Awarding Faculty Leadership in Global Health at Dalhousie: Dr. Bob Bortolussi

Post 3 in our series recognizing the many global health achievements at Dalhousie


Every year the global health office recognizes and awards global health leadership at Dalhousie through our global health awards: the Dr Ronald Stewart Student Award, the Dr John Savage Memorial Faculty Award, and the Dr Jock Murray Resident Award. These awards recognize an outstanding contribution to the global health community at Dalhousie through:

  • demonstrated leadership in global health
  • work experience with marginalized communities
  • engagement in global health research
  • mentorship in global health
  • promotion, development and enhancement of global health at Dalhousie

We have so many members of our community (Faculty, Residents and Students) doing inspiring work and making global health a part of their personal and professional lives it is wonderful to have this opportunity to celebrate these achievements.

For 2014 we are thrilled to recognize a member of the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie who is doing important and inspiring work in global health through his involvement in the microresearch program.

Dr. Bob Bortolussi

Recipient of the 2014 Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty Leadership in Global Health


Shawna O’Hearn, Dr. Noni MacDonald, Dr. Bob Bortolussi, Dr. John LeBlanc


The Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty Leadership in Global Health recognizes an outstanding humanitarian contribution to global health by a Dalhousie Medical School faculty member.  It is named for Dr. Savage who was a former mayor of Dartmouth, premier of Nova Scotia and a family physician. Dr. Savage was also a champion of the need to promote healthy communities worldwide and had a long-standing commitment to global health projects in Africa with the Nova Scotia Gambia Association (NSGA). Dr. Savage also served on the advisory committee to the Global Health Office at Dalhousie University.


Shawna O’Hearn recounting the many achievements of Dr. Bortolussi


This award honours Dr. Bortolussi’s long and notable career as a paediatric clinical scientist and professor. He is described as a man who

has given unstintingly of his time both in Canada and in East Africa and has made this the major focus of his career…his contributions and collaborations with Canadian and African colleagues will have a lasting impact on global health research.

Dr. Bortolussi has been a mentor to countless clinicians and researchers and has developed resources to advance health research at Dalhousie and beyond.  He spent a 3 month sabbatical at Makerere University in Uganda where he facilitated workshops on research methods. In collaboration with Dr. Noni MacDonald, he worked with faculty and students to develop innovate approaches to research for health care professionals at district and village levels.  From this the concept of “micro research” was born.


Dr. Bortolussi addressing the crowd and discussing the origins or the Microresearch Program


Its aim is to mentor young researchers, especially those who might otherwise have no chance for research training, to investigate the questions that are locally relevant to their practice.  This work has been well received and has resulted in dozens of graduates of the program.  The partnerships have expanded to Kenya and Tanzania strengthening Dalhousie’s international presence in East Africa.

Bob is also one of the leaders working to grow a collective vision of global health at the IWK.  His collaborative approach to working with residents, staff, faculty and researchers will help global health grow at the IWK and Dalhousie.


Dr. Ron Stewart congratulating Dr. Bob Bortolussi



Dr. Ron Stewart presenting Dr. Bob Bortolussi with the Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty Leadership in Global Health


Congratulations to Dr. Bortolussi!  Look for the 2015 Call for Nominations coming again in January.

To read more about this award please visit our Dr. John Savage Memorial Award page.

To read more about Microresearch please visit their website.

Next up, our student award winner!


Dalhousie’s Global Health Voice: Annual Symposium

2014 promises to be an exciting year for global health. The Millennium Development Goal’s (MDGs) target date is only a year away and  strong leadership, accountability, and collaboration are needed to continue to build on the momentum they have started. Dalhousie’s Global Health Office is also in the midst of reflecting on the year’s past accomplishments and successes, while looking forward to new adventures in global health.

This is why we are more than pleased to invite you to our annual symposium on April 1st, 2014. This year’s theme, Dalhousie’s Global Health Voice, recognizes some of the unique opportunities the year  2014 will provide us. We are offering 3 main events to encourage global health expansion, as well as collaboration in this field, and a chance to celebrate and honour Dalhousie’s leadership in global health.

First, our workshop (2:30-4:30pm, Tupper Room 14B2) will explore Dalhousie’s global health voice in a post-2015 agenda. Please join this discussion with key faculty so that we can identify common themes moving forward, areas for additional collaborations, and opportunities for funding in global health.

Following the workshop, a reception and poster presentation (4:30-5:30pm, Tupper Link) will be held to satisfy your afternoon coffee craving and highlight some of the exciting programs at the Global Health Office.

Last, but not least, we will celebrate the recent achievements of Dalhousie’s students and faculty in global health with an award and graduation ceremony (5:30-7:30pm, Tupper Theater A). This will include:

  • Global Health Advocate’s Graduation: We will honour this year’s graduating class of Global Health Advocate’s. These students have worked extremely hard to accomplish knowledge, professional development, and public engagement criteria in order to be graduating the program.
  • Certificate in Health Systems Graduation: In addition, we are also pleased to recognize our first graduating class form the new Certificate in Health Systems!
  • Global Health Awards: The opportunity will also be taken to announce our global health award winners!  The Dr. Ronald Stewart Student Award recognizes a student who has demonstrated leadership in global health and commitment to the health of marginalized communities during their time at Dalhousie. The Dr. John Savage Memorial Faculty Award recognizes an outstanding humanitarian contribution to global health by a Dalhousie Medical School Faculty member.
  • Photo Contest Winner: You will also have the chance to find out who will take home 1st and 2nd prize from our photo contest; where candidates’ submissions reflected the theme Global Health through my eyes.

Please be sure to join us with an eagerness to learn, willingness to participate, and of course, the spirit to celebrate! We look forward to seeing you there!  Join the discussion on twitter with #DalGHImpact.

Ottawa in October: An Important Month for Global Health in Canada

by Shawna O’Hearn, Director of Dalhousie’s Global Health Office

October is an exciting month for the Global Health Office.  It is the time for us to meet with colleagues from across the globe to learn about new initiatives and start planning for the next year.  This year, Brie Rehbein and I were in Ottawa where we attended the annual global health conference as well as some additional events that heightened the intensity of the trip to our nation’s capital.  Aside from the successful annual global health conference, there were multiple meetings and training workshops organized throughout the visit that took place before and after the conference.

One of these workshops was a five day intensive certificate course offered through the Centre for Global Health (Unvieristy of Ottawa), Carleton and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute of Basel.  Participants came from all over the world and gained practical foundational skills in health systems strengthening.  For more information on the course please visit:


Gathering Perspectives Dialogue, Image courtesy of CCGHR

Gathering Perspectives Dialogue, Image courtesy of CCGHR


As a member of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR), I participated in the University Advisory Council as well as one of the fall dialogues for the Gathering Perspectives project.  In May 2013 CCGHR launched a study to gather perspectives from the global health research community about the role of research in the pan-Canadian vision for global health.  Adopting an appreciative inquiry approach, four distinct dialogue processes have been used to engage perspectives from students, faculty, university administrators, partner countries, funding agencies, government agencies, non-government organizations and private sector stakeholders.  More detail, including the research framework, can be found in the Call for Dialogue available on the CCGHR website.  The discussions and findings were diverse with recommendations to have an annual event on global health research and to develop an ethical code of conduct.  A report is being drafted and will be posted through this blog and the CCGHR website.

There are 23 universities who are members of CCGHR’s University Advisory Council.  We had an intensive one day meeting in Ottawa and identified three key areas for future collaboration.  First, there is a recognized need to influence university internationalization strategies by identifying opportunities to align with global health research principles.  Second, a working group will be established to explore best practices of trans-disciplinary global health research to address the challenge of discipline specific silos that take place within and among universities.  Finally, the University of Calgary conducted a self-assessment on global health research within their institution.  The self-assessment tool was reviewed and considered as a potential tool to guide the work of other universities wanting to strengthen the visibility of global health research.

All of these sessions left us feeling energized and inspired to return to Dalhousie where we will apply our new knowledge to our programs and partners.

Collaborative learning in Tanzania: Clinical and Cultural opportunities Part 2

By: Luke Wiseman, Dalhousie Pharmacy Class of 2014
Blog Series Part 2 of 2

In this blog series Luke Wiseman, a Dalhousie Pharmacy student, is sharing his experience during the Tanzania Summer Program 2013 at PASADA in Dar es Salaam.

Luke observing Kaposi Sarcoma biopsies

Luke observing Kaposi Sarcoma biopsies

Some of the clinical skills and knowledge that I gained during this elective included interprofessionalism, how to improve medication adherence, how culture and socio-economic factors can influence someone’s health and the care they receive, patient counseling, and knowledge on HIV/AIDS and opportunistic infections.

Luke and Alex doing HIV testing

Luke and Alex doing HIV testing

I learned that the people are the experience; they help shape your thoughts and feelings about everything in this world.

My personal learning objectives included gaining independence as a traveller, and expanding my understanding of the global world.  It was a huge learning curve to learn the ropes as a global traveller. I quickly learned how to book air travel and reserve accommodations abroad. Reading, Internet searches, and talking to previous travellers in Africa were paramount to understanding practical information such as money, and health and safety issues. The guidance from the Global Health Office ensured that we were on track with immunizations and Visas, and that we were not completing this medical experience in isolation, a great example of collaboration. My personal global world was previously limited to the North American East Coast, readings, discussions, and adventures with relatives and friends. My world was small, but soon opened wide through participating in the Tanzania 2013 program. Not only did I travel extensively throughout Tanzania, I also traveled to Zanzibar, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. My adventures included climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on a safari, visiting the Apartheid Museum in Africa and going Great White Shark diving. However, I must say that the highlight of my journey, including the numerous experiences at PASADA, was the people that I met. The people of Africa made the most profound impression on me – as evenings and weekends in Dar es Salaam allowed for personal interactions, helping me gain a greater understanding of their life situations.  I learned that the people are the experience; they help shape your thoughts and feelings about everything in this world.

Door to Paediatric room

Door to Paediatric room


The biggest challenge that I faced during my elective was communicating with the patients. I could only speak a limited amount of Swahili and had to depend a lot on non-verbal communication. Despite this challenge everyone at PASADA was very understanding and willing to help bridge any gaps. I appreciated working in the various clinics, such as PMTCT, TB, ARV, lab, and pediatric, with my limited language skills. It gave me the opportunity to counsel patients of all ages using non-verbal cues.

TB Awareness campaign at PASADA

TB Awareness campaign at PASADA

When I think about how this experience has impacted my educational/career path I have a sense of both comfort and determination; comfort in knowing that I have chosen to work in the health community, and determination to reach forward and become a physician.

Health and Healing in Malaysia: Confluence of East and West

By Angela Day, Global Health Office

As part of a recent month-long study exchange in South-East Asia, I made a commitment to learn more about Eastern approaches to health and healing. After all, health is a concept that means very different things to different people.

On my first day in Singapore I stumbled upon a store overflowing with bags and boxes of roots, teas, tinctures, and herbs.  The store fronted a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic, and I instantly became drawn to learning more about this ancient approach to healing.  Through various conversations with people I met in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, I learned that many South-East Asians incorporate both Eastern and Western approaches to health and healing into their lives.



Storefront selling various herbs and remedies in Kluang, Malasia


Three weeks after my first visit to a TCM clinic, I was in the small city of Kluang, Malaysia, where I had the chance to sit down with a TCM doctor and – with translation help from a friend – discuss some of the key principles of TCM, as well as the key diagnostic tests, which he used to assess my state of well-being. (After a late night of karaoke and a strong morning kopi, I was a little worried to know what he would say!  First, he looked into my eyes; then he took my pulse; then examined my tongue. These are some of the basic diagnostic tests that TCM doctors use. Of course, this may sound quite different from the basic diagnostic tests that happen in Western medical clinics, but the foundation of TCM is built on principles of balance – within the body, and with the world around us.



Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner in Kluang, Malaysia


Those trained in TCM are attuned to imbalances in the body, and focus on detecting them, and then treating them holistically. Various types of massage are also used in TCM, and various tools to practice these important massage techniques spurred many further (sometimes hilarious) conversations with my hosts and friends throughout Malaysia.

Of course, I am steering far away from defining such an important and ancient healing practice as there is a depth of complexity to TCM that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of.



Garden full of healing herbs in Singapore


Now that I am back in Halifax, I am more highly attuned to TCM, and keep noticing all the clinics tucked into streets throughout our city. I look forward to continuing my learning explorations in the realm of health, and around the integration of different approaches to healing. Luckily, my diagnosis was good – according to the TCM doctor I saw in Kluang, I just need more sleep!




“Operation Mozzie-free” Singapore’s response to Dengue Fever

By Angela Day, Global Health Office


It’s hot and humid in Singapore, all year round. Perfect weather for people-watching, subway-riding, and ice-cream eating. Oh, and of course, mosquito breeding!

In May and June of this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a study exchange in South East Asia to learn more about Global Health. While a group of young professionals from Malaysia and Singapore spent time in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, my first week in Asia was spent in Singapore, where I met with the National Environment Agency (NEA) to learn about their dengue prevention program.



NEA staff during a site visit at a public housing block community garden (we got a little distracted by the beautiful garden!)


Mosquito-borne illnesses are a serious global health concern, affecting populations throughout the world, with a disproportionate impact on children and adolescents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue fever is the most significant mosquito-borne viral illness in the world, with up to 50 million infections occurring annually.

This year Singapore is experiencing the worst dengue outbreak on record, and the city-state is in high gear trying to control the health impacts of the outbreak.  From what I could gather, the fight against dengue is happening in a multi-faceted way: GIS is used to identify areas of the city where outbreaks are occurring; public education campaigns are used to teach people how to prevent mosquito-breeding in their homes and gardens; and targeted, chemical and biological mosquito controls are used when deemed necessary.

Many Singaporeans live in public-housing developments, which house residents of all income levels. These developments are exemplary of intelligent urban planning – they are highly dense, and designed in blocks to facilitate social interaction. Most blocks have daycares, playgrounds, shops, gardens, and community centres. While these dense areas mean that dengue can travel quickly among residents, they are also ideal places to locate public education sessions on prevention.  As you can see in the photos, I accompanied some of the NEA staff to housing developments where they were working on the ground.



Lead gardener and local resident after participating in a Mozzie-Free workshop


It was impressive to see the systematic approach to dengue prevention in the offices, and in the communities. Still, this tightly organized process is clearly resource-intensive, and so would be difficult to model in any other setting – after all, Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world, and is also a tightly controlled society. It’s considered a “fine-city” by local residents, as fines and jail sentences are the methods for maintaining societal control. For example, if residents fail to comply with the strategies to reduce mosquito-breeding, they can be fined, and if they ‘re-offend’ can be thrown in jail!

Clearly, this is where questions around ethics emerge – where do public health policies conflict with individual freedoms? I didn’t get a chance to discuss this question deeply with local Singaporeans, but regardless, “operation mozzie-free” is going full-speed ahead in Singapore to try and curb this year’s outbreak. Stay tuned for updates!


Angela Day (GHO), Workshop participant and Gardener, and Wong Yeh-Ping, NEA Senior Manager (3P Partnerships)


Dr. Kevin Calder is Grinning from Ear to Ear!

As Dr. Kevin Calder was completing his residency in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Dalhousie, he was unaware of the exciting year ahead of him.  In May 2012, he was the recipient of the Dr. Jock Murray Award for Resident Leadership in Global Health.  This annual award recognizes a Dalhousie resident for their involvement in and commitment to global health.

Kevin also began a one year international fellowship with Operation Smile to expand his clinical experience. Operation Smile is a not-for-profit volunteer organisation that organises medical missions to provide treatment for children in the developing world. It was founded 30 years ago and its headquarters are in the United States. (To learn more please visit the Operation Smile website)

The Dr. Jock Murray Award included a financial prize which allowed Kevin to purchase a portable surgical headlight to use throughout his fellowship during cleft lip and palate surgeries in India, Ethiopia and the Philippines.

Operating in Silay city, Philippines during Operation Smile's 30 ear anniversary, "The Journey Home"

Operating in Silay city, Philippines during Operation Smile’s 30 ear anniversary, “The Journey Home”

In 2013, Dr. Calder will continue his global health work with Operation Smile in Cambodia, Madagascar, India, Vietnam and Peru. He will work with an international and interdisciplinary team of surgeons, nurses, dentists, speech-language pathologists and patient care coordinators. In his own words;


Rural community near Mek’ele, Ethiopia with local shepherd boys, October 2012

I am learning so much and doing what I love to do – I could not be happier!

Dr. Calder’s work does not end here.  He is also researching the various cleft lip surgical techniques and evaluating surgical outcomes to identify the best repairs to tailor each surgery to each child to maximize benefit.

Dr. Calder with a child whose cleft lip he repaired. They are in the postop room - literally one room with about 30 mattresses on the floor!

Dr. Calder, in postop room, with a child whose cleft lip he repaired.

I am so pleased to have trained at Dalhousie. I have been well trained for the work that I am now doing and loving. I am grateful for the support of the Global Health Office and to have been honored as the recipient of the Dr. Jock Murray award in Global Health for residents.  I encourage any and all to join a cause in your personal or professional life that inspires you; chances are you will inspire others.

His talents go outside the borders of medicine, research and global health.  He has written and composed an album with Jason Mingo which was released in October 2012.  You can hear his album, “On Empty” on iTunes or YouTube.

Starting a career in global health at Dalhousie is taking Kevin Calder to new places, expanding his clinical experience and bringing evidence based surgery forward.  We look forward to checking in with Kevin in 2014 to be inspired by hisactivities and accomplishments.

 lalibella, Ethiopia - view from Dr. Calder's hotel room balcony while travelling after the mission

lalibella, Ethiopia

To nominate a faculty member, a resident or a student for one of the 2013 Global Health Awards please visit our Global Health Awards Page and get your nomination in by March 28, 2013!!

Journal Club: Networking around Research

In 2011, the Global Health Journal Club was established, as a forum for students and faculty with global health interests, and included opportunities for networking and to explore research questions.  This monthly journal club, sponsored by the Global Health Office, focuses on current (and sometimes controversial) articles related to global health research, policy, current events, initiatives and methods.

Attendees typically include students, faculty, staff and clinicians and we have a variety of interdisciplinary topics including  diabetes, refugee health, domestic violence and ethical considerations when participating in global health.  Each session has a facilitator who selects an article, provides a brief synopsis of the main points or findings, presents discussion questions, and facilitates group discussion.

Have a look at the list of topics that we discussed in 2012:

  • “HIV/AIDS and Sex/Gender Reporting in Health Research” (Nov 2012) – Dr Jacqueline Gahagan
  • Global Pharmaceutical Development: An Ethical Perspective (Oct 2012) – Dr Dan Boudreau
  • The Impact of International Volunteering (Sep 2012) – Shawna O’Hearn
  • Immigrant & Refugee Health (Apr 2012) – GHI (Global Health Initiative)
  • Domestic Violence in Bhutan, The Land of Gross National Happiness (Mar 2012) – Nancy Beck & Catherine Slone
  • A New Pedagogy for the Poor: How Global Health Education can Address Structural Inequity (Feb 2012) – Dr. Huish
  • Diabetes and Global Health (Jan 2012) – Vanessa Donnelly

We look forward to seeing you on January 17 at noon for the next Journal Club led by Dr Lee Kirby and Cher Smith on the WHO Guidelines on the Provision of Wheelchairs in Less-Resourced Settings.  The session will take place in Halifax in Tupper G36 (and DMNB TBD)

Everyone is welcome!  We also have a videoconference for DMNB to join us.

You should sign up to facilitate a session!

There are a few spaces open for 2013.  Contact  Shawna O’Hearn:


Advocates in Global Health at Dalhousie

Submitted by Taq Bhandal, Program Assistant, Global Health Office

Stop AIDS: What will you do?

In our upcoming Skill Building Session for the Advocates in Global Health Program, we’ll be exploring the concepts of media, advocacy, and global health.  We thought that it would be helpful to engage with one specific example of this theme and deconstruct some of the perspectives that are prevalent in the public sphere.  For this example, we chose the HIV/AIDS action programme, due to its global applicability, the amount of research capacity and the funding it’s received since the 1980′s, and primarily because the push for the campaign was largely a result of ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.

This is a particularly helpful example of looking at the stagnation of politics in addressing health concerns, as well as looking at the power of activism at changing the direction of public health interventions, especially in marginalized populations.  This is also a timely topic due to our proximity to World AIDS Day on December 1st!

We are excited to introduce two particular short films, one directed by Lisa Russell called “STOP AIDS: WHAT WILL YOU DO?” This was filmed in 2006 at the International AIDS conference in Toronto, and looks at the promises that have been made by governments and international health organizations, and the gaps in action for Universal Access to anti-retrovirals. The second film is a promotional video for the Global Fund, called “The Global Fund: 10 years of impact”, this video shows clips of prominent political leaders and advocates, including Bill Gates, Bono, and Jeffery Sachs, describing the leaps in health and development that have been a result of the Global Fund.

These two films were chosen due to the contrasting views they present on the campaign to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

We hope that students will take away from this session that advocacy is such an important factor in achieving global health equity; one that is achievable by anyone who wishes to speak up.

To learn more about the Advocates in Global Health Program please visit our website or contact Taq Bhandal <>

*For those of you who are unfamiliar with the depth of political inactivity towards the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 1980′s, we would encourage you to watch a lecture given by Gregg Gonsalves, one of the founding members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), at Harvard University –

The Global Fund: 10 years of impact









MicroResearch Finds a Home in Ifakara

Submitted by Shawna O’Hearn, Director the Global Health Office, Dalhousie University

As our team wraps up their two week session in Tanzania we offer the 3rd post in this series – photos as soon as everyone is back in Halifax.

With a packed vehicle, 6 Canadians and Majuto (our fabulous driver), we began our 8 hour journey to Ifakara which took us out of the traffic jams of Dar es Salaam, through many villages as we zoomed along a national park with elephants, zebras and giraffes lining the road, then to a dusty and bumpy road; with the Tanzanian Training Centre for International Health (TTCIH) at the end of the road!  To see Dr Pemba and Joyce greeting us at the end of a long journey made us feel at home.

The training program started on Monday with 40 participants from Ifakara and Mwanza.  The participants from Mwanza are taking their Masters in Public Health at the Catholic University of Health & Allied Sciences.  Students started by learning how to identify a research question, refine it and then explored what methodologies they could consider for their projects.  The participants were divided into 6 groups; two from Mwanza and four from Ifakara. Each group had 5 to 7 participants that included a range of professional disciplines and many  members had not met or worked with each other. The collaboration started with discussion of the research questions put forward by each member of the group. The research questions were based on their own experience and guided by the lecture: “How to develop a research question”. The group then vigorously discussed the merits of each question and selected one to work on as their team project. A spokesperson for each group presented the list of topics to the entire class and noted the one selected by the group and the rationale for its selection.

Some questions that the groups explored:

    • Why do women who go to antenatal clinics not return to the hospital for delivery?
    • Will the use of mobile phones improve antenatal care?
    • What should be done to increase male involvement in reproductive and child health clinics?
    • What are the factors associated with late hospital consultation of sick children?

During the second week we focused on writing reports, developing a budget, preparing an abstract and finalizing presentations which happened on Friday.  Students debated, discussed, refined and finalized their questions and methodology

Presentations in front of judges to determine the top two groups as well as graduation happened on Friday.