From the other side of the world, Ibrahim Marwa watched his computer screen helplessly as a building was bombed right before his eyes.
The building was adjacent to the shelter of a Syrian client of his, and it had been attacked during their online counselling session.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Marwa said as he recalled the horrifying moment in 2012. “My client was crying in front of me on the computer screen, and the building was collapsing right beside her. Seeing that strengthened my resolve to help the people of Syria.”
Marwa is from Syria and remains connected to his home nation. Following the completion of medical school, he migrated to Canada to seek a better life while pursuing his interests in neurology through research opportunities in neurophysiology and neurosurgical simulation.
The young doctor also volunteered as a psychological counsellor for the Syrian Expatriates Medical Association, giving online person-to-person sessions in order to relieve the suffering of those impacted by the country’s civil war — a cause that eventually led Marwa to the Master of Public Health (MPH) Program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.
Marwa’s long-term aspiration is to develop a more affordable and accessible Syrian health care system. Now his focus is to play a role in supporting Canada in building more inclusive policies for newcomers and refugees.
He selected the MPH Program knowing that its case-based methodology and interdisciplinary model would give him the tools he needed to achieve these goals.
“The Program has encouraged me to apply theories to real life cases, and I’ve learned to understand the socio-cultural determinants of health,” he said. “With this new perspective, I am able to connect disease with broader aspects such as housing, income, food security and social support.”
The Program presents ample amount of new information on a daily basis, which Marwa explained can be challenging. He is thankful for the strong sense of welcoming he has received from the Program’s instructors, and refers to the student-teacher relationships he has formed as safety nets during difficult times.
The MPH Program has led Marwa to realize that the benefits of studying public health are far-reaching. When he graduates with the MPH Class of 2016, he will put his newfound skills toward changing many lives around the globe.