John O’Neil - Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences

It is indeed a pleasure to write this introductory note for our 10th anniversary report. It seems like just yesterday that I joined the Faculty in its second year of operation. At that time we only had a handful of faculty and staff, and a small but growing cadre of students. But those who were here worked incredibly hard to get a curriculum in place, to design courses that were original, and to get their research programs off the ground. In those early days we often used the metaphor of “building the airplane while we were flying it”. But we were confident we would not crash, and this report clearly demonstrates our confidence was not misplaced.

The Faculty of Health Sciences was not designed to be simply a “container” for diverse programs, or the SFU equivalent to similar programs at other universities. We were conceived as a mission directed Faculty designed to fill an important gap in the Canadian academic landscape of the early 2000s.

In the wake of the SARS outbreak in Toronto and Asia, and in the context of growing social disparities and health inequities, we designed a Faculty to bring a broad interdisciplinary approach to resolve the pressing population health questions of the day, and to contribute to an urgent need to build public health capacity for the country.

We imagined a “cell to society” approach for both our research programs and our curriculum. We hired an epigeneticist and an ethicist, and filled our faculty positions with people from across the disciplinary spectrum who we knew would be energized by, and committed to training a new generation of interdisciplinary students. Together, we continue to explore new paradigms for finding solutions to the most challenging health problems confronting both Canadians and the global community.

I believe we have been extraordinarily successful in this mission. As this report will illustrate, we have attracted an outstanding generation of students to our undergraduate and graduate programs. Our faculty have achieved extraordinary success in attracting research funding. And we have been joined in our mission by an impressive group of philanthropists and Foundations who are excited by the unique vision that we are pursuing.

I am very enthusiastic about the next ten years for the Faculty of Health Sciences. Our reputation in the national and global community is a model for academic partners around the world. We are poised with a strong faculty and a growing alumni to truly make a transformational difference in the health inequities that continue to challenge us.

John O’Neil - Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences

To view our research activities, please visit: sfu.ca/fhs/our-research/research-activities
The Faculty of Health Sciences will be a leader in the generation and mobilization of interdisciplinary knowledge to understand and improve health and well-being.
The Faculty of Health Sciences strives to improve the health of individuals and populations and to reduce health inequities through excellence in interdisciplinary research and education, in partnership with local, national and global communities and with a commitment to social justice.
Stewart and Marilyn Blusson (left), Djavad Mowafaghian (right)

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was established with four health research pillars: biomedical; clinical; health systems and services; and population and public health

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Canada:

  • 44 deaths
  • approximately 400 ill
  • 25,000 quarantined

This set the impetus for creating a new faculty to focus on providing public health training and population health research

  • The Faculty of Health Sciences is formally created by the Senate and SFU Board of Governors
  • Dr. David MacLean appointed as founding Dean
  • Dr. Jamie Scott appointed as a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Immunity

PHOTO Michael Stevenson, the eight President of SFU, championed the establishment of a new Faculty of Health Sciences

  • First complement of 9 faculty hired
  • Health Sciences accepted its first cohort of 18 students into the Masters of Science-
  • Population and Public Health (MSc-PPH) degree program. Today the program is known as the Masters in Public Health (MPH) program.

PHOTO Faculty and staff participate in an icebreaker activity during the first Health Sciences retreat

  • Dr. John O’Neil appointed as Dean
  • BA program launched. Within three years, the undergraduate programs enrolled approximately 525 majors annually
  • The Children’s Health Policy Centre led by Dr. Charlotte Waddell is established at the Faculty of Health Sciences
  • The Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction led by Dr. Elliot Goldner is established at the Faculty of Health Sciences
  • The Faculty of Health Sciences Graduate Caucus, a student society which represents the voice of Health Sciences graduate students is established
  • Dr. Charlotte Waddell appointed as a Canada Research Chair in Children’s Health Policy

PHOTO Students from our first Health Sciences undergraduate cohort have gone on to pursue great careers in the field of population and public health

  • Health Sciences moves into Blusson Hall which features state-of-the-art labs for teaching and conducting research on chronic and infectious diseases.
  • We opened the doors to Blusson Hall thanks to a $12M gift from Stewart and Marilyn Blusson, and a $1.5M initial gift from the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation
  • The MSc-PPH program was renamed the Masters in Public Health (MPH) program
  • MSc program launched
  • Dr. Scott Lear appointed as the Pfizer/ Heart & Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital
  • The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) led by Donald MacPherson is established at CARMH.
  • The Coalition works towards improving Canada’s drug policy

PHOTO Health Sciences MSc student Nicole Bance working in one of our state-of-the-art labs at Blusson Hall

  • The MPH and undergraduate programs receive accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • The Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health led by Dr. Marina Morrow is established at the Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Charlie Goldsmith appointed as the inaugural Maureen and Milan Ilich/Merck Chair in Statistics for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases
  • The Health Sciences Student Union (HSUSU) Peer Mentorship Program is established
  • By 2010, Health Sciences had approximately 40 faculty members

PHOTO Our programs are the first public health-oriented programs in English Canada to receive international accreditation

  • PhD program launched
  • Dr. Mark Brockman appointed as a Canada Research Chair in Viral Pathogenesis and Immunity
  • Dr. Angela Kaida appointed as a Canada Research Chair in Global Perspectives on HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health

PHOTO Health Sciences PhD candidate Shabnam Massah is studying gene expression for the prevention and treatment of diseases

  • Dr. Malcolm King joins Health Sciences as the Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health
  • The Health Sciences Undergraduate Student Union (HSUSU), a student society run by for health science undergraduate students, is established
  • Health Sciences student Sarah St. John is awarded a Rhodes Scholarship
  • Community Health Solutions, an SFU Research Institute led by Dr. Scott Lear is established

Photo The opening ceremony of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health. The Institute is situated at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences

  • Dr. John O’Neil inducted as a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Bohdan Nosyk appointed as the St. Paul’s Hospital CANFAR Chair in HIV/ AIDS Research
  • Dr. Kelley Lee becomes a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

PHOTO Health Sciences is working closely with the First Nations Health Authority to put First Nations communities in the driver’s seat of health research

Health Sciences now has 55 faculty and 23 staff. The Faculty enrolls approximately 1200 majors in its undergraduate degree programs and 40 to 45 graduate students annually into the MPH program. It currently has 75 students in the MSc and PhD programs

  • Dr. Stuart Peacock appointed as the Leslie Diamond Chair in Cancer Survivorship
  • Dr. Robert Hogg inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences
  • The SFU HIV/AIDS Research Centre led by Dr. Robert Hogg is established
  • Dr. Hui Xie appointed as the Maureen and Milan Ilich/Merck Chair in Statistics for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases at Health Sciences
  • Renewal of CEPH accreditation for the MPH and undergraduate programs at Health Sciences
  • The Health Sciences Bachelors to Masters program launched. Health Sciences undergraduates can now apply to our MSc or MPH program after completing 90 units of coursework
Dr. Stuart Peacock, Dr. Robert Hogg, Dr. Hui Xie

In 2013, Bruce Lanphear launched the world’s first interactive website to raise awareness about the myriad of ways that the environment affects human health.

The Canadian Environmental Health Atlas is a one-stop portal which offers global data and research on how health is impacted by traditional routes of exposure including air and water, and by human settlement through the built environment.

The Atlas strives to answer, for example, questions about the distribution of environmental hazards in Canadian cities, towns and rural areas, and explains how these hazards relate to health and disease.

Since its launch, Bruce and his colleagues have been steadily growing the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas by adding maps, graphics and videos.

“We have to expand our focus on the environment if we want to prevent disease,” says Bruce. The physician-scientist is calling for a shift in how we approach today’s health challenges. “Investing in drugs, genetics and biotechnology is not the be all and end all for eliminating diseases. We need to look at the bigger picture and take various aspects of the environment into serious consideration.”

Bruce’s latest additions to the Atlas includes two videos elucidating the impact of toxins on the developing brain and preterm birth.

The Canadian Environmental Health Atlas can be accessed at ehatlas.ca

Health and cycling aficionado Meghan Winters is determined to make active transportation a more viable option for people of all ages and abilities.

Armed with a grant from the Bullitt Foundation, Meghan is the Metro Vancouver project lead for BikeMaps.org, a website and app based reporting system which enables citizen-cyclists to map incidents like road hazards, near misses, collisions, and bike thefts.

The epidemiologist believes that the citizen led mapping tool will make a significant contribution to road safety for cyclists, and encourage others to start biking. “We have nearly 400 incident reports in the region, and are learning a lot about what can be done to make cycling in this region safer,” she says.

The findings from BikeMaps.org will be shared with municipalities over the next year so that areas in greatest need of infrastructure improvements can be prioritized.

Throughout her career, Meghan has been a passionate advocate for human powered transportation which brings fitness, environmental, economic and social benefits. Her research also focuses on the role of the social and built environment on the health and mobility of older adults and youth, and the impact of public bike share initiatives.

PHOTO Meghan Winters and Bruce Lanphear

About 2 in 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 diagnosed will die from the disease. Determined to reverse this bleak trend, scientist Tim Beischlag and his research team have recently made a significant discovery on how breast and prostate cancer cells spread and leads to fatality.

With the help of Health Sciences PhD student Mark Labrecque, the leading cancer researcher has identified the molecular and biological pathways that regulate the metastasis of cancer cells. Their discovery is integral to the development of new drug treatments that will slow down or block the spread of cancer cells from the primary tumour.

“Breast and prostate cancer turn into deadly diseases when tumour cells spread to vital organs such as the brain, liver or lungs,” says Tim. While current treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are effective in treating primary tumour sites in the breast or prostate, they do not prevent cancer cells from advancing to organs which are essential to life.

The pharmacologist specialist and his research team are now focused on moving this important discovery into the clinic. Notes Tim: “The application of newly acquired knowledge on the metastatic behavior of cancer cells to the development of therapeutics has the potential to put life-saving drugs within the reach of breast and prostate cancer patients.”

PHOTO Tim Beischlag and Mark Labrecque

Bioethicist Jeremy Snyder and Health Sciences PhD student Krystyna Adams want potential medical tourists to be better informed before they seek treatment on foreign soil.

Together with their colleagues from the SFU Medical Tourism Research Group, they have launched Medicaltourismandme.com, a unique website which uses the power of personal testimony to educate consumers about the perils and pluses of medical tourism.

“People travel for medical care when treatment at home is too expensive, not delivered quickly enough, or simply not available,” explains Krystyna.

The website features stories from former medical tourists who share the pros and cons of seeking treatment abroad, and how medical tourism can affect the health care system in their home countries. Their stories also highlight how the health care needs of residents from medical-tourism-providing countries can be subjugated by the needs of wealthier medical tourists.

“We hope that their real experiences will be eye opening for people thinking about engaging in medical tourism,” says Jeremy, who is the website’s lead architect.

The website has a section where medical tourists can contribute stories about their experiences on an ongoing basis. The researchers also plan to have their website translated into other languages.

PHOTO Krystyna Adams and Jeremy Snyder

The Faculty of Health Sciences is a strong supporter of initiatives which are putting First Nations communities in the driver’s seat of health research to determine their own path to better health outcomes.

In 2015, the Faculty played an integral role in helping SFU, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation to establish a First Nations Health Authority Chair in Heart Health and Wellness. The $1.9 million Research Chair is the first of its kind in Western Canada and will offer a holistic focus on the First Nations and Aboriginal peoples’ cardiac health.

"This historic Chair is poised to turn the tide of the effects of over 100 years of colonization on the health of the First Nations peoples of British Columbia," says John O'Neil, Dean of Health Sciences.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is also home to the Institute of Aboriginal People’s Health (IAPH), one of 13 institutes that comprise the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The IAPH fosters the advancement of a national health research agenda to improve and promote the health of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.

The Institute recently developed a strategic plan to incorporate Indigenous Ways of Knowing into health research aimed at eliminating inequities and improving the health of Indigenous peoples overall. Indigenous Ways of Knowing includes knowledge of and experience with physical and ceremonial healing practices. These practices are built on concepts of wholeness and resilience based on Indigenous teachings and ceremony.

“Peoples and communities are calling for change in how research is done. We would like to shift from creating solutions that address inequities or closing a ‘gap’, and move towards achieving wellness,” says Malcolm King, Scientific Director of the CIHR IAPH.

PHOTO Malcolm King

If current trends persist, tobacco use will kill 8 million people annually worldwide by 2030. Kelley Lee is keenly concerned about the staggering toll of preventable deaths caused by smoking, and is focusing her research efforts towards strengthening tobacco control policies.

A world leader in the study of global health governance, she is collaborating with researchers around the world to understand the activities and strategies of the tobacco industry within a rapidly changing world economy.

“Our research seeks to inform the strengthening of tobacco control measures at the national, regional, and global levels,” says Kelley.

Already, her team’s work has yielded significant findings on how tobacco companies have sought to shape policies affecting the industry, and how they have adapted to globalization through new business strategies.

A recent study conducted by her team found evidence of attempts by tobacco companies to re-interpret Islamic teaching to make smoking acceptable to Muslims, and to undermine the tobacco free policy od the Olympic Games.

During World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2015, her research team also mounted an informative display showcasing cigarette packs from around the world to illustrate how packaging has become highly stylized to target specific demographic groups including children and women.

Notes Kelley: “Our initiatives highlight how the tobacco industry continues undermining the efforts of public health communities worldwide; These efforts need to be documented as evidence underpinning stronger measures to reduce the millions of deaths caused by tobacco use.”

Over the next year Kelley and her collaborators will continue generating new knowledge about the dual relationship between the tobacco industry and globalization.

PHOTO From left to right: Sheryl Thompson, Julia Smith, Shamila Kara, Jappe Eckhardt, Farah Syed, Stephanie Zobrist, Jennifer Fang, Kelley Lee.

Marina Morrow is working towards a world where the stigma of mental illness no longer presents a barrier to accessing psychological help for all individuals.

The community mental health expert is the local lead for the first comprehensive anti-stigma intervention project among Asian communities in Canada. Strength in Unity, a project funded by the Movember Foundation, aims to mobilize youth and men of Asian heritage across the country as community health ambassadors.

“We know that stigma crosses all cultures and backgrounds, and it affects some more than others,” she says. Marina notes that while men tend not to seek help as frequently as women, men of Asian background may be more deterred by the lack of culturally appropriate services and norms of masculinity.

Though Strength in Unity workshops, community health ambassadors will develop skills to address life challenges, and to raise awareness about mental illness, available supports and services.

Marina and her research team are hoping that these ambassadors will eventually become leaders in building anti-stigma efforts in their own cultural communities. Currently, over 200 men in Vancouver are being trained as community mental health ambassadors as part of this project.

Maya Gislason is working for a world where human, animal and ecosystem health and well-being are understood to be inextricably linked. “The soundness of all of our actions should be measured in relation to this foundational insight into planetary health”, says the medical sociologist.

Her research is focused on examining the public health impacts of intensive resource extraction, particularly on the wellbeing of women and children.

“Intensive resource extraction projects result in a myriad of social and environmental changes including the loss of access to land and livelihoods, environmental contamination and the challenges of living in boom and bust economies,” explains Maya. “These issues are especially pertinent to rural, remote, northern and Aboriginal communities, whose rights are often violated by the processes of resource exploitation”.

Maya continues to investigate social-ecological game changers through collaborations with the University of Northern British Columbia, Northern Health, the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health, and the International Association for Ecology and Health.

PHOTO Maya Gislason and Marina Morrow

Julian Somers is all too aware that ending long-term homelessness is one of Vancouver’s most serious challenges.

The clinical psychologist led the Vancouver At Home (VAH) component of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s five-year $110-million At Home/Chez Soi study completed in 2014. The results of the study indicated a clear solution: Housing First, a model focused on offering chronically homeless people housing while providing other necessary supports and services.

Julian and his research team found that hard-to-house homeless people with addictions and mental illness managed significantly better than those who remained on the street. These individuals fared even better when they received continuous “assertive community treatment” from health and social service professionals.

The study also found that for every $10 invested in such high-needs individuals resulted in an average savings of $9.60 because they made less use of homeless shelters, emergency rooms, the courts and other social services.

“The science is showing that it’s possible and affordable to provide an alternative to long-term homelessness. And it doesn’t necessarily involve creating new hospital beds or comparatively expensive alternatives,” says Julian.

In response to the At Home/Chez Soi study, the federal government has promised an additional $41 million to finance Housing First initiatives in the Lower Mainland.

Julian and his team has since been actively building on their success with Vancouver At Home. They have gone on to examine the impact of housing interventions on drug use, and have completed another study tracking the geographical distribution of homeless individuals with mental illness, addictions and corrections involvement in British Columbia.

PHOTO From left to right: Akm Moniruzzaman, Julian Somers, Milad Parpouchi, Brittany Bingham

For Scott Lear, technology might just be the solution to delivering care effectively to heart disease patients living in small urban and rural areas throughout British Columbia.

A study on web-based cardiac rehabilitation led by the prominent cardiac researcher has found that a virtual program can reduce heart disease risk in patients. Scott and his team developed and tested a rehabilitation program that offered monitoring, education and support to heart disease patients living in small urban and rural areas throughout British Columbia.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are effective treatment options for patients with heart disease, a leading cause of death and disability, to prevent heart attacks and premature death. However, accessibility to these programs largely impacts how much people will use them.

“Because these programs are generally administered within hospitals or health care centres, many people find them inconvenient or unfeasible to attend,” said Lear who also holds the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Research at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“Our virtual program brought care into patients’ homes to help manage their disease and reduce their risk for heart disease, all at a time dictated by the patient.”

Typically only 10-30 percent of eligible patients participate in cardiac rehabilitation programs. Barriers include travel distance to the program, the time commitment and the inconvenience of maintaining a regimented schedule.

The impact is especially great in rural and remote areas, where heart disease rates tend to be higher yet access is a primary challenge.

The researchers found that after 16 weeks in the program, patients improved their exercise capacity, diet and cholesterol levels, and all of these changes were still present a year after the program ended.

Program participants saw a lower number of hospital visits while drop-out rates and staff time required with the virtual program were also lower than in-person care.

With the success of this project, researchers are looking to implement the program into standard health care.

PHOTO Scott Lear

While the overall rate of new HIV infections has steadily declined in British Columbia, the fight to overcome the virus which plagued entire nations for the last three decades is hardly over. Senior scientist Bob Hogg and Health Sciences PhD student Kate Salters are focused on identifying ongoing health inequities among vulnerable HIV-positive populations.

Armed with a $6.5 million grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Bob will study how optimism due to the availability of a new, effective treatment strategy – highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) – influences current sexual behavior and new infection rates among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

He will also examine how long-term use of HAART affects those who simultaneously suffer from age-associated diseases and HIV.

“People over 50 years of age represent more than half of all HIV-positive individuals in North America,” says Hogg. “I believe my findings will inform new strategies to address the realities and unique needs of older HIV-positive men and women who likely suffer from age-associated diseases like cardiovascular and respiratory conditions.”

Kate has also tuned her gaze on another vulnerable subset of individuals living with HIV in Canada. The doctoral student has recently completed a study showing that HIV-infected women have a higher likelihood of suffering from non-AIDS defining cancers despite the widespread use of HAART.

Her study uncovered an upward trend involving cancers with underlying infectious causes such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis among this group.

“With sustained treatment, women with HIV are now able to live longer, healthier lives. This is a positive development that needs to be sustained by addressing the emerging health needs of HIV-positive women,” says Kate.

PHOTO Kate Salters and Robert Hogg

Ralph Pantophlet and Jamie Scott are part of a global community of scientists determined to end the hunt for a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

Jamie, a molecular biologist leads an international team of four investigators working to combine and strengthen two vaccines they have created from a DNA fragment taken from the HIV genome.

Called the MPER, the highly-prized fragment encodes a region of the HIV envelope that accumulates mutations at a very low rate. It therefore provides a highly conserved site for antibodies to target attacks against the constantly mutating HIV virus.

While other researchers have created vaccines that expose the immune system to a synthetic version of the MPER, these vaccines have yet to trigger the production of antibodies that recognize and attack HIV.

But Jamie and her collaborators are determined to arrive at a different outcome. “My team’s DNA and liposome vaccines are designed to more accurately replicate the structure of viral MPER by tethering it to the surface of a membrane. We anticipate that this will spur the creation of antibodies that bind to virus and prevent HIV infection,” says Jamie.

Unlike Jamie, Ralph’s contribution to HIV vaccine research comes from an unexpected place.

In 2012, Ralph and his research team discovered a harmless bacterium containing sugar molecules closely resembling those found on the surface of the HIV-1. Strangely enough, this bateriums, known as the Rhizobium radiobacter, comes from a bacterial family that typically causes tumours in the roots of legume plants.

“Because of its similarity, the Rhizobium radiobacter might be used to trick the immune system into producing antibodies targeted at the sugar molecules on HIV,” explains Ralph. “It’s a chain of events that provides us with another strong avenue for developing a preventative HIV vaccine.”

Ralph, his research team and collaborators are currently working on making chemical derivatives of the bacterium’s sugar molecule to further explore its immunological potential. This work will be important for understanding how best to trigger the immune system to develop protective antibodies.

PHOTO Ralph Pantophlet and Jamie Scott

Mark Brockman’s research in Health Sciences speaks to the fine act of balancing the visionary with the pragmatic. In 2012, the molecular biologist landed a $3.5 million grant to investigate HIV/AIDS in adolescent populations in Durban and Soweto.

Approximately 50 per cent of all new infections in South Africa are among those aged 15–24.

Mark is now leading a five-year initiative to investigate the social behaviours that determine the youths’ HIV risk, and to overcome barriers to their participation in HIV research and prevention trials.

“We want to get youths interested in their own health and recognize the potential benefits of testing and counselling for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” says Mark.

He also perceives South African youths as a key population for rolling out an HIV vaccine when it becomes available. The project working towards familiarizing the community with what it is like to be involved in such long-term initiatives.

One of the remarkable characteristics about Mark’s research project is the interdisciplinarity of the research consortium involved. The team was brought together in part by intra-faculty dialogue among Health Sciences researchers who study HIV-related questions.

Alongside renowned South African researchers, the diverse team of molecular biologists, ethicists and epidemiologists are focusing on the social, ethical, political, regulatory and biomedical factors associated with the youths’ increased risk of HIV.

“The team structure significantly enhances communication between disciplines, and provide unique opportunities for training both Canadian and African researchers,” adds Mark.

Members of this project include Health Sciences researchers Zabrina Brumme, Ralph Pantophlet, Robert Hogg, Masahiro Niikura, Angela Kaida and Jeremy Snyder.

PHOTO Mark Brockman and Zabrina Brumme

The Health Sciences program encourages students to think of illness and disease as a human predicament instead of a purely biological event. This is important to me, as I aspire to become a physician who not only treats patients, but one who plays an active role in nurturing safe and thriving communities.

The Faculty also presents students with plenty of opportunities to explore their interests beyond the classroom wall. Through the connections I established with my professors, I landed a position as a research assistant with the Children’s Health Policy Centre where I helped to evaluate programs that support disadvantaged women who are first time parents.

I am ready to meet the health challenges of today and tomorrow

We live in a world where the roots of our health problems are complex and multi-faceted, requiring integrative solutions. This is why the Faculty of Health Sciences is the perfect place for me to continue my research on improving the health of vulnerable groups. The interdisciplinary culture here provides a robust environment for narrowing gaps in access to health resources.

As a Health Sciences student or researcher, you will never be constrained by linear ways of thinking and narrow definitions. While learning about the science of health, you will also be trained to reflect on the social determinants of health. You will constantly be challenged by incredible mentors and an eye-opening curriculum.

The world will never look the same to you again.

I joined the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Health Sciences to learn more about cancer prevention efforts. But the curriculum challenged me to think beyond policies and programs. Within my first semester, I was drawing extensive connections between health, the environment and power structures in society.

The MPH program uniquely builds on your existing skill set and mobilizes you as a valuable asset to the population and public health community.

I completed a meaningful practicum with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, where my expertise in implementing community-led change was further established within an environmental justice context.

Striking the perfect balance between comprehensiveness and flexibility, the program encourage a healthy exploration of the issues I am passionate about.

I initially found the idea of getting involved in the community a terrifying one, but I wanted my experience as a student here to count for something. I eventually applied to be a Health Sciences Undergraduate Student Union (HSUSU) representative and am now president of the organization. We are an energetic bunch that coordinates various initiatives to ensure students are well supported. I see our efforts as an investment in our future health leaders!

I am a more confident person thanks to the opportunities available here. I believe that the paths I have taken will lead to a desired career in public health, where I can work on programs focused on improving access to care for underserved populations.

The possibilities here are endless.

I have always thought that I would have to choose between science and the arts. That was until I discovered the BA in Health Sciences. The program strikes the perfect balance between biological, social and policy sciences within the context of public and population health. This coupled with a curriculum that imparts health promotion and disease prevention skills makes it a comprehensive career-oriented program.

The courses I have taken give a deeper meaning to the activities I pursue outside the classroom. I serve as the co-president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement at SFU, and lead art therapy sessions for individuals with mental illness.

I am constantly being challenged to look beyond the doctor’s office for ways to create healthier communities.

But why are people still dying from preventable causes, and what are some of the obstacles to accessing basic health care? In the BA program, we get the opportunity to explore troubling patterns emerging in today’s society. We learn about barriers to resources that are not immediately visible, but which are critical to our well-being.

Being in the Health Sciences program has opened my eyes to the inequities and paradoxes of health care provision. This is the perfect place for inquisitive minds and compassionate hearts to investigate how public health is shaped by issues such as poverty and race.

When you commit to an education here, you are committing to a future empowered by the knowledge and skills to make a difference.

As an undergraduate, I embraced every opportunity that took me beyond the classroom wall. I ended up in places I never imagine myself going. I joined the co-operative education program and completed several eye-opening work placements including one in Germany where I was employed in a lab conducting HIV research.

The great relationship I cultivated with my mentors led me to another great opportunity working in a health sciences lab focused on the evolution of HIV. I enjoyed working there so much that I enrolled in the MSc program to narrow the knowledge gap on the virus and bring us closer to the development of an HIV vaccine.

The excellent mentorship offered by the passionate faculty here will inspire you to soar.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the Health Sciences program is the ability to tailor your learning experience to your interests and aspirations. The courses I completed encouraged an exploration of the root causes of health disparities and provided an overview of health policy development and implementation. When I peer into the future, I see myself leading initiatives that train health practitioners – especially those from rural areas – about the potential health risks posed by cissexism, heterosexism, racism, and colonialism.

The professors here constantly challenge their students to think critically about novel concepts that have the possibility to improve the health landscape. This, and the flexibility of the program makes for a meaningful and well-rounded student experience.

At Health Sciences, personal and academic growth go hand in hand.

The courses taught in Health Sciences are thought-provoking and hugely relevant to our lives. The news often becomes fodder for class discussions where connections between current issues and personal health are drawn. My journey here has been made extraordinary due to the myriad of opportunities available for students to explore their interests and develop their strengths.

The Health Sciences co-operative education program was one such opportunity. I completed five work placements in between semesters, including one at the Vancouver Island Health Authority and another at BlackBerry Ltd. With the skills acquired in project management and communications, I have charted a clear career path for myself in the field of health care management.

I didn’t know what I was capable of until I became a student here.

I haven’t looked back since a high school advisor brought my attention to the Health Sciences program at SFU. In this Faculty, we are taught to examine health as influenced by social, economic and physical environments, personal health practices, human biology and early childhood development. Such multidisciplinary training forms the cornerstone of naturopathic medicine where I see my future.

One of the highlights of my student experience includes volunteering as a Peer Health Educator. I got the pportunity to mobilize a holistic approach to health outside the classroom by engaging students in topics such as sexual health, responsible partying, social connectedness, healthy eating and positive body image.

At Health Sciences, the journey is the reward.

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