Rosa Balleny is a fourth year undergrad student and winner of the Pula Award in Health Sciences.

Undergraduate Wins Award to Help Her Pursue HIV/AIDS Research

October 17, 2018

Rosa Balleny, a fourth year undergraduate student in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), has received the Pula Award in Health Sciences, which honours an undergrad student who has "demonstrated history of or expressed interest in doing research work in the area of HIV/AIDS.”

Growing up with family members who were living with HIV, Balleny learned at a young age that there are many barriers to accessing services and health care in Canada, and that these barriers are never equally distributed. This was one of her motivations for pursuing a BSc in the Faculty of Health Sciences, with a focus in Life Sciences. 

“I was drawn to the more holistic approach to studying health,” she says, “We’re not just focusing on the biomedical aspects of our own health, but how society and the institutions that we live in affect our own lives and the health of populations.”

In the past year, Balleny was introduced to community-based public health research with a focus on HIV positive women’s health while working with Associate Professor Angela Kaida and the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS) research team.

Over the summer, she had the opportunity to work with data regarding peer leadership, and sexual and HIV-related health outcomes of HIV positive women. Hearing HIV positive women’s voices being placed consistently at the centre of discussions has given her a new perspective about how public health research can be conducted.

When asked what she loves most about studying in FHS, she says, “I appreciate how passionate the professors are about the content that they’re teaching. I find it really relates to their own research and it makes the learning experience a lot better.”

Balleny is enjoying her last year at SFU and plans to pursue a career in medicine after completing her BSc, with the hopes of working as a physician in public health. She aspires to use the knowledge she has gained regarding the social determinants of health and illness to help increase the access to and quality of health care for people living with HIV in Canada. 

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