UBC Okanagan student earns award to help combat HIV and AIDS in Mexico

PhD student Tamil Kendall has been awarded the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) -- a newly established award given to doctoral students who demonstrate leadership skills and academic excellence in graduate studies in the areas of social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and health.

Valued at $50,000 per year for up to three years, the award will support Kendall’s current research in Mexico, which focuses on HIV, human rights and gender equity -- all areas that are priorities in Canada's framework for international cooperation.

More specifically, Kendall aims to propose policy and program options to improve prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to promote the reproductive rights of women with HIV living in the country.

“It is an incredible honour to be chosen to be a Vanier scholar,” says Kendall, an interdisciplinary graduate student in medical anthropology. “I am particularly proud of being selected given the Vanier's emphasis on academic excellence and the application of research in Canada and globally. The scholarship money will allow me to focus on my studies for a three year period, which is a real privilege. Also, it will allow me to carry out my field research and to travel to conferences and meetings where I can share my results and learn from others.”

Kendall’s faculty supervisor at UBC Okanagan, anthropology professor Naomi McPherson, says Kendall is a very deserving recipient of the Vanier CGS, and that it is a privilege to work with the talented young researcher.

“Her research in Mexico is global in its potential for expanding understanding of the gaps between policy and practice,” says McPherson. “Tamil is a brilliant young scholar and accomplished researcher, an advocate for social justice and human rights for the most vulnerable members of our societies, women and infants. Tamil's career trajectory encompasses human rights and social justice, responsible global citizenship, in Canada and the world.”

Originally from B.C., Kendall says she chose to further her studies at UBC Okanagan after learning about the opportunity to undertake an interdisciplinary PhD in which she could combine her interests in cultural anthropology and public health, while living in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.

“I am lucky to have a supervisor, Naomi McPherson, and two committee members, Hugo de Burgos (Anthropology) and Joan Bassett-Smith (Nursing), who have been personally supportive and provided a rich environment for my academic work,” says Kendall about her post-doctorate experience at UBC Okanagan.

“In my courses, I have appreciated that there are students from many different disciplines, and the fact that, like me, many of my peers have extensive experience working in the 'real world' -- I find that this makes for interesting discussions," says Kendall.

“After completing my doctoral degree, I plan to contribute by helping to define public policy and programming in HIV and sexual and reproductive health, probably working with the United Nations system or an international foundation, though I would also be interested in teaching.”

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