By: Yolanda Watungwa, Dalhousie Health Promotion Student
The Black Excellence in STEM and Health Research Symposium of 2020 gathered bright minds from across the nation that are involved in STEM and health; it was an event to remember. The two-day conference took place over the weekend of March 6th and 7th as a result of a great collaboration between Imhotep Legacy Academy, PLANS (Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians), and the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute. The theme of the conference was “Cultivating Connections”. People as young as 12 years old gathered from across the country and were welcomed into a space of knowledge translation across disciplines. The symposium provided an excellent opportunity for the participants to speak about their experiences navigating and contributing to STEM and health research as people of African descent.
The Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute hosted a networking social event on the first evening of the conference, with Bruce Johnson as the guest speaker. He shared his remarkable story of being the first Black Nova Scotian to graduate from the Dalhousie College of Pharmacy in 1970. His story was quite inspiring as it illustrated resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Academics, political figures, members of the community, as well as board members of various institutions fostered a sense of empowerment and solidarity as they shared compelling stories of the journeys that have led them to their successes and achievements.
The research symposium took place the following day and cultivated strong connection between the young and adult minds that share a passion for, and contribution to STEM and health research.
The morning of Day 2 began with a captivating keynote presentation by Dr. Juliet Daniel, a professor in the Department of Biology at McMaster University. Dr. Daniel, who specializes in cancer biology, spoke about her journey in the space of breast cancer research, specifically in people of African descent. The afternoon allowed for people to engage in conversation as Dr. Mikhail Burke of the University of Toronto and Dr. OmiSoore Dryden of Dalhousie University facilitated breakout sessions in STEM and health, respectively. The breakout sessions that enabled the youth to learn about STEM and health research incorporated interactive activities that enriched their learning. The panel session, moderated by Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch of Dalhousie University, was a great forum for idea sharing and generated meaningful and insightful conversations among the panel and the participants.
The symposium concluded with a number of graduate and undergraduate students from Dalhousie showcasing their research in unique areas of STEM and health. This was an opportunity for the students to share knowledge with those unfamiliar with their areas of study while simultaneously receiving feedback from those with experience.
Overall, the Black Excellence in STEM and Health Research Symposium was an incredible opportunity for bright minds in STEM and health to gather and cultivate connections. The theme of cultivating connection was vibrant throughout the symposium. The bridges and momentum that have been built will continue to foster solidarity among the many members of the African Nova Scotian community that share a passion for STEM and health.
To learn more about our resources for African Nova Scotian students please visit our PLANS webpage.