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August 23, 2023

Inaugural McKean Fellow Proposes Researching Indigenous Health Care in Canada

Sydney Blackston (N‘25) is the inaugural recipient of the Maeve McKean Global Health Award. This highly selective fellowship offers one Georgetown student the opportunity to receive research mentorship from a Georgetown faculty member in addition to conducting their own research anywhere in the world the summer before their senior year. Blackston’s proposed research project will explore how the wildfires in Canada that began in June 2023 have affected indigenous groups, specifically in relation to health care access and quality.

Sydney Blackston
Sydney Blackston

Advancing Global Health and Human Rights

Jointly administered by the Global Health Institute (GHI) and the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, the McKean fellowship honors the legacy of Maeve McKean (G/L’09), executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative (now the Georgetown University Global Health Institute) and associate director of the HIV Policy Lab at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law from July 2019 until her death in April 2020.

In recognition of McKean’s work as a public health and human rights lawyer, the McKean fellowship supports student research projects that serve to advance global health and human rights. In her proposal, Blackston situated her research at the intersection of those fields, explaining that:

Air pollution and the loss of significant wildlife are a threat to global health. Indigenous groups in Canada, who often have the deepest understanding of the land, are often the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters like this one.

Exploring the Impacts of Climate Change

In addition to support for independent research, the fellowship also gives Blackston the opportunity to participate in the GHI student fellows program and spend her junior year on campus working to advance a faculty member’s research.

Blackston, who is majoring in nursing at Georgetown’s School of Nursing, hopes to learn more about the “types of complex issues that result in health disparities, social stigmas, and the worsening impact of climate change.” Therefore, during the 2023-2024 academic year, she will work with Jessica Kritz, assistant professor in the Department of Global Health at Georgetown’s School of Health, on her projects in Ghana that address the disproportionate burden of climate change on workers in the informal sector. Kritz will also provide guidance to Blackston as she develops her independent research project for summer 2024 in Canada.

“Blackston’s research agenda reflects the best of Georgetown student leadership for social
change. Her complexity approach, exploring the impacts of climate on pollution and the effects on the health of vulnerable populations, reflects the methods and values of our multidisciplinary team at the University of Ghana and Georgetown,” Kritz says. “I am enthusiastic to support Blackston to learn from our work and develop and implement her own research agenda.”

Learn more about the Maeve McKean Global Health Award.