Alumni Profile

The BHSc field school in Tanzania changed my career path

Doug Doyle-Baker BHSc'12

 

Why did you decide to participate in this global health program?
It was a dream of mine since high school when I went to the UCalgary’’s open house, and the booth for the BHSc program had a student who went to the same field school. He told me about it - it sounded like an incredible experience so I applied.

What kind of work did you do in your program?
I was paired with two vet med students. My job was to assist them in researching the presence of antiparasitic drug resistance in parasites infecting sheep and goats that belonged to Maasai pastoralists. What we found was that there was a low level of resistance in the parasites. We learned there seemed to be a communication issue with using the drugs because they had written English instructions or another language that the Maasai people could not read. We tried to develop some kind of education project and little cards with visual descriptions on how to use the drugs. We would then present them to community members so it would be more sustainable.

What personal trait do you think helped you the most during your experience?
Being very open to new experiences really helped me. Knowing it was okay to be uncomfortable. Having to push through that and being open to wrangling sheep and goats and going far out into the conservation wilderness on jeep rides, and meeting new people. I was always interested in trying to learn bits and pieces of the languages and that helped connections with the local people, because they saw I was trying to better communicate with them.

Do you think global health experiences such as this are valuable to universities and individuals? If so, why?
If done for the right reasons I think they are very valuable for both. Working with the Maasai and understanding their experiences and culture to find ways to improve the health of their animals, which then improved their health was extremely valuable. So when done in a culturally appropriate way it is great for universities and individuals. It also builds connections.

How were you able to develop cross-cultural skills while participating in your program?
I think trying to learn bits of the language and being really willing to participate is important. One day we were invited to a ‘meat cook off’ which was where the Maasai people cooked and slaughtered a goat and served it to us. We gladly participated and embraced the culture. It’s a big sign of respect that you're open to these experiences.

What surprised you the most about this experience?
How willing and open the people were to invite us into their homes. We were often invited over for tea at different homes and people were very appreciative of us.

In what ways do you think this experience improved your personal, advocacy, and leadership skills?
Seeing how climate change was affecting low and middle income countries (LMIC) and how wealthy countries were disproportionately having an effect on LMICs.  I want to make a positive impact in the future.

Did this experience change the way you viewed healthcare either globally or locally? If yes, how so?
In my health sciences program, we had a lot of classes where we discussed the need to improve access to healthcare for everyone. Something we need to look into in the near future is how we can improve access to healthcare in rural communities and LMICs.

How did this experience influence your career path?
It totally changed my career path. I went into BHSc wanting to be a human physician. When I participated in the field school and saw how veterinarians have an impact on human and public health, I was really interested. I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian and now I'm in my fourth year of veterinary school.

What advice would you give somebody looking to participate in a program such as this?
Be open to new experiences and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Think critically about the world around you and be able to take a step back and see if what you’re doing is actually helpful. When you have questions like that it’s important to talk to your supervisors and principal investigators to help guide you as well.
 

man and a lama
man holding a goat