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Trent Alumna Spreads Message of Health for All at Trent University

Dr. Farah Shroff ’83 discusses holistic health and social justice with students

Trent alumna Dr. Farah Shroff ‘83 returned to campus on Monday, December 5 to give a public lecture titled “Celebrations and Setbacks on the Road to Health for All.”

Presenting to Trent students and faculty, including some of her former professors, Dr. Shroff opened her talk by expressing how thrilled she was to see so many familiar and supportive faces. “It’s very touching and quite an honour,” she said.

“Trent was tremendously important to shaping who I am as an adult,” she continued. “It helped me develop a deeper political consciousness, stronger analytical skills and a greater interest in global social justice and peace. The relationships I built at Trent with other students and faculty are precious to me.”

Now a member of the UBC Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Shroff’s research emphasis is on visioning and developing health for all, with a particular interest in holistic health and community development for health and social justice.

In her book, The New Midwifery: Reflections on Renaissance and Regulation, Dr. Shroff asserts that the popularity of midwifery is a direct result of women and mothers working as activists for the practice. “It’s a powerful story of people working behind the scenes to get midwifery to the place it is today, which is state funded,” she said.

Her talk discussed HIV/AIDS, midwifery, holistic health, and the role that social justice and community movements can play in improving health. Her message was that social movements can affect positive change. Using contemporary examples, Dr. Shroff explained how social justice can change perceptions and influence outcomes.

She spoke to the “phenomenal success story” of activism and HIV/AIDS. “The tireless devotion of gay men and activists turned a death sentence into a chronic condition in only 25 years.” She added that no other disease entity has had that kind of improvement.

Dr. Shroff’s research also focuses on women and HIV/AIDS, specifically women of colour and their struggle with the disease. She encourages students to remember Asian, African and Indigenous women who are HIV positive and need ARV therapies. Solidarity with local women’s rights movements has the potential to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS in these communities.

Dr. Shroff expressed her belief that a holistic health-care system could improve health for all, by incorporating self-led practices (yoga, meditation), practitioner-led practices (naturopathy, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine) and western medical practices (allopathy). “All systems of evidence-based medicine have their place in preventing and treating illness,” she said.

Dr. Shroff postulated that the strain currently on our health-care providers could be reduced by introducing front-line naturopathic practitioners who can treat patients or refer them to other practitioners.

Dr. Farah Shroff graduated from Trent University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Indigenous Studies. “Trent can really foster curiosity and wonder if you are receptive to it,” she said, “This place can foster learning, love of life and of the planet.”

Posted on Monday, December 19, 2011.

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