A passion for helping communities in need connects Tehmina Ahmad, Liwei Zhou and Drs. Les Kalman and Rick Quinn. All four participate in initiatives aimed at making a difference and channelling their health care expertise into advocacy roles in communities around the world.
Tehmina Ahmad, Medicine Class of 2017, first started volunteering in the local community to expand her comfort zone and to better understand the daily realities of Londoners living on the edge.
She works with Safe Space London, a support centre for sex workers, allies and women in crisis. “Our model is one of empowerment, with the goal of meeting women where they are and helping sex workers operate with safety and dignity,” she said.
The organization offers a wide range of services, including harm-reduction supplies, educational resources, cosmetic and hygienic products, clothes, first aid and food.
Ahmad gains new perspectives on the medical community from community members who often face barriers and bias when seeking treatment. “As an aspiring physician, these women have taught me to deeply appreciate objectivity,” she said. “To me, giving back means expressing and exemplifying compassion and empathy.”
Pride is important to Liwei Zhou, a fourth-year BMSc student. For the past two years she has been involved in queer and trans awareness and outreach in both London and Toronto.
Participating in pride parades, workshops and serving as the Director of Gender Diversity and Awareness with PrideWestern, Zhou says she has come across a need in the community to remove barriers to health care.
“Trans people often identify with a gender other than the one in their medical records,” she explained. “This means that sometimes they don’t get the understanding or care they need from the system.” Zhou is empowered by her work in giving back to the community.
“Connecting with the queer and trans community gives me great motivation and makes me feel like I can make a difference in the medical profession,” she said.
Dr. Les Kalman, assistant professor, Schulich Dentistry, gives back to the community by using his professional photography skills.
A credentialed motorsport photojournalist with MotoGP, he has used images to create pictorial calendars and auction items for charities, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Riders for Health Campaign. “This out-of-office passion fuels my global community support,” explained Dr. Kalman.
With his volunteer work, Dr. Rick Quinn, adjunct professor with the Department of Ophthalmology and veterinary eye specialist, focuses on the plight of the Great Apes in Africa. It is a species at risk of extinction and one that greatly intrigues the veterinarian.
He is founding director of Docs4GreatApes, an organization committed to improving the health of Great Ape populations and the communities that surround them. “As someone who is very fortunate, you go to bat for those who can’t speak for themselves,” explained Dr. Quinn.
Central to his work in Africa is the One Health concept, acknowledging the link between the health and survival of endangered species to the health of the human population surrounding them.
Docs4GreatApes is now partnering with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry to send medical residents to improve health care in Rwanda and Uganda. “There is a responsibility to use my professional connections to bring about change,” explained Dr. Quinn. “I’m uniquely placed to get two respectable professions to pitch in together.”