known or put any thought to in the past. The continents and their size. And how this in turn affects my own perspective of the world.

When asked what the world looks like, how many of you thought of this? I sure do! See map below:


But what if this isn’t what the world actually looks like?

Have you ever thought of the world like this before?

upside down

The first time I saw the ‘upside down’ map, I was in New Zealand and thought it was just a gimmick sold in souvenir shops. Now as I am writing this blog post about the world and our perspectives, I don’t know about you, but I find it to be quite jarring. Because the more I think about it, the more I realize my initial worldview (picture 1) was…

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I now have 3 extra letters after my name!

22 10 2014

Since June 2014, I can officially sign as: Sarah Topps, MPH

This has been a strange year for me, with a lot of ups and downs. There have been a number of major life changes which have somewhat interrupted the frequency of my online writing. I hope to change this in the coming months, despite still being busy! I have been really fortunate to be working on a number of interesting projects and teams, so let me give you the latest for each one.

1) Working at the University of Calgary on a project called Healthy Child Uganda.

Excitingly, our new website just went up! HCU is an amazing team, and I love my work with them. Check it out here: 


2) Surprise work trips to South America!

In September, I was also honoured to be offered the opportunity to travel with Dr. Marc Poulin (University of Calgary) to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) for their Safety Week Conference, focusing on the health impacts of working at high altitude. I would like to share the Impact Report that I wrote for the visit with you – particularly since this one has attracted quite a few compliments from my superiors, and as a Global Health alumnus, I found it so challenging to find good examples of this kind of documentation that we need to learn when I was a student. I hope it helps someone learn:
Impact Report – ALMA Safety Week Conference Sept 23 – 25 – FINAL © Sarah Topps 2014

chile sunset Sept 2014

Having dinner with world-class physicists every night is pretty cool. The sunsets were pretty spectacular too…This was taken literally from outside of my hotel room at ALMA. – Sarah Topps 2014

3) Speaking at Global Health Conferences and Events

We have also been making good progress with the new Student Executive arm of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research. I am excited to announce that I will be speaking about Mentorship at the 21st Canadian Conference on Global Health, along with several of my esteemed colleagues from the CCGHR, the CCGHR Student Executive and the CSIH Mentornet program.

You can view the program here:

CCGH 2014 Partnerships for GH

Workshop #1 – Governor General 1 (< this is where to go if you are hoping to join us!)
Building a toolkit for success in global health: The many faces of mentorship
Sarah Topps, MPH (Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research)
At the end of the session, participants will:

  • Develop a 5-year roadmap for the next steps to take in their careers.
  • Identify pathways to finding a mentor and why this is important.
  • Strengthen their peer networks by connecting with others in global health.

I will also be co-presenting with those teams on the same topic at the now sold out Students and Young Professionals Global Health Summit on November 1st in Ottawa. Hope to see some of you there!


4) Promoting water workshops and networking events for students and young professionals.

My other appointment with the Canadian Water Network’s Students and Young Professionals Committee. My team has been doing amazing work pulling together several cool workshops across the country, which YOU can attend for free!
Check ’em out here:




We will also be announcing more information about our upcoming bi-annual water conference in March 2015. Stay tuned!

5) Expanding my horizons and donating to a good cause.

Newly interested in another project at the University of Calgary – Project SHINE – which is working with Maasai pastoralists in Tanzania to empower youth to educate themselves and others about sanitation and hygiene. Most recently I have been promoting their drive to collect used digital cameras or used smart phones to document the World’s First Sanitation Science Fair. I donated one of my old digital cameras, and I am very excited to be receiving a Foldscope (a working origami microscope!) in return for my donation.
 If anyone is interested in donating, Sheri is still looking for donations. See the poster below for details.

SHINE poster for donations

Sarah Topps, MPH © October 2014

Using Everyday Objects for Healthy Portion Sizes

23 04 2014

Hello readers!

April has been a whirlwind of activity as I finish up my Master of Public Health degree! Earlier this month, I was invited to give a short ten-minute presentation on the subject of Nutritional Wellness.

hand guide for food










Using my adult learning training, I chose to use the BOPPPS model to construct my 10-minute presentation. I have decided to upload my lesson plan for anyone to look at and use for educational purposes:

 Healthy Portion Sizes Lesson Plan – Sarah Topps 2014 

I have also uploaded the powerpoint presentation that I created to deliver this lesson:

Using Everyday Objects for Healthy Portion Sizes – Lesson 

 Short post today, but I hope it is useful for those of you who are:

  • aspiring public health professionals
  • current public health professionals looking for some new material
  • anyone looking for a BOPPPS lesson plan in its final form
  • health educators or health promotion managers

IMPORTANT: Please give credit where credit is due –
Do not pass this off as your own work!

Feel free to use it under the Creative Commons License:
(Full Creative Commons License description here)

Thanks for reading, and feel free to post any questions below!

– Sarah Topps 2014

New Role: Canadian Water Network SYPC Representative

1 04 2014

I have a new role! I was very excited to find out in February that I would be joining the:

2014-2015 Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) of the Canadian Water Network. 

I am honoured to be selected as one of 21 talented graduate students and young professionals who make up this committee for an 18-month term from March 2014. Having recently returned from our 1st National meeting in Toronto, I am looking forward to all of the opportunities that I can both provide to other young Canadians, and participate in through this committee, such as this workshop:



My role is to be a Regional Representative for the Pacific Region of Canada, and to collaborate with the other reps in BC to organize and host some amazing workshops, social meet and greets, networking events, and other skill-building activities.



If you are living in British Columbia, and interested in water issues – whether from an industry, academic or social point of view, I invite you to join us for any events that we put on. Please contact me if you would like more information!

– Sarah Topps 2014

{Apologies for the long gap between posts. I have been working hard to finish my Masters’ degree, and since my defense is tomorrow, I expect to have more time to start writing regularly on here again.}


A Cheatsheet for the Global Health Funding Players

24 05 2013

This short document was sent to me via the Center for Global Development listserve yesterday. It is basically a 4-page summary of the major players in the Global Health funding arena including key characteristics and their interconnectedness. It is rare to find a summary that is both concise AND useful.

– Sarah Topps 2013

Sarah’s tips for orienting yourself in a foreign city

20 05 2013

Arriving in a foreign city can be disorienting and confusing. Especially if you are tired from traveling, or feeling a bit frustrated, it helps a lot to feel like you know where you are going. At home, I use Google Maps a lot for directions, but often when traveling, I don’t have access to the Internet. Here are some tried and true ways that I use to find my way when I go somewhere new.

morning trafficTraffic will be heavier going towards downtown the morning, and away from downtown at night.

Note major landmarks and how far away they are and at what angle (think like a clock face – 1 o’clock, 3 o’clock etc).

Find the highest point in the area (building, mountain, big flag etc) and figure out which direction that is in.

Downtown will almost always be downhill, and in the direction of any major body of water.

Use the sun/stars. In the northern hemisphere, the sun will be in the southern half of the sky, moving from east to west. In the southern hemisphere, it will be in the northern half of the sky, also moving from east to west. If you know it is morning, then the sun will be in the east. At night, look for the big dipper and the North star, or the Southern Cross (as seen below, or on the Australian and New Zealand flags).


Photo Credit:

Ask for directions repeatedly. The first person may not know, or may tell you the wrong way, or you could misunderstand them. Ask multiple times along your route, even when you think you are going the right way. It will save you backtracking later if you are wrong. (Hot tip: Most 4-5 star hotels will have English speaking staff if you need to ask for directions.)

Learn the names of major transportation hubs and gathering places (squares, stadiums, shipping centers etc) in the local language before you arrive, so that you can recognize them on signs, maps, and bus/train stops.

Have someone draw you a map. Drawings tend to translate things well when there are language barriers, and you can use common symbols to indicate things like banks, airports, churches, water, famous buildings or toilets. These hand drawn maps are often some of my favorite souvenirs of a trip.


Photo Credit: The Hand Drawn Map Association website

[If you’re interested, you can also hop over to another blog I write for, Communication4Health where I talk about How to Use Map-Making to Spark Discussions.]

Finally, to quote the great J.R.R.Tolkien:
Not all those who wander are lost.

I hope these tips help you out next time you are out ‘wandering’. Safe travels!

Sarah Topps 2013

7 habits of highly… Actually just things my parents taught me.

7 05 2013

My parents have given me such wonderful habits.As I travel, I see the huge impact they have had in how I approach the world.

My mother is the reason that I wear sunscreen and sunglasses, always carry multiple ways to pay, put my seatbelt on as soon as I get in a vehicle, try to use the local language, take more poignant photographs, appreciate the little things, avoid fried rice and ice cream, love openly but guard my heart, praise people when they deserve it, wash my hands religiously, join the locals, write everything down, go for walks, get up early to watch the sunrise and stay up late to see the stars. My mother is the reason I dream big, appreciate the journey and trust my decisions.

My father is the reason that I keep trying when I fail, watch and see how the locals do things, smile at people even when I am grumpy, try new local dishes (even when they look or smell disgusting!), stretch often, do things even when they scare me, suck it up when it’s raining or I have to climb a bajillion stairs, don’t take shit from people, laugh at myself, stand up for others who cannot stand up for themselves, don’t tolerate the mistreatment of animals, introduce myself to strangers, listen patiently, get my hands dirty, have the confidence to try new things, offer my help freely, hold doors for people, open doors for myself and walk away from situations that I don’t like.

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