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Volume 5 Issue 13
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NEWS · FEB 15 2007

Good On A Global Scale

by Kelly Brownlee

An African proverb that states “that which is good is never finished” is an apt description of the work of Dr. Ryan Meili—both in terms of philosophy and geography. Meili, a Saskatoon resident who has done extensive work in improving health care for citizens in poverty both at home and in places like Mozambique and Nicaragua, has been named Saskatoon’s Global Citizen for 2007 by the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC).

SCIC holds the Global Citizen awards event annually, to recognize the efforts of citizens within the community that support the mandate of SCIC’s globally-focused outlook on humanitarian work. Established through legislation in 1974, the SCIC board of directors disperses provincial funds to approximately 50 member and associated member organizations committed to international development projects each year.

Hamid Javed, Vice President of SCIC, explains, “We fall under an umbrella of developmental agencies ... that support local education with a grassroots approach.”

The purpose of the awards, says Javed, is twofold: first, they provide recognition to deserving recipients, and second, they offer an opportunity for SCIC to gain exposure in the community at large, and therefore better educate the public on their objectives.

Javed is thrilled by this year’s choice of Meili as the Global Citizen for North Central Saskatchewan. There are two individuals recognized in Regina, representing the southern end of the province, as well. “To have association and know these people,” says Javed, “is a wonderful experience.”

But while Javed believes recognition for Meili’s contributions to improving access to health care is long overdue, the publicity-shy Meili himself has found the spotlight somewhat uncomfortable.

Humble to a fault, Meili will take no personal glory for programs like the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health (SWITCH) and Making the Links that have brought him to the attention of SCIC—but he’s also happy that the award will shed greater publicity on the worthwhile nature of the programs themselves.

“If nothing else, on behalf of those ideas it’s a great privilege. [These programs are based on the philosophy that] everybody matters as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, we all deserve the same care.”

A farm boy from Courval, Saskatchewan, Meili found himself drawn to helping people through medicine while spending some time in Central and South America. “I was reading a lot of good books and thinking what I wanted to do in life was to be of service,” he says. From there, Meili returned to Canada and started his medical training at the University of Saskatchewan.

Quickly, Meili found his passion in “working [for] and in service of people without access to medical services,” a passion that initially led him to Limbs and Light, an initiative that worked to bring prosthetic limbs to South America.

Closer to home, Meili was instrumental in helping to create SWITCH, which operates twice weekly out of 20th Avenue’s West Side Community Clinic. Meili and fellow students attend to patients, offering whatever service is needed in the areas of physical and mental wellbeing.

“SWITCH is a friendly, safe place to be for our clients,” explains Meili, “and at the same time, students training in various capacities within the health field gain valuable hands-on clinical experience.” The west-side clinic, says Meili, is “helping everyone to use their own strengths [and] create communities ... that can address areas beyond immediate health needs, including food, security, education.”

Meili’s involvement with student training reaches even further, however, with Making the Links, a program of the U of S College of Medicine on which he serves as the project coordinator. In Links, four students are chosen to participate and commit themselves to an intensive, two-year agenda of experiential learning, including a Northern Saskatchewan experience and a six-week stay in Mozambique, where students will participate in the delivery of health care firsthand.

“[It gives participants] a wide view of what goes into making people healthy,” says Meili. The students, he adds, get an opportunity to “see how poverty affects health, and the politics surrounding that,” while making a difference.

Meili will be accompanying the year-two students to Mozambique this summer and will be extending his stay to six months. However, he makes it clear that Saskatchewan will remain his home—and the focus of his efforts to extend adequate health care to all—far into the future.

“If it were [just about] money, I could go anywhere but [Saskatchewan] is home; there’s space for things to happen where we should work together and capitalise our combined efforts and strengths,” he says.











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