By Dr. Melanie Walker, Course Director, Population & Global Health

Each first year class in Queen’s UGME embarks on the ‘Community Based Interventions Project’ (CBIP) as part of their Population and Global Health (PGH) course. The project provides students with an opportunity to gain insight into social and health services that serve patients in the greater Kingston community. The students learn about the importance of social determinants of health and patient context through the eyes of a special population that they are interested in exploring. This experience provides them with better insight into supports which affect the health and management of their future patients.

Outside of the medical school, I am a member of a local charity: 100+ Women Who Care Kingston. This organization consists of a group of Kingston-based women who meet four times a year to support non-profit and charitable organizations in our community. The principle is simple – any member is permitted to nominate one local organization per meeting. If this organization is chosen as one of three picked at random, the nominating member is allotted five minutes to speak to the membership to express why their particular organization is worthy of the group’s charitable donation and what that organization would do with the funding if received. The three nominees are then put to a vote by the membership and the majority wins. Over one hour, one worthy local organization receives a financial ‘boost’ of approximately $20,000. Simple…yet powerful.

In light of this, last year we initiated a new advocacy component to the PGH course through the CBIP – the opportunity, as a class, to nominate one of the researched organizations that they thought could benefit from an infusion of funding to address a gap in service identified by the organization. The class vote would become my vote at 100+ Women. Both the 2019 class and, just recently, the 2020 class overwhelmingly voted for the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SACK) to be brought forward to 100+ Women.

SACK is a “not-for-profit, charitable organization committed to free, confidential, non-judgemental support for all survivors of recent and/or historic sexual violence in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A).” While it may not be surprising to learn that girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault it was eye-opening to learn from our students that Kingston has the highest rate of sexual assault per capita in Canada. The majority of funding received by SACK is thus, understandably, directed at the support services with little left over for education and prevention. In fact, the Kingston Youth Sexual Violence Prevention Assessment put out a report in May of 2015 that stated “the Kingston community needed to engage youth before sexual & dating violence occurs. Organizations need to explicitly address important concepts including consent, healthy sexuality, healthy relationships, rape culture, alcohol & drug-facilitated sexual assault, and sexual violence.”

After six 100+ Women Who Care Kingston meetings and six attempts (between last year and this), the stars aligned on Feb 23, 2017 and SACK was the 3rd random pick of the night of the 30+ nominated charities.  The end result was an overwhelming majority vote of the 100+ women in the room to support this organization.  Two of the students from the class of 2019 that had an instrumental role in getting SACK nominated by their classmates, Tiffany Lung and Kate Liu, were present with me at the recent cheque-presenting ceremony by the leading ladies of 100+ Women Who Care Kingston to SACK on March 31st. The donation of $20,000+ will be directed at the development of a much-needed youth prevention program across the greater Kingston area which will include sexual assault resistance programming – the only evidence-based program that has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of rape and other forms of sexual assault.

The night that SACK was voted to receive this donation I was approached by many community members who were not only impressed with the important work that SACK does but by the School of Medicine’s investment in teaching our physicians-in-training about the importance of population health and health advocacy. Amazing what can be accomplished when 100+ medical students who care connect with a local group of women who care to create an opportunity for change in our community.

The recent Whig Standard Article can be found here.

Many thanks to the following for making this possible:

  • Meds 2019 class (special thanks to Tiffany Lung, Kate Liu, Zoe Lau and Sallya Aleboyeh)
  • Meds 2020 class (special thanks to Alexandra Basden, Azraa Janmohamed, Denisha Puvitharan, Khatija Anjum, Sana Khan and Jagpreet Kaler)
  • 100+ Women Who Care Kingston and the leading ladies (special thanks to Lindsay Duggan)
  • Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (special thanks to Jennifer Byrd and Elayne Furoy)