MEDICINE HAT, AB — A student at the University of Alberta with Medicine Hat connections has been named one of the Top 30 Under 30 in the province.

Nicola Gale, a fourth-year pharmacy student from Medicine Hat, was selected to appear in the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 Under 30 magazine for 2017, which showcases the work of 30 young people engaged in projects in the province and around the world which build international cooperation and community development.

“It’s a really awesome opportunity,” said Gale, 26, over the phone from Edmonton. “There’s some people who have done some amazing things in the last few years, so it’s definitely humbling being named next to them.”

The Crescent Heights High School graduate is a co-president of the Students Invested in Health Association (SIHA) at the university. SIHA is a student-run organization which promotes community engagement and health. On campus, members have run projects about HIV awareness, sexually transmitted infections and mental health awareness, and have also taken the programs to Edmonton area schools.

Gale says being a member of SIHA has helped compliment her work in pharmacy.

“I’ve found that working with SIHA, I get to add in that aspect of the social determinants of health, and how healthcare and health and well-being actually looks in the real world,” she said.

The social determinants of health are the factors which influence the health of a population, including the social safety net, and Gale says the determinants look different in different populations.

SIHA has also sent members to Tanzania each summer to find solutions with community members including malaria, maternal health and access to clean water. Gale has taken the trip once as a member of SIHA, and says the focus is on working with community leaders on long-term projects in the country.

“A lot of them can’t be solved just by going in and building a school,” she said. “A lot of them take into account so many factors, like education, what the government is able to provide for them, what they have access to, how motivated they are,” she said. “There are so many different factors that impact health problems, and they can’t be solved by one 20-year-old going in and building a school.

“It’s an eye-opening experience, seeing that these problems are very difficult to solve. We’re by no means solving water issues in Tanzania, we’re not curing any diseases. A lot if it is learning experiences for students, and working with community leaders.”

The magazine, now in its sixth year, is produced as part of International Development Week and can be read here.