SFU Health Geography

missionabout usresearchstudentscontact us

Mehdi Aminipouri

PhD Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


I am a PhD candidate working with Dr. Anders Knudby in the Remote Sensing and Spatial Predictive Modeling Lab, Department of Geography, at SFU. My PhD research aims at establishing a systematic methodology to quantify intra-urban variations in community resilience to one of the key climate challenges, extreme heat events. Applying this methodology, using existing spatial and temporal data (climate, census and satellite imagery) from BC, will provide the information required by regional and local decision-makers to help foster resilience to extreme heat in urban communities across the province.

I have a MSc (graduated from a consortium of 4 universities including Southampton University, UK, Lund University, Sweden, Warsaw University, Poland and Twente University, The Netherlands) in "Environmental Modelling and Management Using Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation" and have specifically worked on the estimation of slum population using object-based oriented image analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania.


Ofer Amram

PhD Student
Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


The utilization of geographic information systems and spatial data within the field of health care has grown exponentially in recent years. My research interest lies at the intersection between social and environmental determinants of health. My PhD research focuses on the spatial epidemiology and surveillance of pediatric trauma patients in Canada.




Derrick Ho

PhD Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


I am a PhD student supervised by Dr. Anders Knudby. My PhD research focuses on studying relationships between the urban heat island effect and public health factors in Metro Vancouver. Global climate change has increased the intensity, frequency and severity of heat waves, and will continue to do so. It has created fatal heat waves in mid-latitude cities, such as the 2009 heat wave in Vancouver. In order to reduce risks from heat waves and develop protocols for future health planning, I mapped the air temperature in Metro Vancouver with remote sensing. This map will be used to study the correlations between temperature and heat-related mortality, as well as heat vulnerable populations, social economic factors and building structures/types. The goal of my research is to locate heat-vulnerable hotspots in the city, and to apply the heat risk map for emergency use and health planning in the future. My previous work involved predicting island karst features in Bahamas with spatial modeling and remote sensing applications (MSc Thesis, Mississippi State University).




Leon Hoffman


I am a PhD student in the Geography Department at Simon Fraser University, supervised by Valorie Crooks. I am interested in the cultural landscapes and individual experiences of health(y) places, coastal and island geographies, and tourism places and practices. I hope to apply these interests to medical tourism research over the course of my doctoral studies. Originally from New Zealand, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Sociology, Post-Graduate Diploma (Distinction) in Geography, and Master of Arts (First Class Honours) in Geography from The University of Auckland. For my M.A. I investigated the socio-cultural experience of living within a remote coastal landscape in New Zealand.



Rory Johnston

PhD Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


I am in the PhD program in the Department of Geography here at SFU, studying with my supervisor Dr. Valorie Crooks. My MA research focused on the role of family physicians in the experiences and decision making processes of Canadian medical tourists, individuals who choose to travel abroad for medical care. My PhD work will continue examining medical tourism, but will focus on the development of the medical tourism industry in the Caribbean and the political and professional networks that are facilitating the growth of the industry.





Michael Martin
PhD Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


Michael is a PhD student working with Dr. Nadine Schuurman, developing and implementing siting models for palliative care using spatial methods. These models help to locate potential locations where new palliative care centres can be located to have the greatest effects. It is his goal that as Canada’s population ages, these models will help to increase access to palliative care in the locations where it is needed the most.

Prior to working with Dr. Schuurman, Michael completed his Masters degree with Dr. Jon Corbett at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus. While at UBC, Michael worked on the Mapping Across Borders project and studied the tensions that surround the inclusion of geographers in Canada and development organization staff in Africa in online social collaborative tools for geographic volunteerism. More information on this project can be found at www.mappingacrossborders.org.




Britta Ricker Peters
PhD Student Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


My PhD research focuses on the use of mobile computers to gather spatial information for trauma surveillance purposes. My research interests converge around the multifaceted spatial information collection and dissemination opportunities afforded by mobile computers including location-based services (LBS), volunteered geographic information (VGI) and geovisualizations for spatial learning and mobile health initiatives. My previous work involved recording environmental change in Barbados with VGI (MSc Thesis McGill University), mobile environmental learning, and floodplain mapping for FEMA.





Tatenda Makanga

Tatenda is a Health Geography PhD student under the supervision of Professor Nadine Schuurman. He did his undergraduate and Masters studies in Geomatics at the Midlands State University, Zimbabwe and the University of Cape Town, South Africa respectively. His PhD work is influenced by Spatial Epidemiology and Resilience thinking and seeks to explain why some communities do better than others in preventing adverse maternal outcomes given that they possess similar risk profiles. We call this positive maternal resilience. The PhD work will develop a risk prediction model, which will be linked to clinical data to identify pockets of resilient communities in 4 South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa countries.





Blake Byron Walker

M.Sc. Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


In the year 2005, cancers caused an estimated 7.9 million deaths worldwide. The literature has shown that cancer survival is not evenly spread throughout the population, rather, it clusters in space and time. My PhD research, under the supervision of Dr. Nadine Schuurman http://www.sfu.ca/gis/schuurman and in collaboration with the British Columbia Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca , examines spatial-temporal patterns of cancer survival in British Columbia over the last three decades to identify features of the built environment that correlate with post-diagnosis survival time. For example, does living in a neighbourhood with ample green space improve one's odds of living with cancer? This research also investigates the role of access to screening and treatment facilities, multiscalar patterns in cancer survival and socioeconomic deprivation, and the ways in which these patterns vary between cancer types. Ultimately, the purpose of this work is to support cancer control programs in British Columbia and worldwide, by providing actionable intelligence to public health officials and policymakers.





Rebecca Whitmore



I am an M.A. student in the Department of Geography and am supervised by Dr. Valorie Crooks.  My research focuses on informal caregiving in medical tourism, and I am interested in learning more about the experiences of medical tourists and their families. I graduated from SFU with a B.A. (Hons.) in Geography and a minor in Political Science in 2012. During my degree, I worked as a student researcher for Citizenship and Immigration Canada and received a research award to work with the SFU Medical Tourism Research Group. 









Victoria Casey

MA Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University

I was a graduate student working towards my Masters of Arts in Geography and completed my degree in 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Valorie Crooks. As a member of the SFU Medical Tourism Group, I studied patient travel abroad for the purpose of obtaining a medical procedure. I was especially interested in medical tourism’s intersection with informal caregiving, so my research focused on the experiences of friends and family members who accompany medical tourists abroad and who generally take on caregiving responsibilities.






Jonathan Cinnamon

PhD Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University

I was a PhD student in the Department of Geography at SFU, working with Dr. Nadine Schuurman and completed my degree in 2013. My master’s research, completed in Summer 2009 at SFU, involved an analysis of the spatial distribution of palliative care services in British Columbia. Central to this research was the development of a location analysis model designed to determine appropriate locations for new services in order to reach the largest number of potential users. My PhD research, while retaining a GIS and spatial analysis focus, was situated within the global health discipline. The focus of my PhD project was the development of locally-appropriate injury data collection and analysis protocols for low-resource settings, with a special focus on utilizing the free data management and visualization applications available on the Web. A high volume hospital-based trauma unit in Cape Town, South Africa was the setting for data collection and analysis pilot studies that I was involved with, alongside local injury prevention advocates. In addition to my PhD project, I had been involved with a spatial analysis of pedestrian injury in Vancouver involving an identification of hotspots, a roadway infrastructure survey, and observations of pedestrian and motorist behaviours.



Charles Fritz
MSc Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University
The built environment had a profound impact on the way humans organized and carried out their daily lifestyles. My research, supervised by Dr. Nadine Schuurman, focused on understanding how the built, physical environment affected the health outcomes of individuals by utilizing exploratory spatial data analysis techniques, such as cluster analysis and geographically-weighted regression. Results from these analyses would potentially unpack the finer spatial relationships between the built environment and individual health conditions, and provide policy relevant data that were required to positively impact individuals and communities. I completed my degree in 2013.






Melissa Giesbrecht
PhD Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University

Research Interests
Access to care, family caregiving, end-of-life care, intersectionality, gender, culture, Aboriginal health, rural communities, qualitative methods

Building on my Master’s work which focused on evaluating a Canadian social benefit program aimed at supporting family caregivers at end-of-life (the Compassionate Care Benefit), my current research interests were to explore experiences of family caregiving at the end-of-life.  As people’s social, cultural, geographic, economic, and other locations intertwine to shape the practice and experience of family caregiving, my PhD research looked to gain a better understanding of these intersections from both the family caregivers’ and formal care providers’ perspective. The purpose of this research would be to emphasize the complexity of existing inequities, while disrupting the common notion within policy that Canada’s growing aged demographic, recipients of end-of-life care, and their family caregivers were homogenous population groups with uniform support and service needs. I completed my degree in 2013.




Fiona Lawson
MSc Student, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University


After completing my BSc degree in Geography at the University of Victoria in 2007, I worked as a GIS Analyst at a private GIS consulting firm and then at the Vancouver Island Health Authority as a Population Health Analyst. I completed my MSc in the Department of Geography at SFU (2010-12), and worked under the supervision of Dr. Nadine Schuurman. The focus of my master’s research was the access to health care services using GIS. Specifically, the aim of my research was to evaluate the potential spatial access of severely injured patients to trauma centres across Canada and to explore factors influencing potential spatial access to primary health care services in Canada.