Amira Mungal takes U into digital sphere

Amira Mungal, editor in chief of U The Caribbean Health Digest. Photo courtesy Amira Mungal -
Amira Mungal, editor in chief of U The Caribbean Health Digest. Photo courtesy Amira Mungal -

When Amira Mungal was a teenager, her mother Sherine started U The Caribbean Health Digest, a quarterly print magazine that focussed on a wholesome approach to the health, lifestyle, and well-being of Caribbean people.

Eleven years later, Mungal has taken over the reins as the new editor in chief and has guided the publication into the digital sphere.

“I have always seen what went into it and it was all so very interesting. From as young as primary school I was interested in health and writing, so I did a few articles for the magazine, just for fun, and then I couldn’t stop,” Mungal told WMN in a WhatsApp interview from Washington DC.

“Mummy always told me when I graduated from college I had to take over the magazine.”

In 2020, she graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a first degree in psychology. In August, she started a master’s in the same discipline at Harvard University.

“It’s very exciting. It’s still virtual for now because Harvard won’t do in-person classes until enough of the school population is vaccinated.”

She is also certified in medical writing with the American Medical Writers Association – something she did while she was an undergraduate student, and which is serving her well now and which she believes will play a big role in her future goals.

Under Mungal’s watch, U relaunched a digital version of its publication in July and is currently hosted on ISSUU, a digital platform on which people are able to upload their publications and send to their database where subscribers can get free access.

The magazine is also available to a global population through Magzter, one of its world’s largest digital news stands. Mungal said Magzter has over 75 million users worldwide and offers over 11,000 publications in 40 categories. U is the only health publication from the Caribbean on the news stand.

Even before she took over responsibility of the magazine Mungal had a vision of how she wanted it to develop in the digital world, how it could expand in the market while staying relevant. Going digital, she said, was inevitable.

“U was always about educating and informing people on making healthier life choices. I wanted to keep the promise even if the magazine format had to change to keep up with the times.”

She said, after a decade of a print publication, getting to the digital stage had its challenges, with the biggest being convincing her team to make the switch.

“U was done in print for so long, the big question was if people in the Caribbean would be interested in seeing to seeing it in digital form…We wanted to stay true to Caribbean people and make it accessible to them over anybody else. As it turns out, we in the Caribbean are way more digitally inclined than we thought. And the good thing with the digital is that Caribbean people in any part of the world can access it. Making the switch has been gratifying. I feel really good, like I’m accomplishing something.”

And while most readers can enjoy the contents of U with a simple click, Mungal said her team also caters for those who are more traditional.

“We do a limited number of prints for anyone who wants it, as well as for our advertisers. Mummy always says if you like the smell of paper digital will not do…The new U is a bit of me and a bit of her.”

While she may be studying psychology, Mungal said her overall goal is not to practise as a psychologist, but to get into the field of cognitive neuroscience research because it explains human behaviour as it relates to the brain.

“My certification on medical writing aligns with this goal because I will be able to put across my findings in a reader-friendly way. I want the average person to be able to benefit from the research that I do.”

Eventually, she said, she intends to incorporate another love – theatre and film – into the plan by putting out her research in the form of a docu-series and documentaries.

“In my first year at Florida Atlantic I called my mother and told her ‘I’m majoring in theatre arts and there is nothing you can do about it.’ Then I switched my major to business,” and had a successful hand-poured aromatherapy candle business called Tortuga Hills, named for her home in Gran Couva, south Trinidad.

“Then I switched to psychology,” she chuckled.

“I did an introductory class in psychology and it fascinated me. In my heart I knew this was it! But, I admit, with all this changing of my mind I was convinced I was making a mess of my life.

“Now it’s all coming into play and who knew? The theatre, business and psychology have all formed a neat little package to support exactly what I want to do…It’s interesting how things have switched up for me. Now I make candles for fun and writing is more of a career for me.”

Mungal said her study of psychology became extremely relevant to her just as she was completing her first degree in 2020. The life changes brought on by the covid19 pandemic were tough – having to switch from in-person to virtual classes and being away from her family during that period.

“It was not normal for me because I’m always on a plane heading home during any school break. Borders were closed and I couldn’t come home and for the first time in my life I felt something close to depression. It was an emotional time for me because I felt isolated.”

But she said all that she had learned helped her to understand why she was feeling that way. “Understanding it was helpful.”

Mungal sees much growth in her future and that of U, and she hopes that she and it will continue to make larger impacts on how people deal with their health choices.

You can follow U on Facebook and Instagram at uhealthdigest.


"Amira Mungal takes U into digital sphere"

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