Celebrating International Women’s Day 2024

Highlighting the achievements of seven women from the College of Health Sciences whose work is helping to build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive society.

Shirley Wilfong-Pritchard - 8 March 2024

From left: Salima Meherali; Elizabeth Onyango; Fatima Mraiche; Nese Yuksel; Shima Shahbaz; Allyson Jones; Josephine Godwyll
From left: Salima Meherali; Elizabeth Onyango; Fatima Mraiche; Nese Yuksel; Shima Shahbaz; Allyson Jones; Josephine Godwyll


International Women’s Day is on March 8 and this year’s theme is “Inspire Inclusion.” The University of Alberta’s College of Health Sciences is proud to highlight the achievements, dedication and innovative work of seven outstanding women from our health sciences community who are committed to breaking down barriers and fostering equity, diversity and inclusion.

Learn about just some of the many women students, faculty and staff members who contribute to a vibrant College of Health Sciences.

Salima Meherali, assistant professor, Faculty of Nursing,
member of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI)

Nursing researcher Salima Meherali and her team have introduced easy-to-use financial and health resources that are building independence in the women of northern Pakistan. 

This is one step toward improving the status of women and children. Helping them empower themselves can help them understand how to improve their own lives and the lives of their children, especially girls, for generations to come,” says Meherali.

Read more > Empowering women through innovative numeracy and literacy tools 

Elizabeth Onyango, assistant professor, School of Public Health, member of WCHRI

“With the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada, Alberta needs to tackle underlying drivers of disparity,” says Elizabeth Onyango.
“Engaging minority populations as key players in urban agriculture will not only address the immediate need for culturally familiar foods, but could also be a means to addressing the underlying root cause of food insecurity — financial constraint,” says Onyango.

Read more > Researcher seeks community-driven solutions to food insecurity in Alberta, Africa and elsewhere. 

Fatima Mraiche, associate professor, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Pharmacology,
member of WCHRI

Global perspectives and a passion for educational innovation inform this pharmacology associate professor’s project on the U of A’s undergraduate research opportunities.

Teaching and working with people from more than 25 countries helped me broaden my understanding and cultivate cultural sensitivity, and learn how to contribute to an interconnected and diverse community,” says Mraiche.

Read more > Congratulations to Fatima Mraiche, 2023 Vargo Teaching Chair

Nese Yuksel, professor, Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, member of WCHRI

Bringing awareness to health-care providers is important for Nese Yuksel and former medical student Katherine Babyn, who co-authored a study on cannabis use in menopausal women, because the stigma towards aging in women and menopause can lead to less open communication for patients seeking treatment.

“Because of the stigma, the fear of menopausal hormone therapy and a lot of misinformation out there, women start finding their own solutions. This study is reflective of the fact that maybe there are a lot of women not getting the help they deserve or need at that time,” says Yuksel.

Read more > Women are turning to cannabis to treat menopause symptoms, study suggests

Shima Shahbaz, postdoctoral fellow, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, School of Dentistry

Receiving a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) award for underrepresented early-career researchers has boosted Shahbaz’s confidence in continuing important HIV research, allowing her to overcome previous barriers and focus on ambitious projects.

“This grant gives me the opportunity to continue this research, but also network. It equalizes opportunities for those who do not have established connections here,” says Shahbaz.

Read more > Shima Shahbaz is among first recipients of CIHR Award, advancing HIV research with $1M funding

Allyson Jones, professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Physical Therapy, member of WCHRI

Weekly workouts offer opportunities to deepen cultural understanding, connection and support for Indigenous clients and student volunteers at the Saville Community Sports Centre. Allyson Jones, a physical therapist at the Indigenous Wellness Clinic, started the program. 

“Our goal is to provide a safe and encouraging space for participants to continue their fitness journey within the community,” she says. “The program is also a unique opportunity for kinesiology, occupational therapy and physical therapy students to engage in meaningful community service.”

Read more > Wellness program fosters fitness and learning for Indigenous clients and student volunteers

Josephine Godwyll, assistant professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sports, and Recreation

Leisure and recreation resources are critical to our health and well-being — and geospatial scientist Josephine Godwyll wants to make sure everyone gets to benefit from them.

“I think that we should all have the opportunity to live out our best potential, irrespective of the colour of our skin, abilities or orientations we identify with,” says Godwyll.

Read more > Researcher finds purpose in making the power of play accessible for all


Through initiatives such as the ones mentioned above, and by providing support and resources, women are empowered to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 and reflect on the theme of Inspire Inclusion, let us continue to work together to break down barriers, foster diversity and build a more equitable and inclusive society for generations to come.