By: Dr. Rachel Ollivier (RN, PhD), Nurse Practitioner Student at Queen’s University
The first-ever Queen Elizabeth Scholars Symposium, hosted on March 27th, 2023 at the McGill University Faculty Club, saw over 75 attendees (including 53 Scholars) gather to network, share inspiration, and promote innovation. The event provided a platform to hear about the work of a tremendously diverse group of individuals, each accomplished in their own right. With the Queen Elizabeth Scholars (QES) program now entering its eleventh year, many of the Scholars are continuing to push boundaries and foster excellence in a variety of sectors, including climate action, energy security, economics, health care, law, engineering, and other non-profit work.
Dalhousie was well-represented at the event, with attendees including QES alumni Ivan Okello (2018), Rachel Morgan (2015), Jeremy Ryant (2015), and myself (2018). While certain discussions revolved around naming critical issues, it was clear from the outset that each Scholar has set out to solve these issues in their own way. The event opened with an alumni panel, moderated by Ikem Opara and featuring Dal’s very own Jeremy Ryant, who is now a practicing lawyer at McInnes Cooper in Halifax.
The event promoted idea-sharing among Scholars through various formal and informal breakout sessions. Some key takeaways from the symposium included:
- Defining health vs. wellness: These are very different terms. Using the WHO’s definition of ‘health’, we can see that it encompasses emotional, mental, and physical health. However, there are also limits to this definition. Each individual will have their own definition of health that is deeply personal. Health care policies and practices must acknowledge that people should, can, and will define health on their own terms.
- We must lead with joy. For example, the behaviour change that is required to protect our climate is currently framed as inconvenient, sacrificial, and negative. It doesn’t have to be this way- nor should it be this way. We need to reframe it as something that is enriching, fun, and positive, not as a ‘chore’.
- Education is an essential stepping stone to opportunity. As it stands, education is shaped to make you labour in a labour market, when it should be teaching you how to be a good person. We need to think of the things that make people human.
- There are multiple ways of knowing. To truly learn from and collaborate with one another, we need to eliminate the transactional nature of relationships. Looking at the epistemology behind local and/or Indigenous knowledge (both within Canada and abroad) is critical. Part of this change requires us to value different ways of learning. A PhD is not the only form of ‘expertise’.
- When discussing global funding bodies, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it is clear that funding must be put into pre-existing infrastructure. The country and community must be the ones to decide the priorities. This is essential to facilitating a ‘bottom up’ approach to global health work.
I would like to thank the Rideau Hall Foundation for supporting my attendance. Until next time!