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Stellar achievements: John H. Moss Scholarship recipient Krista Lauer

Krista Lauer. Image: Pascal Paquette

International development student seeks challenges to delivery health services to impoverished communities abroad

by W.D. Lighthall

While attending a Girl Guides international youth conference in Mexico at the age of 13, Krista Lauer saw something that changed the course of her life.

“Mexico was an eye-opener,” says Lauer, one of two U of T students to receive the 2006 John H. Moss Scholarship, awarded for outstanding academic and extracurricular leadership.

“That’s where I first saw that not everybody in the world is born under the same star, as they say in Africa. So I felt compelled to try and help make the gap between my life and others narrower.”

Following high school, Lauer was accepted into the Canada World Youth program and spent four months in the west African country of Benin where she volunteered in a maternity ward and a vaccination centre.

This year, Lauer graduates with her BSc from the international development co-op studies program, for which she spent most of the 2004-05 academic year in Zambia working for CARE International.

While based in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, Lauer’s work for CARE involved co-ordinating delivery of health services in the country for people suffering from malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS as well as services to reduce child mortality rates. She was later able to conduct field research in a rural area of eastern Zambia with people suffering from tuberculosis.

Though life in southern Africa all too often has a backdrop of strife, famine, war and poverty, Lauer says she was struck by the resilience and “tremendous sense of humour” of the people she came in contact with. “I learned more from them, I feel, than I was able to contribute. And that was a humbling experience,” she says.

The international development program is an elite program that admits 20 students annually. The students must write a thesis in their fifth year and Lauer’s topic was the health-seeking behaviour of people living with tuberculosis in rural Zambia.

The Moss scholarship supports students in their graduate studies and next year Lauer begins her master of science in international health.

She says her career goal is to work in public health administration in a role where she can work with the inhabitants of disadvantaged communities to improve their access to health professionals and health services.

© University of Toronto Scarborough