By Diane Luckow
Source: Aboriginal Peoples supplement, SFU News
Kayla Mitchell, a member of the Wet'suwet'en Nation near Smithers, B.C., has just completed her first undergraduate semester in health sciences at SFU, earning high grades in her first four courses.
She attributes her academic success to the excellent preparation she received in SFU’s Aboriginal Pre-Health Program at the Surrey campus. The small class size, hands-on lab work and one-on-one tutoring helped her to earn top grades in the eight-month program.
Mitchell had first considered nursing programs at local community colleges, but says, “I knew I had the potential to do better than a community college, and that going to university would result in a better job.”
SFU’s Aboriginal Pre-Health Program seemed like a good fit—she could acclimatize to city living and a big university while earning 15 credits towards a BA in health sciences.
Mitchell found that the program offered far more, however.
It led to a summer job last summer working with an HIV/AIDS organization in Smithers, and then to a part-time research-assistant position with The Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study, at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.
“I’m reviewing survey results and recent papers to help piece together an overall picture of what women’s HIV healthcare looks like,” says Mitchell.
“I love it. I was on the frontlines in Smithers over the summer, and now I’m behind the scenes. Seeing how these studies are conducted is very valuable.”
The work, she says, is paving her future career path towards a master’s degree in public health.
“I’ve always been interested in mental health and addiction. Seeing that in my community, I’ve always wanted to make a difference.”