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"My favourite thing about SFU is its vision as an engaged university. I love how we are constantly encouraged to engage and situate our research projects in the actual world. I also love that FHS is an interdisciplinary faculty that welcomes all sorts of health research from the micro, cellular level to macro, societal level."
Student Profile: Maggie Ka-ying Tsang
doctoral student in the Faculty of Health Sciences
Hi, I am Maggie, a PhD candidate of Health Sciences at SFU with an interdisciplinary background. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, where I obtained my BSc in Environmental Science & Management and MA in Philosophy degrees. After finishing my MA in Hong Kong, I came to SFU to research on the nature of knowledge of Chinese medicine with reference to modern biomedicine and completed an MA in Humanities at SFU with my thesis “Chinese Medicine as Hermeneutic Knowledge? On the Role of Classical Works such as Huangdi neijing suwen in Chinese Medicine.”
While I was finishing my MA thesis, I learnt about a 2017 pilot project launched by SFU researchers that re-introduced TCM to First Nations communities in B.C. The pilot project was led by my current senior supervisor Dr. John O’Neil. My original plan for my PhD study was to follow up on the pilot project to explore the potential complementarity of traditional Indigenous medicine and Chinese medicine in supporting healing journeys in First Nations Communities. In the first year of my PhD study, I took courses and worked to prepare for the project––but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit near the end of my first year. Given the unprecedented circumstances, I had to reassess the feasibility of the proposed project. After thorough discussions with Dr. O’Neil, I decided to pivot the direction of my PhD project. I am currently working on understanding the invisibility of medical pluralism and the use of Chinese medicine in B.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
I started my PhD study at SFU Health Sciences in Fall 2019 with the support of Graduate Dean Entrance Scholarship. I decided to stay at SFU because of the stimulating academic environment and the generous support I gained from the SFU community. I came to SFU in 2016 for my MA study at SFU’s Department of Humanities. The MA in Humanities programme provided sufficient flexibility for my interdisciplinary research project. I thank Dr. Paul Crowe, my then senior supervisor, for introducing me to the MA programme and for all the support and guidance he has offered.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
My research interests broadly cover philosophy of medicine, health beliefs and patients’ experiences as well as medicines in colonial contexts with a focus on Chinese medicine. I intend to ask deeper questions about equity, diversity and inclusion in healthcare and medicine in a multicultural society.
Living in the Lower Mainland, it is not hard for us to spot clinics or practices of traditional and complementary medicines in almost every neighbourhood. The use and practice of traditional and complementary medicines among people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds in B.C. are inseparable from the migration and colonial history in Canada. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada, practitioners of traditional and complementary medicines were officially restricted from participating in the public health response to the disease. My research studies this phenomenon using Chinese medicine as an example. It aims to understand the invisibility of medical pluralism in B.C. during the pandemic and to explore the COVID-19 experiences of the communities who use and practice Chinese medicine in B.C.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
My favourite thing about SFU is its vision as an engaged university. I love how we are constantly encouraged to engage and situate our research projects in the actual world. Working on something that is relevant to the communities and our neighbours brings us even more motivations to work through difficult times. I also love that FHS is an interdisciplinary faculty that welcomes all sorts of health research from the micro, cellular level to macro, societal level. I truly enjoy the riveting conversations with my peers, who are also working on health-related research projects yet from completely different angles with various methodologies.
HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.
I am very grateful that my MA research has been recognized by the Laurine Harrison Graduate Thesis Award as well as Paul Tai Yip Ng Memorial Award. These awards offered important financial assistance to the completion of my MA thesis. I have also been incredibly fortunate to be awarded the Graduate Dean’s Entrance Scholarship and Graduate Fellowships for my PhD study. It has been of tremendous help by allowing me to focus on my research without worrying about the economic aspect of higher education, especially during the pandemic.
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