Maria Abarca

MPH in Health Sciences

With over 20 years of experience in patient care, physician and MPH student Dr. Maria Abarca joins FHS to enhance her abilities on influencing health policy, and achieving equitable health outcomes.

Dr. Maria Abarca is no stranger to treating diseases and improving community health. As a physician in Mexico, Dr. Abarca has spent the past 20 years working in patient care and as a general practitioner. She worked in public and private hospitals; spearheaded a rural health center, helping the community adopt and practice effective disease prevention methods; and worked as an otolaryngologist, collaborating in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the pinna in patients with congenital malformation.

With her experience as both a researcher and practitioner, she recognized the responsibility of putting knowledge into practice, and decided to join the MPH program.

“Focusing on treating diseases and their complications, instead of preventing their evolution in the population, has made less sense to me as I progress on my own career,” she explains. “Therefore, I decided to start my Master in Public Health to learn and uphold equity and inclusive approaches for the prevention of disease and injury.”

For her master's program, she is working as a research assistant in SFU’s Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office developing content and available resources for those impacted by domestic violence.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, she emphasizes the need for health professionals to be able and willing to influence and dictate health policy, achieve equitable health outcomes, enhance the health of populations, and protect them against health emergencies.

“I am interested in designing strategies focused on health inequities faced by underserved populations, and providing evidence-informed decision-making to address the connections across social determinants of health, discrimination, communicable diseases and non-communicable disease.”

Dr. Abarca advises those looking towards studying health sciences to commit to a life long learning journey, especially with the goal for an inclusive, equitable and diverse ecosystem.

“If helping others to improve their living conditions and reduce social inequities is your passion, SFU will provide you with the necessary tools you are looking for to make this world a safe and inclusive place for all.”