Anne Paxton

Global health masters reach out to the world

May 29, 2008

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By Susann Camus

Five of the first 16 students in SFU’s new master’s program in global health will convocate in June.                             

But only one, South African graduate Anne Paxton (above), will be here for convocation. The other four, like the remainder of the cohort still completing their degrees, are already out working with some of the world’s most vulnerable people, drawing on their education to make a difference as advocates for change.

Paxton, too, is thinking of the world, particularly the AIDS-ravaged village of Zithulele in South Africa’s Eastern Cape region where she completed her required practicum and hopes to return, "to give back to the country that gave me so much growing up."

The unique master’s program within SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences is barely two years old but it is already attracting hundreds of applicants from all over the world. It’s designed to train health professionals who are passionate about improving the health of people in low- to middle-income countries, particularly those with pronounced healthcare inequities.

Professionals such as Iranian-born Canadian graduate Shirin Kiani, who is on a one-year mission in Hambantota, Sri Lanka. She’s training local caregivers to operate for themselves an accessibility, monitoring and information centre for their disabled neighbours. "Ever since I started my practice as an occupational therapist," says Kiani, "I have wanted to apply my skills in areas where they are most needed, in countries with a low human development index."

One of Kiani’s fellow absent grads, Oumar Ba from Senegal, conducted research in Mongolia for his degree, and is now working in Nunavut. Another, Augustina Nagberi, a Nigerian, conducted her research at Denver, Colorado’s STD/HIV Training Centre. She is
now in New York. And Vancouverite Breann Specht did her practicum at the Canadian Public Health Organization in Ottawa, where she worked on a tobacco-control toolkit. She is now in South America.

Paxton is keen to create a mobile clinic in South Africa for rural grandmothers living far from a health centre so they can stay healthy and raise their grandchildren, many of who have been orphaned because of AIDS.

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