Student Spotlight: Susana Somuah

As the University of Alberta’s Spring 2020 Virtual Convocation nears, Graduate Student Susana Somuah reflects back on her time at the Faculty of Nursing.

10 June 2020

As an international student from Ghana completing her doctorate, Susan Somuah says her time at the University of Alberta Faculty of Nursing wasn’t always easy, but it was worth the challenge — the journey makes her Virtual Convocation celebrations on June 12th that much more rewarding. 

“I had to quickly adjust and adapt to a new culture, a new language, a new climate and a totally different academic environment. With the support of my supervisors and colleagues I was able to journey through the program successfully,” explained Somuah.

Somuah, who attained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Nursing from the University of Ghana, has always had a special interest in Family and Child Health. Her PhD thesis focused on evaluating the implementation of child nutritional policies, which instilled in her a passion to engage in advocacy for children, especially those from low-income families.

 She considers this year’s festivities to be historic, and though her family is not here with her to celebrate, they plan to watch the virtual graduation together online while enjoying her favourite Ghanaian cuisine.  

Learn more about Susana as she reflects back on her time at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Nursing and what her plans for the future are. 

Why did you choose to be a nurse?

My interest in nursing evolved as I grew up observing the passion with which my mother attended to her patients as a healthcare aide caring for the sick and assisting with their recovery. With time, I discovered my own aptitude and passion towards offering a helping hand to the sick and seeing them get better or comforted.

Why did you choose the Faculty of Nursing for your graduate studies?

My first encounter with the Faculty of Nursing was during a six-week internship as a visiting student during my Master’s program in 2008. The professors at the faculty were very welcoming; they assisted us with shaping the topics of our theses and pointed us to relevant literature. The warm reception and demonstration of commitment to support and guide us even as visiting students left a strong impression on our group and on me in particular, inspiring my decision to pursue my doctoral studies at the faculty.

What is one of your favourite memories from your time with the faculty? 

My exciting moments at the Faculty of Nursing were the occasional get-togethers organized by the Global Nursing Office, where I had the opportunity to interact with other international students to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

Why did you choose to focus your graduate research on evaluating the implementation of child nutritional policies?

In the early stages of my nursing career, I worked in Paediatric units in different health providing sites in Ghana. I soon realized that most of the children that were brought to the hospitals and clinics reported an underlying malnutrition problem. In my Master’s program, I investigated the factors influencing malnutrition in children under five years. My research revealed that most of these children were from low socio-economic backgrounds. This led me to investigate the existing child nutritional policies and determine how these policies have been implemented to affect the nutritional status of children under five years in Ghana.

What are your academic aspirations for the future?

I aspire to engage in a post-doctoral fellowship program that will drive my goal to be an advocate for child health and child nutritional policies. I also look forward to connecting with other health workers who have an interest in child nutrition so that we can together look for opportunities to champion the course of malnourished children. Meanwhile, I continue with my current career as a Nurse Educator in Ghana.

WHO has designated 2020 to the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. What does this mean to you? 

Nurses have rich experiences developed through our continuous interaction with our patients and clients. I believe if nurses are given the platform, they could make meaningful contributions to health policies. I believe nurses should not only be seen as health policy implementers but also as important stakeholders in health policy formulation.

Do you have any words of advice for fellow international students beginning their graduate studies?

I encourage all international students beginning their graduate studies to remain focused and work hard towards their dreams. Studying in a country different from your home country is challenging and requires a lot of adjustments and adaptation to the new environment. It is however achievable and commendable.

Spring Convocation 2020 will take place virtually on Friday, June 12 at 10 a.m. MST and will be streamed through Registration is not required. We look forward to celebrating with our undergraduate and graduate Faculty of Nursing students! For more Virtual Convocation details, visit: