Running to heal

Fun run raises money for a medical school in Nepal in honour of late medical prof

Amy Hewko - 11 September 2013

Five kilometers has never stretched so far thanks to the David Cook 5K Fun Run.

On Saturday, September 15, 2013, the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is hosting a 5-kilometer run and walk to raise money for the Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS), a developing medical school with a rural focus in Kathmandu, Nepal. Organizers hope the David Cook 5K Fun Run will raise $30,000.

The run takes is named in honour of the late David Cook, a passionate professor who taught at medicine at the U of A for over 40 years. Cook helped pioneer rules to medical lecturing, won the Teacher of the Year award six times (taking the runner-up title an additional 10 times) and won a 3M Teaching Fellowship, Canada's highest award for undergraduate university teaching. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 67.

Cook and Kim Solez, a professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, were pivotal in establishing the Faculty's relationship with PAHS. Solez participated in the International Advisory Board, and is currently the chair of fundraising and public relations. Cook wrote curriculum workshops and small group problem solving activities, which, according to Solez, still influence their curriculum. Since their initial efforts in 2007, more than 20 faculty members have joined the cause.

Medical doctors often leave Nepal shortly after graduation to look for opportunities in more prosperous countries. Those who do stay will often work in the country's large cities, leaving many rural Nepalese without access to medical services. In an effort to address this disparity, PAHS takes a unique approach to student recruitment: it looks for highly motivated students who want to stay in Nepal and offer health services specifically to rural populations.

"We've worked out a lot of testing to make sure people are interested in staying and to figure out what their backgrounds should be. Many are other health professionals, like nurses and paramedics, then they go to medical school," said Solez. "It's not purely a psychological thing. It's also a life situation scenario of trying to pick people who would stay in Nepal and help the people there."

In spite of being one of the world's poorest countries, Nepal places high value on health and medical education.

"It's a very exciting time," Solez said of his involvement with PAHS and the David Cook Fun Run. "It's inspiring to be a part of this growing institution on exactly the other side of the world."

Everyone is welcome to join the fun by registering to run or pledging online. General registration is $30.00 or $25.00 for students with a valid student ID. All donations exceeding $25 will qualify for a tax receipt.