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PhD research led by compassion lands SFU student Trudeau Scholarship

July 05, 2017
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By Halimah Beaulieu

Milad Parpouchi had just concluded a research presentation at a local hospital when he learned that he was one of 15 doctoral students – selected from universities around the world - to be awarded a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholarship.

“I was ecstatic when I got the call, and the hospital staff could tell I had just received some remarkable news,” says Parpouchi who is currently pursuing his PhD in population and public health.

For those who know the bright and energetic student, such remarkable news does not come as a complete surprise. Parpouchi’s star shone the moment he enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts program at the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences. After graduating with distinction, he completed the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at SFU, adding an optional research thesis examining the effect of supportive housing on sexual risk behavior among homeless adults living with mental illness in Vancouver.

Further driven by his thirst for knowledge and compassion for marginalized groups, Parpouchi elected to pursue his PhD at SFU despite receiving a generous entrance scholarship from another university. The opportunity to continue working with his MPH supervisor, Julian Somers, was instrumental in his decision to stay.

“He is an exemplary mentor, and his focus on improving policy to serve the needs of vulnerable populations inspires me,” says Parpouchi. The Somers Research Group also maintains internationally unique data that help Parpouchi conduct research he is passionate about.

Parpouchi’s research focuses on further understanding the factors that increase the risk of homelessness and social exclusion. He is also examining the effectiveness of Housing First – an approach that offers housing along with medical and social services – in ending homelessness and promoting health.

Each year, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation awards up to 15 scholarships to Canadian and foreign doctoral candidates pursuing research on human rights and dignity, responsible citizenship, Canada in the world, or people and their natural environment. 208 students were nominated for the prestigious award last year. In addition to financial support of $180,000, scholarship recipients become members of a rich network of mentors and advisors, and participate in events designed to cultivate the next generation of leading scholars. Parpouchi aspires to influence policies that prevent the marginalization of society’s most vulnerable, and preserve their human rights.

The Somers Research Group has a tradition of outstanding trainees. Last year, both Parpouchi and his lab mate, health Sciences PhD student Angela Russolillo received the highly competitive Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Award. The award provides $105,000 to support outstanding doctoral students in their pursuit of innovative and important research.  This year, lab member Stefanie Rezansoff became the first student in SFU’s history to receive the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal twice, first for her Master’s degree and in June for her doctoral research.