Asian Heritage Month: a conversation

May 31, 2021

On May 18, 2021, six members of the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) gathered to talk about their experiences in sciences and academia as Asian-identified students, faculty, and alumni. This discussion explores the challenges and successes in sciences and academia, and the importance of one's voice and representation.

Read the transcript of the conversation here


Tian Rabbani


Tian obtained her Bachelor of Kinesiology from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2019, and is currently a first-year MPH candidate in FHS. Her research interests include biostatistics and epidemiology of infectious and pulmonary diseases, alongside evidence-based policy-making. These research interests took shape when Tian first explored expiratory flow limitation and pulmonary mechanics at UBC’s Health and Integrative Physiology Laboratory. Presently, she is pursuing her public health practicum at the Hsiao Public Health Bioinformatics lab where she will be researching public perceptions of COVID-19 data sharing to mitigate SARS-CoV-2. As a woman of colour, Tian’s worldviews are largely shaped by her cultural diversity, with being born in Japan, raised in Canada, and ethnically Bangladeshi. Specifically, her first-hand experiences observing health inequities among those in precarious work in Bangladesh have furthered her desire to pursue public health. As a result of these experiences, she brings a unique and empathic perspective to the research she is involved in.

Alongside her academic passions, Tian enjoys reading and exploring the wonders of astronomy, which has led her to become an active member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. In her spare time, she plays soccer, engages in video editing, and explores the beautiful world around her.

Mari del Casal


Mari is an MPH student of Filipino-Chinese heritage. He completed his undergraduate degree at SFU in Psychology where he developed a broad passion and interest in mental health and research. After graduation, he worked in community mental health services where he provided resources to and supported adults living with mental illnesses. As a result of these experiences, he is motivated to continue in the fields of youth mental health, mental health policy, and prevention programming. At the moment, he is working as both the implementation coordinator and a knowledge translation practicum student with the Youth Development Instrument, a survey was developed to better understand the social-emotional development, health, and well-being of youth aged 16-17. In his free-time, Mari loves to watch movies on Netflix and is currently tending to a small garden as a new hobby.

Kelly Banh


Kelly is a graduate student in the Master of Public Health program at SFU, a member of the FHS Graduate Caucus, and is currently completing her practicum at a population health consulting firm. Prior to starting her MPH, she has worked in community-based participatory research and health promotion at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. She is passionate about improving access to health resources for underserved communities, as well as knowledge translation, program evaluation, and digital health. Kelly is proudly Vietnamese-Canadian. She looks forward to sharing her health sciences journey and speaking alongside fellow students and faculty members in FHS to celebrate Asian History Month.

Will Hsiao

WILLIAM HSIAO, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. William Hsiao joined FHS as an associate professor in September 2020. He is also an affiliated scientist at the BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory (BCCDC PHL) and at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, and a genomic consultant with the BC Ministry of Agriculture Animal Health Centre. Prior to joining FHS, Dr. Hsiao was the chief bioinformatician and a senior scientist at the BCCDC PHL for 8 years and a clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia.

During his time at the BCCDC PHL, he incorporated data science and knowledge engineering into his research and developed expertise in public health data sharing, integration, and harmonization. With experience conducting and applying genomics and data science research both in academia and in government laboratories (public health and animal health), Dr. Hsiao brings to FHS a special perspective on integrating basic and applied research to improve our public health system.

JV Flores

JV Flores, BSc Graduand

John Vincent (JV) Lobendino Flores was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada when he was just 11 years old.

He recently completed his Bachelor of Arts from FHS with a Co-op designation, and is a recipient of the VPR Undergraduate Student Research Award. He was also the former VP Internal Relations and Dean Liaison at the Health Sciences Undergraduate Student Union. He is currently a researcher for the COVID-19 Int’l Health Literacy Consortium, as well as the youth research lead and project coordinator for the Art on the Go: Vision Zero Road Safety Project. Additionally, he is supporting various Fraser Health COVID-19 vaccination sites. He is passionate about community health and fostering meaningful relations. On his days off, he enjoys going on food trips and spending time with loved ones.  

Shabnam Raufi


Shabnam will be entering her fifth year in the health sciences program at SFU in the population and quantitative health sciences stream. She is a second-generation immigrant woman of Afghan descent. Her parents immigrated to Canada in the 90s, where she was born and raised in the Lower Mainland. Growing up, her parents instilled Afghan tradition and values and made sure she was able to speak Dari; she is very grateful now to be able to speak her mother tongue. Shabnam was originally a biology major when she realized she was more interested in health sciences topics. She took classes about health promotion, health ethics, and the Canadian health system, where her passion developed further. Currently, her interests lie in refugee and newcomer health, where she is currently conducting her honours thesis using a community-engaged approach.

This conversation was moderated by Sharon Mah, Communications Manager for SFU's Faculty of Health Sciences. Sharon is the daughter of southern Chinese immigrants and speaks Toisanese - her parents' mother tongue - along with Cantonese, English, and French.