Feb. 10, 2023

Inclusivity through philanthropy: Training future leaders of a more equitable health-care system

Gift supports med school students with 3 annual awards for equity and inclusion
Image of Hania Aamer
Hania Aamer Courtesy: Hania Aamer

She became a successful entrepreneur in high school and she can’t wait to help new immigrants find their way through Canada’s medical system as a doctor.

He’s working on a game-based intervention to fight youth cannabis abuse — one that is soon headed for Calgary schools.

Image of Ronaar Qureshi

Ronaar Qureshi

Courtesy: Ronaar Qureshi

Meet Hania Aamer and Ronaar Qureshi — two of the 2022-23 recipients of the Janssen Award for Equity and Inclusion in Medicine at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). These awards, made possible by a $325,000 endowed philanthropic gift from Janssen Canada, are meant to help train and grow future health leaders in a more equitable health ecosystem.

Worth up to $5,000 per medical student, $5,000 for a CSM graduate student and $2,000 per Bachelor of Health Sciences student, the awards are offered annually to self-identified members of an equity-deserving group based on academic merit and financial need.

Rising stars

Hania Aamer is set to graduate with her medical degree this June and is applying for a residency program. “This award is allowing me to fulfill my career goals with decreased financial stress. It means a lot because I can focus on my education and my future goals and enhance my skills to become the best doctor I can be,” she says.

Aamer grew up in Edmonton and completed her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Alberta. Before she could even vote, she launched a licensed peer-to-peer business called Toon Tutors, which offered impactful work experiences for teenagers and affordable tutoring for children.

She even delivered a TEDTalk in Edmonton about youth entrepreneurship. Aamer says it’s been her dream to become a family doctor, in order to serve her community. She is especially interested in advocating and caring for marginalized populations.

“My passion to become a doctor stems from my desire to cultivate lifelong one-on-one relationships with my patients and to deliver quality health care so that they can live fulfilling lives. As an immigrant, I’m passionate about helping new immigrants find their way and I hope that I can be someone who makes their adjustment in their new home easier,” she says.

Ronaar Qureshi is a second-year Bachelor of Health Sciences student majoring in bioinformatics. The Calgarian wants to pursue a career as a family physician or paediatrician. 

Qureshi loves the connection between science and technology and he’s excited about the translation of research to improve peoples’ lives. He’s applying for a summer studentship with a genetics research team. The work could lead to future treatments to prevent complications during early labour.

“There's a lot of disparity in pregnancy-related complications — we see that negative consequences are more prevalent in marginalized communities and that’s really discouraging, so hopefully this research will help address this issue,” Qureshi says.

He’s also part of a team that won the Alberta Health Services Launchpad pitch competition with a game-based cannabis abuse intervention for teens.

“It’s something one of my close childhood friends dealt with, which culminated with an arrest for impaired driving collision; it’s what sparked the idea for our pitch. Cannabis use is a big problem among Canadian youth,” he says, adding a pilot is expected to get underway in a couple of Calgary schools this fall with possible provincewide rollout to follow.

"I'm extremely thankful and honoured to receive the award. It will go a long way to help me achieve my goals, because it will help cover books and some of my tuition which allows me to focus on advancing my education and pursuing my long-term goal of becoming a physician."

Sparking opportunity and change

The Janssen endowments were established across six universities in Canada, including UCalgary.

“We are incredibly excited about the impact that these funds will have on students and communities this year, and in the years to come,” says Dr. Ebele Ola, MD, Janssen’s vice-president, medical affairs. “Everyone should have an equal opportunity to achieve their best health, yet there is evidence of long-standing health inequity in Canada, leading to poorer health outcomes for a growing number of Canadians.

"Investing in initiatives to support equity-deserving groups as future leaders in health care will help improve the health system’s ability to advance the best care for all patients.”

"We are so fortunate to have Aamer and Ronaar as part of our Cumming School of Medicine community. Their achievements only further exemplify how having a diverse community fuels innovative solutions for some of our biggest health and societal challenges,” says Dr. Pamela Chu, associate dean, Office of Professionalism, Equity and Diversity.

CSM is working hard to support inclusive excellence not only in our student, staff, faculty and leadership composition, but in everything that we do — research, education, service, and community engagement. We're grateful for Janssen's philanthropic leadership in helping to advance this vision and create a more equitable health system by supporting our talented students.

Income generated by the endowment will continue to grow over time, creating guaranteed sustainability of the funds and support for deserving students in perpetuity.

Launched in 2017, EDI Week has become a significant event on the university’s calendar. Each year, UCalgary’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (OEDI) co-ordinates events and activities that celebrate the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence, respecting diversity, creating an inclusive culture, and advancing equity and fairness as integral to fulfilling the institution’s mission. Workshops, lectures and other activities hosted by departments and units across UCalgary showcase a rich variety of EDI initiatives and accomplishments, a testament to a growing awakening and progress toward a more equitable and inclusive climate where all students, faculty and staff can thrive, regardless of their background, identity or socioeconomic status.

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.