“Hello nice people from the moon” – student blog

By: Jen LeBlanc
Outreach Coordinator, Global Health Office


Dalhousie Students in Tanzania

Dalhousie Students in Tanzania

This summer the global health office is supporting three Dalhousie University students completing research and internships in Tanzania. They are embracing this cultural and clinical experience with such enthusiasm and blogging about it as often as they can; so much so that we wanted to share some of their stories with you.  The students’ visit coincides with Ramadan, a holy month observed by Muslims worldwide that requires fasting from sunrise to sunset, and these bright students considered what this might mean before they arrived.

Before coming to Dar, I was apprehensive about Ramadan (the holy Islamic month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset). I wasn’t sure if there would be restaurants open, would it be offensive to walk around with a water bottle? These were some serious concerns. However, despite the large Muslim population, Dar is fairly relaxed…..My favourite experience living in a largely Muslim city is the haunting call to prayer resounding above the sound of horns honking and crowds milling about the street. While I don’t understand the words, it still offers a feeling calm, and a sense of being transported from the hectic chaos that can be daily life.

To complement their research and placements the students are taking language classes.  This has been important for the students to learn some conversational Swahili which has offered them more meaningful interactions with friends and colleagues and has deepened their appreciation for the culture that surrounds them.  They are also enjoying the tastes of the local menus – sounds like they could write their own guide book on the best butter chicken in the neighbourhood.

It’s nice to see that they have also found some time to visit the National Museum and discovered items that are not only historically interesting but also related to their visit.

A little more on point with our purpose for being in Tanzania was the exhibit on the HIV epidemic. Which included some interesting cartoons from the 1980’s (the height of the AIDs crisis and before the availability of antiretroviral medications, when the diagnosis of HIV was the equivalent to a death sentence).

We are so proud of these students! They are doing amazing work and are wonderful ambassadors for Dalhousie. Their blog posts are short and sweet, because let’s face it – they are busy and we are glad they are spending so much time out exploring their surroundings. The benefit is that they give us a snapshot into this amazing experience and they allow these students to feel connected to someone or something bigger. If you would like to read some of these stories yourself please follow the blog link.

The Silver Thatch: A personal experience of the simplicity of cultural exchange

Sara Abdo
Student – School of Occupational Therapy, Dalhousie University
Donkey woven out of palm leaves

Donkey woven out of palm leaves

Reflecting on my academic, cultural and personal experience while completing a placement on Grand Cayman brings me to think of a series of memories and events surrounding the national tree, the Silver Thatch Palm (Coccothrinax proctorii).

As a student abroad, I spent most of my time trying to understand and immerse myself in Cayman culture but on Palm Sunday; I was able to share some of my culture with two local friends. Following the service at Cayman Islands Baptist Church, I was able to share Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox traditions for the same holiday as I taught two of my friends how to weave a donkey out of palm leaves. This was a cultural tradition I adopted years prior, and one that made me feel at home while away from home. For my friends, weaving came naturally as it was a part of their national heritage.

Weaving is a common occupation in Cayman and Egyptian culture. In Cayman culture, it is a way to celebrate identity and historical and cultural roots. The Silver Thatch is endemic to Cayman Islands and captures its natural heritage. In as early as the 1700’s it was used to produce items such as hats, baskets, and rope, as the leaves are tough, and resistant to the effects of salt water. In Egypt, palms are also used to produce similar items, but in the Coptic culture, making donkeys on Palm Sunday was a way to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.

Reflecting on this memory, I see how it captured occupation and validated its value and representation of a person’s identity. For me, weaving facilitated communication, formulation of community bonds, and knowledge exchange. In these small moments, I was able to witness the just how much of an occupation tells you about a person and allows for relationships to bond.

As a health care professional, it captured a journey towards cultural sensitivity and awareness and showed how easily occupation can build on relationships. Although the people that I bonded with were not clients, it showed me how occupation can be used to implement a greater understanding of the people you work with day to day. It demonstrated a beautiful and natural way of building relationships and how important it is to understand the value of the “little” things that people do day to day and just how much it tells you about a person, about yourself, and to value what you both have to offer one another. And from that, it gave me a new perspective to share with future students hoping to complete a placement abroad.


Green Backpack Travels

Dalhousie medical student Allison Hudson has embarked on a global health elective in Tanzania.  We are so thrilled that not only has she decided to blog about it but she has provided us with the link to her experience.  We hope you take a moment to read her posts and we leave you with a few of Allison’s opening remarks.

I only have one year of medical school under my belt, and I have a lot to learn, but the course of this year has only reaffirmed my passion for global health (at home and abroad). In an effort to fully engage with this experience in Tanzania, and send some updates home to prove that I am still alive, I plan to maintain this photo blog. My goal is to add one photo for each day (but don’t expect updates every day). The lens through which this blog is created is focused on the determinants of health and the challenges of providing care to marginalized people in Tanzania. That being said, I can’t expect to be profound every day (hopefully some days…), so anticipate some photos of hippos.

Well with that said, I guess I should get started…

Green Backpack Travels blog

One community in Tanzania: QE Scholars udpate

Dalhousie’s Braden Kingdon has now been with PASADA, in Tanzania, for a few weeks and is alread describing his time as an “experience of a lifetime.”

Dar es Salaam is offering Braden the opportunity to immerse himself in Tanzania’s exciting culture and community and we are pleased to share his latest blog post with you.  Congratulations Braden – we can’t wait to read more!

In Tanzania though, the local citizens are a very close-knit group as a whole. Often while working at PASADA and wondering around Dar Es Salaam I hear girls being called sisters, boys being called brothers, and elderly women being called mamas. It is very common in Tanzania for a younger generation to approach each elderly woman with the respect of calling them mama, regardless of their relation to the women. In return these mama’s will help in anyway they can. Tanzanian’s have formed a shared identity in which everyone is considered family and part of one community.

To visit Braden’s blog please follow this link.

Mr. Simon Yohana, Executive Director PASADA and Mr. Braden Kingdon, Dalhousie University student

Mr. Simon Yohana, Executive Director PASADA and Mr. Braden Kingdon, Dalhousie University student


Global Health Internship – QEII Scholars

Dalhousie’s Braden Kingdon is excited and anxious to begin a 3 month global health internship in Tanzania working with Pastoral Activities and Services for People with AIDS Dar es Salaam Archdiocese (PASADA).  Braden will be taking on the role of  Project Assistant, Prevention with Positive Clubs.  This internship is part of the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships which were created to

Provide students with transformative international study and research experiences, Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

This program is intended to provide opportunities for young Canadians to study abroad as well as bring international students to Canadian campuses.  It is hoped that this new initiative will lay the foundation for the next generation of entrepreneurs, public servants, community leaders and academics with innovative minds and a sense of commitment to Canada and the Commonwealth.

Braden will be based in Dar es Salaam (Dar) which is Tanzania’s largest and richest city and the largest city in eastern Africa with a population of over 4 million residents.  This important city is the Tanzanian hub for both business and government activity and sits on a natural harbour on the Indian Ocean. PASADA is a social service agency in Dar that provides and maintains quality, caring and compassionate services and support to people affected by HIV/AIDS in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam.  PASADA offers a variety of programs and services, with particular attention and focus on providing services to the poorest and neediest, through a holistic approach and with special emphasis on the values of justice and solidarity.

Braden (middle) with the Global Health Office team

Braden (middle) with the Global Health Office team

Why don’t we let Braden say a few words about his upcoming adventure.

On Friday May 22, 2015 I will be departing for Tanzania, a country on the east coast of the African continent as a participant in the QEII Scholarship Program. The Global Health Office and Dr. Karen Gallant of the Recreation department have been generously preparing me for my trip.

I am a senior Recreation Management student, receiving a BSc and a BM upon completion. This opportunity aligns with the breadth of classes that are covered in my degrees. Specifically though, I will be focusing on reflecting on this trip through a community development lens, under the guidance of Dr. Karen Gallant. The material in this course thus far has provided me with insight into citizenship power and participation, valuing the local, gentrification, etc. These concepts have helped prepare me to enter a new culture and trying to learn, adapt, and never assume or judge the values or beliefs within each various community existing in Dar Es Salaam. Although it is difficult to say I am going to go there without a Western attitude, I am going to be consciously taking every moment as a learning tool and reflecting on it afterwards.

Once in Tanzania I will be working as a Program Assistant under the Medical Director at Pastoral Activities and Services for People with AIDs Dar Es Salaam Archdiocese (PASADA). The organization provides many services related HIV/AIDs in Dar Es Salaam, I will be joining a project focused on creating awareness and decreasing stigmas within the youth population in Tanzania. My experience working with children in Ontario and Nova Scotia will hopefully prove me to be some sort of asset while I am there. With a minor background in research it would be nice to help out in any research projects that they are taking on as well. It is difficult to speak to the exact work I will be doing at this stage though, for now I am going in with a mindset of gaining a cultural and clinical experience.

That’s it for now. I will be periodically blogging while I am away, feel free to follow me through this experience as it is bound to be one for the books!

Upon completion Braden will be named a “Queen Elizabeth Scholar” and be part of the 34 Canadian Universities involved in this project.  Watch for future posts from Braden as they are made available to us.

The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships Program is a partnership between Universities Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and Rideau Hall Foundation. This program is made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector.


Congratulations to Our 2015 Resident Award in Global Health Winner!

2015 Dr. Jock Murray Award for Resident Leadership in Global Health
Dr. Gregory Knapp
Department of Surgery

He has demonstrated a true and, quite frankly, contagious passion for global health work. His undeniable desire to support global health initiatives and his perseverance to find new opportunities is truly inspirational.

Dr. Knapp’s global health career began in high school and extended into his undergraduate education where he dedicated many hours to the local Red Cross Council. In 2006 while in India he was exposed to the Indian health care system and became aware of the connections between economics, culture and health.  This led to Dr. Knapp’s participation in the 60th Annual International Seminar in West Africa, a joint venture by CIDA and WUSC/CECI.  He was one of only 20 students from across Canada and examined barriers to women’s education in northern Ghana.  This sparked Dr. Knapp’s interest in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural group work and effective leadership in such circumstances.

Gregory Knapp’s undergraduate thesis examined the spread of HIV in post-conflict Angola and he went on to complete a Masters of Science in International Health Policy at the London School of Economics.  Upon returning to Canada, Dr. Knapp began medical school and coordinated the creation and implementation of the Bachelor of Health Science’s Global Health Specialization at McMaster University.  His hands on approach meant that he taught one of the undergraduate courses to incoming students.

Greg has been an integral part of the creation and on-going activities of the Dalhousie University Global Surgery Office.

In January 2014 Dr. Knapp participated in a trip to the University of Dodoma in Tanzania that resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding later that spring.  The focus of this partnership is to provide necessary surgical training to learners, instructors and researchers in Tanzania. This unique partnership will use tele-simulation capabilities and as the lead for this project, Dr. Knapp is exploring opportunities for electronic mentorship.

Dr. Gregory Knapp is a global health leader focused on research, teaching and mentorship.  He understands the importance of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural cooperation and is sensitive to the requirements of low-resource settings. We look forward to what the future holds for our 2015 Resident Award in Global Health winner!


Dr. Gregory Kanpp receiving his award plaque


Dr. Gregory Kanpp chatting with Shawna O’Hearn


Dr. Gregory Knapp & Ms. Shawna O’Hearn

Congratulations to Our 2015 Faculty Award in Global Health Winner!

2015 Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty Leadership in Global Health
Dr. Ronald George
Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management and Perioperative Medicine

Dr. Ron George demonstrates a strong commitment to global health across his career.  His work in anesthesia, obstetrical anaesthesia and systems change reflects his desire for social justice. As a leader in global health Dr. George has made sustainable partnerships, research, teaching/curriculum, and mentorship the focus of his work.

Ron’s involvement with global health began in 2006 when he became a volunteer with Kybele, an NGO focused on improving childbirth safety worldwide. Dr. George worked at the Tamale Teaching Hospital in northern Ghana where he initiated a partnership focused on training and quality improvement for obstetrics and obstetrical anesthesia. Dr. George continues to be involved with Kybele as a team member as well as serving on the board of directors.

In his nomination letter from Dr. Andre Bernard who worked in Ghana says;

I was struck by Ron’s passion for seeing health care transformation as a systems-level intervention, requiring local leadership as well as empowered participation by health care providers and administrators at all levels.

Locally Dr. George is involved with the well-established partnership between Canada and Rwanda focused on residency training in Anesthesia.  Ron also serves as Director and co-chair of the Anesthesia for Global Outreach (AGO) course, one of three courses globally, that happens annually in Halifax.  Begun in 2008 the course focuses on training and preparing anesthesiologists for work in resource limited contexts, particularly in low income countries.

Ron is seen in our Department as one of the go-to people on global health…Ron is a dynamic leader who has consistently demonstrated a passion for improving the lives of others.


Dean of Medicine Dr. Tom Marrie, Ms. Shawna O’Hearn, Dr. Ron George, Dr. John LeBlanc


Dr. Allen Finley, Dr. Patricia Livingston, Dr. Ron George, visiting Rwandan fellows


Dr. Ron George receiving his award plaque


Dr. Ron George with Ms. Shawna O’Hearn

Global Health 2015 Photo Contest

 By Sarah Boucaud

Each year we host the Global Health Photo Contest to recognize the many creative, thought provoking and ethical photos that our students, faculty and colleagues take.  We presented our winners during the Global Health Town Hall at the end of March. These beautiful images and inspiring stories remind us that global health is all around us.  In a farmer’s field, in children playing, or through the sharing of a quiet moment. We wanted to take the opportunity to show you the global health stories of this year’s contest winners. All the submissions, however, were truly thought provoking, attesting to the creativity and depth of global health involvement of the Dalhousie community!

This year, our 2nd place winner was Ho Chi Minh Commute by Carolyn Reardon and our 1st place winner was Honduras by Laura Stymiest.

Ho Chi Minh Commute
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, August 2012
By Carolyn Reardon

2015 photo contest creardon
This photo was snapped from a taxi during the morning rush hour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where most commute by motorbike. I thought it was an interesting glimpse into the daily happenings of commuters in this busy city, where the hectic traffic challenges our perception of public safety as Canadians. The riders in the photo appear quite orderly for the split second the image was captured, while the different directions in which the riders aim their bikes and glances reveals the dynamic nature of each of their positions. The face masks worn by each of the riders in the photo speaks to local concern with air quality, while also providing a representation of how as individuals, we take measures to protect our own health on a daily basis, and challenges the viewer to compare and contrast such measures in their own daily life with those in the image.


Honduras, February 2011
By Laura Stymiest

2015 photo contest lstymiestPrior to entering medical school, I was part of a group of health professionals who traveled to rural Honduran villages annually to operate mobile health units. Many mornings we would arrive in a village just after dawn to a line of hundreds of individuals hoping to receive care.

My role was to translate from Spanish to English for a Pediatrician. I remember one day in particular where one after another we saw emotionally charged cases. An infant failing to grow secondary to a cleft palate that had never been repaired, preventing him from feeding normally. A young boy who had lost his vision after an accident while working in a plantain field.



At the end of the day we had worked through our lineup but I felt we had hardly scraped the surface of this community’s health needs.  A bit discouraged, I was walking back to the bus to begin loading up our equipment when I saw these two young children walking home in an embrace. I had a moment of realizing that children represent the best of humanity. Although they lacked many of the luxuries of children at home, these children looked to be genuinely happy. I imagined them to be resilient and their warmth spelled out health to me — a kind of health that surpasses our usual definition and places happiness at the core.

Thank you to all who submitted photos this years, the images and narratives were truly inspiring!

Case Competitions: A capstone learning experience

By Sarah Boucaud, MHA(c)

You don’t often hear the words “health” and “competition” in the same sentence, but with Dalhousie hosting their first Health Care Team Challenge, the health professional programs are looking to competition as a fun, interdisciplinary way to learn.

In fact, it was a big year for Dalhousie in regards to health care related case competitions. At the end of February 2015, I participated with two of my colleagues in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Case Competition. It was a challenging and highly rewarding experience. We had three weeks to solve a health care case based in the United States and present it to a mock Board of Directors in Alabama. The case was comprehensive and involved building new service lines, strategic recruitment processes, and space allocation within new facilities. It was an unforgettable experience. We were the only Canadian team among 38 other teams from the United States.

The University of Alabama Case Competition was an opportunity to combine all of the knowledge and skills attained from the Master of Health Administration into a single academic endeavour. Drawing on more than just academic proficiencies, successful participation required teamwork, endurance, and unwavering determination. The chance to compete against schools from the U.S. was a rare opportunity to be immersed into another health care system—it was without question one of the most challenging and rewarding academic experiences of my degree. – Bennett Jovaisas, MHA(c)

A handful of times, other participants told us how “brave” we were to tackle a case based in a health system other than our own. In truth, we probably had a bigger learning curve during that three week case preparation period than most teams. However, throughout our experience, the commonalities of our two systems became apparent. We all want the same outcomes: happy and healthy populations. We also face similar challenges in achieving this goal, such as changing demographics and the need reduce costs.

The experience was invaluable. I learned a lot about a different health care system and a different way to perceive health. I also gained insight into my own strengths in working as a team and how to support one another in a demanding environment. We all come to the table with different experiences and ideas, but having those tough discussions around a common problem can truly generate new and innovative solutions.

Collaboration plays a valuable role in health care, but after this experience, I can’t help but think that a little competition is a useful learning tool in the health professions!


A global health paid internship opportunity: Pack your bags for Tanzania!

Why do you want to study or work abroad? For a new experience? To challenge your perceptions? To explore and learn from new health systems?

gho_internships_tanzania_summer2015There are a multitude of reasons and reciprocal benefits to global health internships and community learning opportunities. What often lacks is the resources to undertake these experiences. That’s why you can’t let this opportunity pass you by! The Global Health Office is offering two paid internships this summer in Tanzania with an NGO focused on HIV and community based care. These internships are made possible by the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships Grant from the Government of Canada. Once again, not only do you have the support of GHO staff, but up to $6, 000 to cover airfare, living expenses, vaccinations, and visas. 

From May until August, you will work closely with Tanzanian staff at PASADA on projects related to HIV/AIDS. The internship positions are for two project assistants (Key Populations and Prevention with Positive Clubs).

There is still time to apply! The application deadline is March 27, 2015. Please contact brie.rehbein@dal.ca for more information or visit our website.

If you can’t get out of your current summer plans to make this opportunity a reality, stay tuned for the summer of 2016. There are more internship opportunities to come! You can also check out our other local and global health programs through dal.ca/globalhealth.