Samer Rihani's SFU experience included being a part of multiple clubs, and serving as the Simon Fraser Student Society Vice President Student Services in 2018.

Engaging the SFU community leads to FHS Award for Outstanding Community Service for FHS alumnus

June 17, 2020

By: Geron Malbas

Samer Rihani was recently awarded the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) Award for Outstanding Community Service. This award recognizes Rihani’s extensive volunteer work, as well as his service and leadership to the SFU community. 

In 2018, he served as the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Vice President Student Services. He was motivated to connect with other students and apply what he learned from the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) to his SFU student experience.

“My studies in FHS has made me question the purpose of decisions and asking ‘Why?’ or ‘Who does this benefit?’ with each choice that we make, and if these implementations would be effective given the cost and resources being put into it,” Rihani explains. “In FHS, we examine health care policies and services that we provide to populations. Being involved with the SFSS was an opportunity to make policy changes, similar to how the government works. It allowed me to see how certain decisions apply to different populations and gave me a better understanding of what the government does when it makes decisions of its own.

In addition to SFSS, he was also involved in various groups including the FHS Health Peer Mentors, SFU Blood Organ & Stem Cell Club, SFU Health & Counselling, and SFU Red Cross Club. These experiences outside of the classroom helped him understand that the rewards of a successful student experience required balancing classes, work, extracurriculars, and personal life.

“The working world does not rely on completing two big assignments every two months, but rather we learn from meeting, communicating, and engaging with others,” Rihani says. “I have weekly club meetings, events, and communications between my clubs and the student body. These are all things that students can expect when they graduate, and it’s the best way to know that we will be prepared once we’re done our time at SFU!”

Rihani has always been curious how certain lifestyles, habits, and cultural influences play a role in one’s health. Wanting to pursue a program that could be applied on a larger level outside of his studies, he found that the Bachelor of Science with a concentration in the Population & Quantitative Health Sciences stream best fit his interests.

“The idea of combining my passion for science with the understanding of epidemiology and looking at trends and statistics behind what differentiates and divides our population allowed me to see the applicability in the world around us,” says Rihani.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, FHS has been uniquely poised to help students understand how to fight endemic diseases around the world. The applicability of Rihani’s interdisciplinary education from FHS became apparent to him when he saw the how the world tackled COVID-19.

“Taking a look at how COVID-19 is being handled around the world, the focus isn’t just on studying the biological mechanism behind the disease,” he says. “It’s about policy to support different populations and their needs, how to better educate one another on healthy lifestyle choices, and how to support our existing healthcare infrastructure to administer resources effectively.”

After graduation, Rihani is looking to pursue one of his biggest passions: a degree in Dentistry. FHS has taught him to analyze each and every detail and look at its importance, and he can see that the small level examinations and details are the ones that can prevent chronic dental concerns, such as gum disease and periodontitis.

“I see so much overlap between FHS and Dentistry! Dentistry has so much valuable importance to the health of the population, beyond just having shiny teeth,” he says. “When we look at the health of the public, we often ignore additional factors such as gender, race, socioeconomic status, and attempt to look at the ‘bigger picture’, but I think the small details are the most important.”

Rihani values how FHS pushed him to always look ahead and not be complacent. For students who may feel lost and uncertain, he recommends getting immersed in the community and getting involved whenever possible. “Changes never begin unless you begin with yourself, and being able to find a passion for change in our communities means striving to make meaningful changes. There is always work to be done, so never stand still and keep moving forward.”