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Bojena Kelmendi
Elicia Loiselle
Evelyn Dell
Lauren Higgins

Bojena Kelmendi, BHSc., MSW student 2011
Wilfrid Laurier University

Bojena is studying for a Master of Social Work degree. Her BHSc was in Applied Health Sciences with a Minor in Psychology at University of Waterloo.

Bojena is originally from Poland and came to Canada as a refugee from Italy several years ago. She is a single mother of a thirteen-year-old son and she returned to graduate studies after being away from school for more than ten years.

Her choice of the Master of Social Work Program was the result of her own personal experience and her personal core values and beliefs. Having worked as a counselor and advisor with immigrant women and international students for many years she decided to return to the university and get a professional designation. Her passion for the profession is genuine and reflects who she is.

Throughout her life and work experience she always had welfare of people she worked with at her heart. She has a deep and unquestionable respect for other people and treats them in a non-judgmental way. Bojena believes that if given equal and adequate opportunities people can change their behaviors and the course of their lives.

As a single mother she has battled the odds to provide for her family and at the professional level, she has successfully navigated over the years the fast paced and time sensitive unending settlement needs of newly arrived immigrant women and international students. The remarkable thing about Bojena is her ability to remain objective, positive and calm under stress. Moreover, her ability to connect and interact with diverse groups is amazing as she is a very good listener.

Bojena has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by newly immigrated women, women coming from diverse ethnic backgrounds, women and children who have been victims of violence, women who went through traumatic experiences, and women who are single parents.

Upon graduation Bojena is interested in a social work career involving women and children particularly immigrant. This is significant considering her lived experiences and she will definitely inspire confidence and success in women who might be experiencing challenges she had successfully dealt with. As a future clinician she wants to address women’s and children’s needs and advocate for their equal treatment and opportunities.

Elicia Loiselle: BA,
MA - Child & Youth Care Studies 2011

University of Victoria

Elicia Loiselle is a Master of Arts candidate in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria. Her academic career is heavily informed by the extensive work she has done with nongovernmental organizations over the past 12 years in the fields of sexual health, women’s rights, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, community development, and youth work. Her thesis research engaged girls from Artemis Place, an alternative education program, as co-researchers in a Participatory Action Research project using arts-based methods like Photo Voice and Participatory Video. The project explored the girls’ schooling experiences in mainstream and alternative education settings, while simultaneously unpacking the multiple structural inequities they negotiate daily, such as poverty, sexism/sexualization, and racism, to name a few. Together, Elicia and the girls produced a video documentary (http://artemisplace.blip.tv), which they have used to engage in much-needed dialogues with a range of youth service providers, students, educators, administrators, policy makers, and academics working with girls. Elicia and the girls from Project Artemis have been dedicated to this form of social action as one tool to improve conditions in their community for girls who have been pushed to the margins. They have facilitated multiple workshops and presentations throughout Victoria.

Elicia is currently co-authoring a book chapter for a new Child and Youth Care text. The chapter explores critical feminist frameworks for working with minoritized girls from a social justice approach. She is also presenting her research with Project Artemis at several academic and community-based conferences across Canada and internationally.

As a youth counsellor, Elicia works with girls and young women in the Victoria community through multiple projects and agencies, including BC Families in Transition and Girls Only Group. She is dedicated to working/advocating with and for girls to address social and systemic levels of inequality. Upon the completion of her MA degree in 2011, Elicia intends to continue her career in research and frontline practice with girls and women in Canada. She is also committed to using Participatory Action Research (academic or otherwise) in collaboration with communities to address not just the personal, but also the political/systemic issues producing oppressive conditions in the lives of so many women and girls.

Evelyn Dell, BSc. (Zoology), M.P.H. (Global Health), M.D. Candidate 2013
University of Ottawa

Evelyn Dell is a medical student at the University of Ottawa. She completed a BSc. in Zoology at the University of Guelph and a Master’s of Public Health (M.P.H – Global Health) at Simon Fraser University. During her M.P.H., Evelyn spent 3 months in Madagascar where she designed and implemented focus groups with women of rural communities to evaluate nutritional knowledge and identify health care access barriers. This experience, alongside volunteering at WISH (a drop-in center for survival sex workers in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver), pinpointed her commitment and passion for improving health care access amongst marginalized women and their communities.

From an early age Evelyn discovered the value of community, having grown up on a rural fruit and vegetable farm, spending her summers planting, harvesting, and selling fruits and vegetables with her identical twin sister. During her undergraduate degree, she played on the Women’s Varsity Soccer Team and spent some time volunteering and traveling in Bolivia and Southeast Asia in order to better understand different cultures. Before she moved to Vancouver for her Masters, she sampled the flavors of big city life, living and working in Toronto and Montreal, while also volunteering at the MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) office and learning French. These experiences allowed Evelyn to realize her enthusiasm for both health care and disenfranchised populations, precipitating her continued educational path within these fields.

During her M.D., Evelyn plans to continue organizing open mic fundraisers to raise funds and awareness for women’s health projects in Ottawa and Haiti. Once her medical training is complete, Evelyn has aspirations to improve and provide primary care to marginalized women, as well as, partake in research projects that seek to inform policy such that they accurately reflect the health needs of underserved populations, both locally and globally.

Lauren Higgins, BSc- Genetics, MSc.Biology,
MSc. Genetic Counselling 2011

University of British Columbia

Lauren grew up in Ottawa before leaving for the University of Western Ontario where she received a Bachelor of Science in Genetics. She became fascinated with the genetic mechanisms underlying human disease and obtained a Master of Science degree in the study of cancer metabolism from Queen’s University. Her curiosity about how diseases run in families and desire to be more connected to her work inspired Lauren to pursue genetic counselling as a career. After volunteering with the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia and with the Provincial Medical Genetics Program, Lauren realized that genetic counselling was indeed her calling. She is now one of six Master’s students in the University of British Columbia’s Genetic Counselling Program.

As the title indicates, genetic counsellors are health care professionals who have specialized training in both genetics and counselling. They help women and their families understand the causes and recurrence risks of genetic conditions while also providing psychosocial support. While there are many streams of genetic counselling, including cancer, pediatrics, adult-onset disorders and research, Lauren has taken a particular interest in prenatal genetic counselling. In this stream of the profession, genetic counsellors work with women who have concerns about such things as recurrent pregnancy loss, advanced maternal age, abnormal serum screening results or ultrasound findings, birth defects, or harmful exposures both prior to conception and during their pregnancy. Genetic counsellors help provide these women with information and help them make reproductive decisions in a non-directive manner.

Studies have shown that many women do not understand the scope of the detailed ultrasound that most have during the second trimester of pregnancy. This causes untold anxiety to women who have a fetal anomaly detected on their scan. As a directed studies project next year, Lauren plans to explore the knowledge and attitudes that pregnant women have toward prenatal ultrasound and soft markers for Down syndrome. She is especially interested in the area of informed consent and is committed to helping women understand the capabilities and limitations of the routine second trimester ultrasound examination. Ultimately, she looks forward to helping women make informed reproductive decisions someday as a genetic counsellor.

Throughout school Lauren keeps herself busy by working part-time in the evenings and volunteering with the Rare Disease Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting families affected by rare or undiagnosed diseases. She is scheduled to spend her summer in Toronto, gaining clinical experience at the Hospital for Sick Children.

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