Rachel Almaw named 2022 Faculty of Health Co-op Student of the Year

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Rachel Almaw

Rachel Almaw was quick to impress at the Faculty of Health. The Health Studies student has always been interested in health care and was excited to gain practical experience in the field as a research assistant.  

“I had no clue what osteoarthritis meant prior to my time there. But now I can't imagine a future without research in it,” says Almaw.   

She worked three co-op terms in the Mobilize Clinical Biomechanics research lab, which is based in Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences. The lab focuses on researching osteoarthritis with a specialization in the knee and hips. Osteoarthritis is a condition that causes the degeneration of the cartilage in joints, resulting in pain and stiffness.  

Almaw focused her research on the intersection of health and race. “It's a lifelong goal to pursue equitable health care for all and not just something that I can achieve alone,” she says. “It was the driving factor in what kept me coming back for all those terms.”

Her quantitative study on osteoarthritis in Black and White Canadians shed light on the disparities in research and care. Using her findings, she developed her undergraduate thesis paper, which has the potential to inform future research in the field.  

After finding her calling in the health-care industry, Almaw is determined to make a lasting impact in health research. 

“Prior to starting my work term, I was very much on track for medical school,” says Almaw. “But this co-op experience made me realize that research is something I want to pursue before going to medical school. This experience fully shifted my future for the better.”  

As a fellow and lead researcher, Rachel led several large projects in the lab. Her contributions included:   

  • Developing and executing a research study on the experiences of Black and White Canadians living with osteoarthritis.   
  • Initiating an online library and a demographic questionnaire to ensure future research is equitable and diverse.   
  • Presenting her research at Stanford University and receiving the Top Undergraduate Presentation award.  

“Research would have never been a part of my future if it weren't for co-op. And to that, I say thank you.” 

Honourable mention went to fellow Health Studies students Mariam Omilabu and Mahdi Farzad Naimi. In addition, Lauren Corke was one of six Problem Lab Award recipients. Congratulations to all!


Excerpted from Co-op Students of the Year make a difference in changing workforce.

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