McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

New graduates have a global view

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: November 17, 2011

It wasn't so long ago that, as a Kenyan Red Cross Society intern, Catherine Paquin walked  through one of the largest slums in Nairobi raising residents' awareness about fire hazards and other potential disasters.

Today, she is an assistant of the disaster management department at the Canadian Red Cross in Ottawa, helping develop a national disaster response plan.

Her bridge between these two very different worlds was McMaster University's new Master of Science Global Health program. On Nov. 18, Paquin and 24 other students in the inaugural program will graduate during McMaster University's  convocation ceremonies at Hamilton Place.

"My internship was an amazing experience as I got to learn a lot about an organization that is important to me," said Paquin. She earlier earned a social science honours degree in international development and globalization from the University of Ottawa.

 "I got to network with people from both the Kenya Red Cross as well as the International Red Cross movement, along with people from many other organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the United Nations."

The full-time 12-month global health program is unique, offered collaboratively by McMaster and Maastricht University in The Netherlands. All students have the opportunity to spend their second semester at the partner university. The third semester included a symposium in Manipal, India where students from both universities met and had a chance to talk to HIV/AIDS survivors, play cricket with orphans, teach mothers how to use mosquito bed nets and learn about substance abuse from conversations with rural people.

"My experience in this program has been amazing," said Zahra Sohani, who graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster a year ago.

"I had an opportunity to not only study, but also witness how race, culture, gender and social class affect understanding of health and illness — and through the conference in India — affect access to health care," said Sohani. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, she is  from Mississauga.

For her research study, she designed and conducted a pilot study in India on screening for intimate partner violence (IPV) in hospitals, particularly  trauma centres, with Dr. Mohit Bhandari, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Trauma.

Sohani is currently working as a research assistant on two population health studies at McMaster's Population Health Research Institute with Dr. Sonia Anand, professor of medicine and epidemiology.

Through the global health program, Rohan Kehar, a first-generation Canadian of South-Asian descent, established ties with internist Dr. Holger Schunemann, chair of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster and member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Advisory Committee on Health Research.

Kehar, who is studying now medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster, worked with Schunemann in developing clinical practice guidelines for the WHO. Next spring, he will attend a WHO panel meeting in Geneva to help present the findings.

"These experiences are exactly along the lines of what I want to get into in the future and I have the global health program to credit for this opportunity," said Kehar.

This weekend, the Global Health Advisory Board for the program is meeting in Hamilton and will hear presentations from the graduates as well as the current students.

Of the 71 students enrolled in the inaugural class of 2011, 28 were from McMaster and 43 from Maastricht. Nineteen Maastricht students graduated earlier on October 4 at convocation ceremonies in the Netherlands.

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