"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy program
What are your research and engagement interests?
My research and engagement interests are in public health. Specifically, I am interested in how to make public health accessible to everyone regardless of their race. This is especially important considering the current state of the world. Health disparities have led to the undervaluing of the lives and health care needs of people of colour. Therefore, I am interested in ways that we can work to ensure that people of colour have access to the same quality of health care given to non-people of colour. Through utilizing an interdisciplinary approach and working with the communities that are affected, I hope to be able to work towards a solution.
What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make a difference?
My interests have been motivated by my own experiences as a person of color. I can understand what those who are experiencing social determinants of health are faced with. It motivates me to try and mitigate inequalities. Additionally, the difference in how individuals are treated based on characteristics that they cannot control is incredibly unfair and motivates me to work for change. I hope to make a difference by directly working with the communities that are affected to ensure that their voices are heard so that their needs are effectively met.
What’s the latest project you have been working on that you would like to share with the SofC audiences?
The project that I have been working with, alongside Yerin Lee, another fellow and YouthLink, a nonprofit organization, focuses on providing social and academic support to high school students in Scarborough Village. Together, we are focusing on motivating the BIPOC students to pursue higher education beyond high school. We are doing this by implementing workshops that provide them with the necessary information that they need to fully understand what their options are. Additionally, we are showing the students examples of successful BIPOC in various sectors through a career fair, so that they can see diverse representation and feel that they can achieve anything they want to.
As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and its global impact? How do you envision post-pandemic recovery? What do you hope for?
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, I have learned how much communities can accomplish by coming together and uniting. At the beginning of the pandemic, when there were mask shortages and people needed food, communities organized and came together to help those in need. I envision that the post-pandemic full recovery will take a while, considering that we are in our third lockdown. I think that through communities working together, we can help those who are in need. I hope that the community can come together to support one another, and that we are able to fully recover economically as well as strengthen support for mental health issues that may have arisen from the lockdown, social isolation and the pandemic.
Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
My experience at the School of Cities Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has been incredibly positive. Being able to hear everyone’s ideas has been really inspiring and has helped me in developing my project. The advice that I have been given has been very helpful in guiding my project. I think being a member has added a lot to my experience as a student and it has allowed me to implement a project that I would not have been able to do without the support of the School of Cities. This experience has really helped me recognize the positive impact that I can have on the community and has helped inspire me to continue to help the community in any way that I can.
Any final word or message?
This last year with the pandemic has led me to reflect on what I have done for the community. Being a part of the School of Cities has allowed me to be able to help my community and I am very grateful for this opportunity.
Maha is a fourth-year student studying Human biology with a specialisation in Health & Disease at University of Toronto. Her research interests include health inequality, social determinants of health and applying a social justice lens to health inequities. She recognizes that health care accessibility can not be tackled without recognizing the structural barriers that play a direct role. The approach to an equitable future in healthcare must take an interdisciplinary approach as there are several factors that contribute to it and a one-size-fits all approach will not be effective in allowing the needs of marginalized groups to be met.