On October 1st, Students for PIH: Toronto hosted our first speaker event to kick off our inaugural year at the University of Toronto. We were fortunate to have Dr. Felicia Knaul, associate professor at the Harvard Medical School, and alumna of U of T, speak to a crowd of about 30 individuals at the University of Toronto Schools.
At Harvard, Dr. Knaul directs the Global Equity initiative and works closely with Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of PIH. Dr. Knaul also serves as founder and Director of the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control. In addition to her work at Harvard, Dr. Knaul is a senior economist for the Mexican Health Foundation. In 2007 Dr. Knaul was diagnosed with breast cancer. Living in Mexico at the time, she underwent all of her treatment there. It was through this experience that she came to understand the extent of health care inequity with respect to cancer care, both in Latin America and globally. Following her personal struggle, and very aware of the additional challenges facing women with breast cancer in Mexico, Dr. Knaul founded the Mexican not-for-profit organization “Cancer de Mama: Tómatelo a Pecho”.
This organization works to train and prepare nurses and physicians to work with women living in impoverished areas of Mexico. Through “Cancer de Mama: Tómatelo a Pecho”, Dr. Knaul is working to bridge the gap of health care quality and availability between North America and the developing world. Drawing from her personal experiences, Dr. Knaul went on to write “Beauty Without the Breast”, a story describing her personal journey facing breast cancer with connections to the experiences facing women in both the developed and developing worlds. In her presentation to Students for PIH: Toronto, Dr. Knaul read exerts from her book and provided additional commentary. She also provided insights into the overwhelming impact of breast cancer on women and their families.
Throughout her presentation Dr. Knaul drew from many personal examples, including the support she enjoyed from her husband, Dr. Julio Frenk (Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, physician and former Secretary of Health in Mexico) and her daughters Hannah and Mariana Havivah. We thank all who came out to this presentation and are looking forward to our next speaker event in the near future!
At the end of August, a week or two before classes started back at universities across the country, a very special group of students came together in a (rather warm) room at the University of Toronto School’s downtown campus. We gathered together as a group of motivated, passionate, and eager advocates for Partners In Health. Led by PIH Canada’s Director, Mark Brender, and PIHC summer intern, Nicole Theobald, the weekend promised a forum for students to talk, learn, and engage about organizing student movements in support of PIH. The student leaders represented universities from 8 different campuses across Canada, including all three U of T campuses, McGill, Queens, York, Western, Ryerson, and all the way from the University of Alberta. Unfortunately, the leaders of Dalhousie and SFU couldn’t join us, but we are sure were there in spirit!
We spent the first morning getting to know each other – sharing basic facts and (briefly) our personal involvement with PIH so far. Mark then discussed the history of both PIH and PIH Canada, and introduced us to the organization that we would get to know and love (even more than we already did) over the course of the next two days.
Mark and Nicole organized for a number of guest speakers to join us, and the first, Chloe McDonald, talked to us about her work with maternal health and malaria. I won’t go into the details here, please contact me if you are interested! The other guest speakers, Julia Myers and Louise Kent, lead workshops on leveraging university assets and leadership, respectively, and helped us gain a better understanding on how to lead our individual student groups.
One of the most meaningful parts of the weekend, and an activity that I think most people enjoyed and appreciated, was what Mark termed “Telling Our Stories.” After splitting into groups, we each told our own story of how we got involved in PIH and what global health or social justice means to us. Not only was this a great way to get to know other people, it was also a good way for each of us to reflect on what brought us together and into the work of PIH.
Picture: Working together – students set goals for their groups
Overall, the conference helped bring us together and gave us all direction and motivation for the year to come. As McGill student David Cui, pictured below with Mark Brender, noted, “the conference helped me get a better perspective on the work of PIH and how we can help as students. Working with the other campuses and PIHC made it obvious that we can achieve so much at our individual universities to support and advocate for the work of Partners In Health.”
For all those interested in more information, I am happy to send you a detailed summary of the weekend, just send me an email. Furthermore, we’d love to hear your story on how you got involved and what makes PIH special in your life.
To read Mark’s interpretation of the weekend, please see the PIH Canada website and take a look around at all the other great stuff happening in this inspiring movement for global health equity and social justice.
Picture: Mark Brender and David Cui