media release

SFU Open House: Health sciences engagement improves lives

May 17, 2012

John O’Neil (New West resident), 778.782.5361,
Lindsay Belvedere (Vancouver resident), 604.365.0301,
Rochelle Tucker (Vancouver resident), 778.782.7174,
Zabrina Brumme (Vancouver resident), 778.782.8872,
Faye Stefan, co-op health sciences, 778.782.7632,
Nicole Berry (UniverCity res), 778.782.8492,
Pablo Nepomnaschy (UniverCity res), 778.782.8493,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

Photos on Flickr

A student project dedicated to helping women who’ve escaped human trafficking in India will kick off the Simon Fraser University Faculty of Health Sciences’ (FHS) presentations at SFU Open House 2012.

FHS students tackling global health is one of four FHS presentations featured at the open house on Burnaby Mountain on May 26.

An idea planted by SFU health scientist Rochelle Tucker, co-op experience in India, a successful grant application and an SFU business course have helped five undergrads weave together Better Alternatives for Girls’ Survival (BAGS).

Lindsay Belvedere, Christine Lukac, Martyna Purchla, Anam Hameed and Cici Chenliu, whose studies span five disciplines, will unveil at open house a custom-made SFU book bag and pencil case. They will also share stories about their co-op experiences in India from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Blusson (BLU) Hall, Room 10021.

Designed by the student team and sewn by female survivors of human trafficking in Koltkata, India, the students will sell their products locally and eventually North America-wide to raise funds for Destiny Reflection.

The Kolkata-based non-profit organization has helped about 20 girls and women in India, such as the sewers of SFU-conceived products, escape sale into the sex-trade industry by earning a living as sewers in the textile industry.

“We will give the funds from the bag sales to Destiny Reflection to help the organization economically empower more female survivors of human trafficking by training and hiring them as sewers,” explains Belvedere. Deeply moved by her exposure to the women’s plight in a course taught by Tucker, Belvedere engaged in co-op work at Destiny Reflection, where Tucker was simultaneously working as a volunteer.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, not just confined to India,” learned Belvedere through her SFU experiences. “In Kolkata alone, there are more than 60,000 sex workers, the majority of whom have been trafficked.”

The evolution of Belvedere’s and her fellow student partners’ development of BAGS mirrors SFU’s commitment to being Canada’s most community-engaged research university and the FHS’s credo.

“FHS is committed to addressing health disparities both in Canada and globally,” explains FHS dean John O’Neil. “We believe there should be a seamless relationship between research, education and engagement in addressing the major health challenges in the world today.”

Three other FHS presentations at open house will engage visitors in an experiment, a discussion and a debate.  The presentations will exemplify how research, education and community engagement at FHS are intersecting to unravel the genetic to social causes of health disparities globally.

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FHS engages visitors in experiment, discussion and debate at open house

Other FHS presentations to see:

Solve a crime CSI style: an introduction to a health sciences lab
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Room: BLU 9630

Zabrina Brumme, an SFU FHS assistant professor, and her students are inviting kids of all ages to don lab coats and gloves to help them solve Case: 59673-Project Paws. The real life Prince Edward Island murder in 1994 became the first Canadian case to achieve a criminal conviction based on animal DNA. In an SFU-created interactive game that has become a huge hit with girls aged 8 to 16, participants will learn that everyone’s DNA has a characteristic genetic fingerprint, which can be used to identify any organism.

Careers and opportunities in health sciences: diverse perspectives from the field
1:00 to 2:00 p.m., Room: BLU 10011

Professionals pursuing eight different career paths in health sciences will discuss the plethora of career opportunities that await students who pursue academics and gain training through co-op positions and volunteer work in this multi-disciplinary field. Medical doctors Victoria Lee and Malcolm Steinberg will be among the panellists sharing their experience of how thinking outside of the this-degree-equals-this-job box led them to their careers. Lee is the medical health officer for the Fraser Health Authority. Steinberg is a clinical assistant professor and the program director of public health practice at FHS.

Women’s reproduction: You may say “to-may-to”. I say “to-mah-to”.
2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Room: BLU 10021

In a Bachelor/Bachelorette reality television-style face off, two FHS assistant professors, who met and married in grad school, will demonstrate how different research perspectives can foster marital bliss rather than breakdown. Both anthropologists studying women’s reproduction in the Guatemalan village of Santa Cruz La Laguna, Nicole Berry is a social scientist and Pablo Nepomnaschy is a biological scientist.

“Pablo’s work focuses on the interplay between environment and physiology in shaping reproductive outcomes,” explains Berry. “My work emphasizes the influence of structural forces like politics and violence in a post civil war society on reproduction.” Adds Nepomnaschy: “We enjoy engaging in debates because we see the issue from different perspectives and like to have fun holding intellectual duels.”

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