Community Action Now members. Top row: Randilynne Urslak, Pruntha Kanagasundaram, Melissa Abraham. Bottom row: Kajal Mehta, Andy Kwok, Hanein Madlol
Last summer, people and institutions around the world examined their own biases in response to incidents of police brutality and racially motivated violence. At Waterloo Pharmacy, two student clubs launched their own response to demonstrate solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We started a social media campaign to raise awareness about healthcare disparities as they affect Black patients,” says Andy Kwok, pharmacy student and member of both Community Action Now and the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns, the collaborating clubs. “We know that inequities exist in the healthcare system and so we researched and created content to provide education and draw attention to those disparities.”
Their content explored differences in conditions like eczema, asthma and COVID-19 and highlighted the unequal access to mental health services for Black Ontarians.
The students’ content was well-received, prompting them to ask how they could carry the momentum forward and continue to support marginalized populations. The Community Action Now (CAN) club, a group of students dedicated to delivering initiatives that benefit their community, decided to continue the social media campaign and to feature a new marginalized population each term. The group includes six students: Hanein Madlol, Melissa Abraham, Kajal Mehta, Andy Kwok, Randilynne Urslak and Pruntha Kanagasundaram.
“We officially launched the Transformational Tuesdays initiative in June 2020,” the Community Action Now group says. “Our goal is to deliver educational and impactful messages to readers about topics surrounding vulnerable populations and inequities in healthcare.”
Last fall, the group researched, created and shared content on healthcare and homelessness. This term, they are focusing on women’s health. Topics were chosen based on existing knowledge among the club’s members and are featured for a whole term to allow time for a deeper exploration of issues unique to each group. All campaign posts link to additional resources to enable readers to learn more.
For Andy, Transformational Tuesdays supports his long-standing passion for providing inclusive care:
“I had the chance in undergrad to volunteer with several vulnerable populations through outreach events and at St. John’s soup kitchen,” he says. “Meeting people, hearing their stories, understanding the barriers they face to accessing healthcare – it was one of the reasons I applied to pharmacy school. It’s so frustrating to see people face discrimination, so it’s important for me to be able to educate others that these differences exist and that we need to do better.”
The initiative is a popular one and growing; CAN has over 500 followers on social media.
While CAN would typically volunteer at community events and fundraise in person, they’ve pivoted to largely digital operations during the pandemic. Transformational Tuesdays has been one way for them to continue to support their community while avoiding unsafe contact.
“Going forward, we hope to explore other important considerations in healthcare with the Indigenous and LGBTQ+ community,” the group says. “We are constantly looking for diverse groups to highlight, and we also continue to tailor our posts to reflect current issues in Canadian healthcare.”