Program: Honours Specialization in Health Sciences
Year: First Year
HSSA Role: First Year Representative
Fun Fact: I’ve learned some serious kung fu from a Shaolin monk straight from China, no joke.
Why did you want to be on HSSA?
Joining the HSSA allowed me to pursue my passion for student governance, but also advocate for the voices of students in my program. The ability to directly represent my peers in the decision-making process and work towards creating an increasingly better student experience in the Health Studies program sounded exciting and like an opportunity that would allow for me to positively impact student life. Having been one of the HSSA First Year Representatives this year, it has been incredible to hear the concerns and thoughts of students in my class, and effect change based on the suggestions of my classmates.
What did you do this summer?
This summer, I had the opportunity to participate in an internship at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Toronto. Working on unique projects and implementing innovative ideas has always been a passion of mine. By directly involving myself in an experience that spoke to those passions, it made it a pretty incredible summer – I worked with other high school youth in creating cool ideas that effected change in different facets of society. One idea even made it to the front page of the Toronto Star!
I also took three weeks off during my internship to travel to China with the Mon Sheong Foundation, and explored the rich culture and tradition that the country had to offer. It was my second time to the country, and having the opportunity to visit some of the most ancient landmarks and better understand the history behind the ancient civilization had me in awe for the majority of the trip. But most importantly, it was a chance for me to connect back to my roots, and I think that was pretty successful!
What kinds of extracurricular activities are you involved with?
Other than the Health Studies Students’ Association, I am also involved with Free The Children Western, Western Founders Network, and the Leadership and Academic Mentorship Program on campus. Outside of Western, I run a small organization dedicated to empowering young people to volunteer and take action in their communities, called Pledges for Change (check us out on Facebook and give us a like!). I believe being involved in activities both within and outside of school not only provide an opportunity to meet new people who share similar passions, but they can also help shape the direction that you head on in the future, or just might be that extra spice to your life that you really need in between the readings and studying.
What or whom inspires you?
A picture of me and a boy from Kenya, Gideon, is what inspires me every single day. During my trip to the Maasai Mara in the summer of 2011 with Free The Children, I had the opportunity to meet Gideon in a small village just outside Kisaruni, the community that we were working in. Despite the striking differences between his home in Kenya and my home back in Canada, I could not help but realize the huge smile on his face. Despite the many challenges he and his family had to face from day-to-day, he was still able to give off the biggest smile that I’ve ever seen. He was able to make the best out of his situation; he probably never complained about the lack of toys or junk food, of which I would do at his age. It made me realize that despite all the adversities that we may come across in our everyday lives, it’s only takes some humour and a little laugh to put everything into perspective.
What is your fav HS course or prof and why? Students?
My favourite Health Studies course has to be Social Determinants of Health with Dr. Polzer. One of the reasons why I chose to join the Health Sciences program at Western was so that I could learn more about the environmental factors that have led to the current state of our health care system. More importantly, I wanted to learn about the different social determinants and understand how I could improve upon them to help create a more effective health care system. So far, each lecture has been intriguing, and has provided me with a holistic view of the social determinants of health. Perfect introductory course to what I think the Health Studies program should be!
What are your future career plans? Where do you see yourself in five/ten/twenty years?
I hope to be in a position that allows me to advocate for health equity, both at the domestic and international level. I have seen the positive change that can be effected when many young people come together with a common purpose. In order for change to start happening in the health care industry, it’s important to raise awareness about the issues felt by marginalized communities here at home and abroad, and even more important to encourage immediate action to ensure equitable health care for everyone.
Later on, I’d love to be involved in health administration/management or a career that allows me to design more effective public health structures. I believe that the state of our health care system is a product of our political/social ideologies. In order to improve the health of all citizens, it’s important to effect changes on a wide scale, rather than focus on traditionally individualistic views of medicine as a solution to the current health care inequalities felt by particular populations.
How do you define health? What do you do in your everyday life to stay healthy?
WHO’s definition of health is probably the most similar to how I would define health. “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I’m a firm believer that taking a more holistic view on health will lead to more positive health outcomes in the present and in the future. In order to achieve this, on top of the daily exercise to keep myself physically healthy, I’m also adamant about taking time off to relax and de-stress – this is a really important activity for university students, as academic/social stresses surround us all the time.
Do you have any advice for other Health Students?
Not sure if I’m in a position to give out advice to the upper years in the program, but one thing I think is important is to connect with other members of your Health Studies class (or maybe even in other years)! More importantly, connect with someone in HSSA too! There is so much that you can learn from the perspectives of other students in Health Studies that no professor could bestow upon you in a lecture. Also, Health Studies students are pretty amazing, and it can’t hurt to have more friends to hang out with during the weekends, or sit with in HSB 40.
Anything else you want to end with?
Have fun! School isn’t just about getting an education that is “second to none”. It should be about getting the full experience, which means involving yourself in the many extra-curricular activities Western has to offer, going to see Rick at the Spoke on Wednesday nights, or taking a night off to explore London in addition to your studies.