Chronicle Herald: Every donor-funded bursary makes a difference

Collage of two students, each standing in front of a healthcare pop-banner

Originally published by the Chronicle Herald. Pictured: Ishani Khanna (left) and Nicholas Hickens (right) were two of 51 students to receive a QEII Foundation Diversity in Health Care Bursary in 2021

There’s no question that diverse communities call for diverse healthcare teams. The QEII Foundation’s donor-funded Diversity in Health Care Bursary program builds stronger, more diverse healthcare teams, with the goal of delivering quality care that contributes to every patient’s well-being. The QEII Foundation is calling upon its donor community to step up and support the meaningful initiative. For those who donate before March 31, their generosity will support student bursaries – valued at $1,250 each – for the 2022 school year.

The bursary program was started by the former Capital District Health Authority (now Nova Scotia Health), based on a 2010 workforce survey pointing to under-represented communities in the healthcare sector. Today, the program is now a vital QEII Foundation program that continues to grow with donor support.

Each $1,250 Diversity in Health Care Bursary supports students who identify as African Nova Scotian/Black; Indigenous; racialized; immigrant; 2SLGBTQIA+; living with a physical, mental health or learning challenge; or having intersectionality of these identities. While pursuing careers in health care, these students align care providers with the cultural profile of our communities.

A sense of belonging

Bursary recipient Ishani Khanna will graduate in May 2022 from Dalhousie University’s Bachelor of Science-Nursing program. Ishani, who is 20 years old and Southeast Asian, was born and raised in Halifax after her parents immigrated from India. She decided to become a nurse after her father had a heart attack when she was in high school.

“He was in the QEII for a week and a half, and the nurses were so good to him and my whole family,” says Khanna. “I really felt the impact of the nurses being right at the bedside, comforting him and us. That experience inspired me to become a nurse.”

Khanna is among only a few racialized students in her class of 100. One of her challenges was finding a sense of belonging in her program. She accomplished this in part by sitting on the equity, diversity and inclusion committee with some classmates. “We tried to help the voices of students from under-represented communities from all priority groups be heard,” she says.

Receiving a QEII Foundation Diversity in Health Care Bursary in 2021 was a special moment. “I feel very fortunate to be recognized and supported as a marginalized person working in health care,” says Khanna, who put her bursary toward her tuition.

“It’s a step in the right direction to creating a more inclusive healthcare environment.”

Advocating for and inspiring others

Nicholas Hickens, an Applied Human Nutrition student at Mount Saint Vincent University, also received a QEII Foundation Diversity in Health Care Bursary last year. The 24-year-old African Canadian was born in Georgetown, Guyana and grew up in Halifax. He will graduate in May 2022 and plans to become a physician.

“One of my passions for medicine revolves around nutrition,” says Hickens. “Nutrition can provide a holistic view to health, and I want to bring that critical nutritional lens into the field of medicine.”

Through his research on early childhood education among African Nova Scotians, psychological racial stress studies and 2SLGBTQIA+ diversity publications, Hickens is committed to recognizing the importance of intersectionalities in research and health care. “My research challenges inequities and advocates in communities that need it,” he says.

As the only male — and Black male — in his Applied Human Nutrition program, he feels there can be preconceptions about his capabilities, and added pressure to succeed. “There’s some sense of imposter syndrome, so I’ve worked twice as hard to prove I could do the work,” he says.

Hickens enjoys volunteering in the communities of North Preston, Cherry Brook and East Preston, inspiring young African Nova Scotian students to study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. “It’s important that they see someone who looks like them working in these fields,” he says.

Although Hickens appreciates the bursary and its financial support, especially in light of costly medical school applications, he says receiving a QEII Foundation Diversity in Health Care Bursary means so much more. “I was honoured to see that the award even existed, because it is an indication that there’s a need for more diversity in health care,” he says. “It has helped reinvigorate my passion for my career path and acknowledged that the work I’m doing has worth.”

Fifty-one bursaries were funded by QEII Foundation donors in 2021, while 107 students submitted successful applications – demonstrating the need and merit in supporting these students.

To learn more about the QEII Foundation Diversity in Health Care Bursaries or to donate now, visit or call 902-334-1546.