African Nova Scotian Health Camp Alum Dreams Big

August 31, 2017

Written by: Matt Reeder, Communications Advisor, Dalhousie University 

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Incoming Medical Sciences student Kayla Beals (Nick Pearce photo)

Kayla Beals was just 12 years old when she realized she wanted to work in the health-care sector — and it wasn’t an easy realization.

That’s how old she was when her grandmother, who lived with Kayla’s family in their small house in Eastern Passage, N.S., suffered a major stroke that left her unable to eat normally.

Despite her young age, Kayla stepped up to help out by assisting her mother and the nurses with her grandmother’s feeding tube and medicines. She also accompanied her grandmother on visits to the hospital.

“That experience in being around nurses and doctors and going to the surgeries with her made it concrete that that’s what I wanted to do,” says Kayla. “I wanted to help people like that.”

She began volunteering in nursing homes and hospitals in the community after her grandmother passed away in 2012. And when an opportunity arose to participate in a new health camp for African Nova Scotian youth being launched at Dal in the summer of 2014, she jumped at the chance to take part.

Now, four years later, she’s preparing for a return to campus — only this time as a Medical Sciences student with nearly $50,000 in scholarships and a dream of becoming a medical doctor.

The week-long camp, which has nearly doubled in size to 27 participants this summer from 15 in that first year, offers teens across the province in grades eight through 11 the chance to learn more about the different health professions, where African Nova Scotians are still vastly underrepresented. It includes interactive sessions on everything from nursing and medicine to dentistry and physiotherapy.

“Going through the hospitals, very seldom did I see people who looked like me or came from a background like mine,” says Kayla of her time volunteering in the health sector. “That was a little discouraging, but as I grew up I think I learned that you’ve got to be the change you want to see.”

She says the Dal camp helped her decide that she wanted to focus on becoming a medical doctor (MD) and gave her the knowledge and connections she needed to plot that path.

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