Dr. Paola Ardiles Gamboa is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences who has made a lifelong commitment to deep, impactful and transformational community work. As a social change agent, systems thinker and collaborator, Paola remains deeply committed to a more equal, just and sustainable world through her teaching, research and service contributions.
A champion for community voice, Paola joined SFU with extensive leadership and policy experience in the public and non-profit sectors. Early in her career, Paola co-authored Towards Flourishing for All, a policy paper which was an early contribution to support the development of Canada’s first national mental health strategy; work that subsequently translated into policy action plans for provinces and territories. In 2012, she received the Dr. Nancy Hall Public Policy Leadership Award of Distinction for her pioneering policy work in mental health promotion, shifting the way we conceptualize mental health. Paola also played a key leadership role in raising awareness of the gaps in addressing health inequities in BC over a decade ago. Through her role at the health authority, Paola engaged multiple community partners and led an inter-sectoral discussion paper recommending five different action areas that were then funded and implemented by the provincial health authority, resulting in the development of BC’s first health equity indicators.
Paola continues to advance community-engaged teaching, research and policy work in health through her work at SFU. In the same month she was named for the Warren Gill Award for Community Impact, Paola and her research partners released a community-engaged research report on the systemic discrimination faced by Internationally Trained Physicians. The Myth of Canada: The Exclusion of Internationally Trained Physicians arose from a long-standing partnership with RADIUS SFU Refugee Livelihood Lab and gives voices to this diverse and marginalized group in ways that are drawing crucial attention to the matter during the current healthcare crisis. To amplify these voices, their team also published a companion article in The Conversation, which quickly (in less than two days) had more than 28,000 reads. Locally in Surrey, Paola currently co-leads Art on the Go, an arts-based youth participatory project working to improve road safety policies for newcomer youth, in partnership with her long-standing community partner Public Health Association of BC and Bridge for Health, a cooperative she co-founded to support social innovations to promote health and collective wellbeing.
Paola has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to reflexive scholarship, integrating student feedback and community perspectives to inform her own community-engaged teaching practices and to contribute to improvements at the institutional level. Her scholarship ranges from studies aimed to strengthen democratic practices in teaching and learning to understanding systems level policies impacting student learning in community-engaged education at SFU. She has led peer-reviewed studies to assess student experiences and the application of academic-community partnership principles of collaborative educational innovations, such as the Health Change Lab in partnership with RADIUS SFU and the Surrey CityLab, collaborating extensively with Fraser Health Authority, the City of Surrey, SFU Surrey community champions, and many local non-for-profit organizations to advance social and environmental sustainability.
As a Latinx practitioner scholar, Paola incorporates equity-centered approaches into all her teaching and curriculum development. In her courses, interdisciplinary student teams work with community partners to produce innovative solutions that prioritize ethical partnerships and community needs as learning outcomes. Many of these innovations have supported dialogue and furthered the development of policies and plans at the community and university level in relation to anti-racism, gender-based violence prevention, food security, active transportation, and welcoming spaces for students living with disabilities. In the last few years, Paola has made space for arts-based approaches in her teaching to support decolonizing curriculum and community-engagement through service courses. Her teaching has been recognized by faculty, staff and students as supporting the creation of an inclusive and safe learning environment that promotes student and community wellbeing. She was recently honoured by the BC Teaching and Learning Council with the inaugural West Coast Teaching Excellence Award, created to recognize post-secondary educators from BC and Yukon.
Paola’s achievements and commitment continue to inspire and support the SFU community. She has mentored many students and colleagues, and she has consistently been invited to contribute leadership and expertise to support various initiatives at the university related to experiential learning and teaching; sustainability; public dialogue on equity, diversity and inclusion; healthy campus; and SFU’s first knowledge mobilization summer institute. Since September 2022, she has been serving as Special Projects Advisor to the Vice President, People, Equity and Inclusion, leading a diverse and interdisciplinary team of staff and faculty co-designers working on the development of a Community of Practice for equity practitioners across SFU.