Travelling to find your career path

Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In addition to developing as a professional, Aleksandar Brezar hopes to learn more about South Africa’s rich history and social issues.

By Johanne Adam

Aleksandar Brezar is a fourth year medicine student who is thinking about practising in a rural setting and working in global health.

“That’s why I have to become a good GP and feel comfortable working alone, in an isolated region,” he says. “My goal is to do humanitarian work with an organization like Doctors Without Borders.”

In February, Brezar will take off for South Africa, where he will assist heath care teams at a hospital in Khayelitsha, a large township outside of Cape Town, for three weeks.

South African doctors are world renowned for their expertise in trauma care. Violent incidents are frequent in villages due to the poverty and racial tensions that persist. Hospitals such as the one in Khayelitsha treat many serious injuries.

“Exposure to these types of injuries is limited in Canada. My placement there will allow me to be more comfortable managing these cases,” says Brezar.

If this placement is an option for Brezar, it is in large part because he has benefitted from the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement Aeroplan Miles program.

“It’s a big help because airfare is what makes overseas placements expensive, especially given that trainees aren’t paid,” says Brezar. “I might not have had the means to get there otherwise.”

Fascinated by tropical diseases, Brezar hopes that this trip will help him learn more about the field. But he knows that his passion for global health will undoubtedly be put to the test.

“My placement in Ghana allowed me to improve professionally and I’m now more focused on my career goals.” — Victoire Kpadé (right), with a colleague in Ghana.

Victoire Kpadé is completing a bachelor’s of science with a major in biochemistry and a minor in health sciences. Last year, she was curious to explore the possibility of a career in international medicine and global public health.

That’s why she did a four-month placement in Ghana as a volunteer medical assistant at an international clinic run by the West Africa AIDS Foundation, whose mission is to fight the propagation and effects of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases by offering care and support to communities.

Kpadé served as assistant to the main clinic doctor on her rounds of patients. She was responsible for taking vital signs and getting down patients’ medical histories.

“I hadn’t yet studied medicine so I had to learn everything on the spot,” she says. “I could never have had such an experience in Canada.”

Her weekends were spent raising awareness of HIV, AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.

“I would go to the fishers’ villages because there are many cases of HIV there. Members of the LGBTQ community also experience discrimination there.”

As well, Kpadé helped prepare the National Ghanaian Community Home-Based Care training manual, a document for doctors and nurses who offer home care for people living with HIV or AIDS.

Were it not for the Aeroplan Miles award she received, Kpadé would probably have had to borrow the funds she needed for airfare.

“I was able to combine the Aeroplan Miles I received with scholarships offered by the Science Students’ Association, which gave me a real helping hand.”

“I returned more disciplined, so much so that in my last term I received the best grades of my whole bachelor’s.”

Would you like to volunteer overseas? Watch this video for some tips from Victoire.

Help our student volunteers soar!

Each year, University of Ottawa students can take part in international community engagement placements thanks to the Aeroplan Charitable Pooling Program, which helps them overcome one of the greatest challenges they face, namely travel costs.

With the help of the Alumni Office, the Campaign’s ambassador, Mr. Jean-Paul Bédard, is challenging donors to beat this year’s goal of 350,000 miles. Give today to the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement Aeroplan Miles program!

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