Dr. Zarghoona Wakil, MPH alumnus and internationally trained medical doctor, has received the 2020 Service Recognition Staff Award from AMSSA.

MPH graduate receives diversity award for her contributions to diversity and inclusion in BC

November 16, 2020

Recent MPH graduate Dr. Zarghoona Wakil has received the 2020 Service Recognition Staff Award from the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA). Dr. Wakil is an internationally trained medical doctor with additional focus on health promotion, victim support and violence prevention, but was also a refugee from Afghanistan.

“As a newcomer, my challenge was to learn the language and learn about the Canadian system,” she says. “However, it did not take me long to become a contributing member of the community; speaking four languages and having the experience of living in many countries for a number of years, assisted my integration into Canada.”

The AMSSA Diversity award recognizes Dr. Wakil’s work at MOSAIC as the Senior Manager of Specialized and Innovative Programs for her demonstrated leadership, collaboration, and innovative program delivery in the settlement sector, among other criteria. The non-profit organization addresses issues that affect immigrants and refugees in the course of their settlement and integration into Canadian society.

Dr. Wakil oversees a number of programs at MOSAIC, including the new COVID-19 Health Navigator Initiative, which provides health navigation services that help non-English speaking newcomers understand what is happening with COVID-19, while giving International Medical Graduates unable to practice in Canada a meaningful way to give back. Among other projects, she also oversees the Health Promotion Projects and the Multicultural Youth & Safe Relationships Project, addressing teen relationship violence by promoting safe and healthy relationships, open and honest communication, and family closeness.

Her experience in the MPH program complimented her work at MOSAIC, helping her develop a deeper understanding of how to help people.

“Having my medical background and attending the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) MPH program, where I interacted with professors and students of diverse backgrounds, along with working in a social service organization, was a perfect combination to develop new lenses around healthcare and population health,” she explains. “My capstone project, Integrated Mental Healthcare for Refugees and Immigrants in Canada, related to the work I do with MOSAIC; it provided me with insight to combine my work experience with the knowledge I acquired in the MPH program by integrating the services between the social and healthcare sectors.”

She is working on building collaboration and partnership with the healthcare sector to integrate MOSAIC's services for better health outcomes for marginalized and newcomer population. The Health Navigator’s project is one of the examples of the integrated service delivery in Burnaby. As for advice for the FHS community, Dr. Wakil acknowledges the need for reform in the Canadian healthcare system to better suit the increasingly diverse population.

“There are systemic barriers faced by ethno-cultural communities in Canadian healthcare that require change, and the community health center model is an equitable model of healthcare service that we should be advocating for,” she says. “Introducing the notion of integration of services - medical, healthcare and social services - may potentially eliminate the barriers and increase the intercultural competency in the system.”