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Mentorship opportunity builds international partnership

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars program is currently recruiting supervisors for its incoming fall 2021 cohort.

Mastercard Foundation workshop participants from Queen's and the University of Gondar gather for a team photo in Ethiopia.
Participants gather for a team photo following an Occupational Therapy workshop hosted at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia as part of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program. (Supplied photo)

In 2017, with the support of The Mastercard Foundation, Queen’s University and the University of Gondar (UoG) entered a partnership to advance inclusive education for young people with disabilities in Ethiopia and other countries in Africa. 

As part of the partnership, the UoG/Queen’s Mastercard Foundation Scholars program is designed to provide up to 60 of the African university’s faculty members the opportunity to pursue graduate training at Queen’s. Now in its fourth year, the program is currently recruiting Queensupervisors for the 2021 cohort of incoming PhD candidates from the University of Gondar.  

Funding for the program is part of a $24.2 million grant from The Mastercard Foundation. 

“Queen’s has been fortunate to benefit from the inclusion of UoG faculty members in our classrooms across campus: in the Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Law, and Engineering faculties,” says Heather Aldersey, Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and Scientific Director of the International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation, which administers the program. “We would love to see this program continue to cut across disciplines to create a diverse cohort of experts on disability inclusion at the UoG. With only two remaining recruitment cycles for this project, I am hopeful that we can continue to make meaningful matches between applicants and potential supervisors.”  

A rewarding experience 

Faculty members who have supervised current and previous cohorts of Mastercard Foundation Scholars have found it to be a rewarding experience. Jordan Miller, Assistant Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and Associate Director of the Physical Therapy program at Queen’s, currently supervises two scholars and will welcome a third this fall. 

“I’ve learned as much from my students as they have from me, I’m sure,” says Dr. Miller. “Working with them has really opened my eyes to new avenues for research and they have enriched my life and research program in many ways.” 

Dr. Miller says that through his work with the Ethiopian students, he is building a hub of researchers with cross-cultural expertise in musculoskeletal conditions and pain. He explains that because this field has not been fully developed in Ethiopia, there is the opportunity to help Ethiopian clinicians and researchers avoid some of the mistakes that have been made in North America, such as reliance on imaging and medication for people with musculoskeletal conditions like back pain. 

Mulugeta Chala, one of the students currently working with Dr. Miller, is studying the lived experience of Ethiopians with low back pain and how healthcare providers can better understand patients and their experience and provide treatment primarily through self-management strategies. The end goal is to design health-care programs specifically for the Ethiopian context.  

Mr. Chala – already an established physiotherapist and educator at the University of Gondar – says he is pleased with the progress his project is making. 

“Dr. Miller is an amazing person and helpful supervisor who has always been easy to approach and work with,” says Mr. Chala. “He does not push you, but he will always ask questions that help you move forward. I am really happy with where I am at – he has really helped with designing the project and sticking to a workable timeline.” 

A unique opportunity 

Faculty supervisors may be from any field that would permit a PhD dissertation related to disability in Ethiopia (or Africa more broadly). Currently, Mastercard Foundation fellows are studying in fields as diverse as occupational therapy, engineering, kinesiology and health studies, law, nursing, and rehabilitation sciences at Queen’s. 

For more information about how to become a supervisor of a Mastercard Foundation Fellow, email Heather Aldersey at hma@queensu.ca. For more information on the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program visit the website.