Human Kinetics students gain global experience

Health Promotion students from Laurentian University travelled to Mongolia as part of the School of Human Kinetics’ Health Promotion Without Borders program in May 2017. These photos were taken three years ago on another trip to Mongolia.

Health Promotion and Outdoor Adventure Leadership students get a taste of Mongolia’s desert steppes

Northern Ontario students contemplating a career in medicine, physical therapy or occupational therapy have a number of options for an initial, mandatory undergraduate degree. One of them is the Health Promotion program in Laurentian University’s School of Human Kinetics.

“In my first year class last year, 50 per cent of the class wanted to apply to Occupational Therapy or Physiotherapy,” said Ginette Michel, co-ordinator of the Health Promotion program. And since the establishment of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, 10 Health Promotion grads have gone on to medical school.

Other programs offered by the School of Human Kinetics include Kinesiology, Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Sport Psychology and Sports and Physical Education – the latter offered in both French and English.

The Outdoor Adventure Leadership program isn’t as directly related to health care, but includes courses in Anatomy, Physiology, Nutrition and Exercise Science, in addition to courses in canoeing, cross-country skiing, climbing and winter camping. Adventure Leadership grads find employment with organizations like Wendigo Lake and Boundless Adventures, which offer adventure therapy programs for youth at risk as an alternative to the penal system, according to program co-ordinator Jim Little. Others find employment with outdoor education centres, rafting companies, and provincial and national parks.

At least one Outdoor Adventure Leadership grad has also gone on to med school, said Little.

In May, 29 Health Promotion and Outdoor Adventure Leadership students travelled to Mongolia for a month of health promotion outreach and trekking.

The trip was organized as part of the school’s Health Promotion Without Borders program, established at the urging of students in 2000.

“It’s a great opportunity to gain experience internationally, get outside the walls of the classroom and put into practice the knowledge our students acquire,” said Michel.

Over the years, students have travelled to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Kenya and Zambia.

The most recent trip to Mongolia included five Health Promotion students who visited schools in the country’ capital, Ulan Bator, and several more remote locations to teach hand washing, oral hygiene, exercise and wellness – elements of health that Mongolian children often aren’t exposed to, said Michel.

Twenty-four Outdoor Adventure Leadership students also assisted with health promotion outreach, and travelled to the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia for a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor adventure experience. The students travelled by plane to an airstrip closest to their destination, covered the first leg of the remaining 180 kilometres by Land Rover and van across the desert steppes, then hired camels and horses when the going got tough. They hiked the last 20 kilometres to a glacier at the foothills of the Altai Mountains, where they set up a base camp and put their climbing skills to the test.

The students fundraised to cover their own travel expenses and canvassed for the donation of medical supplies to fill a 20-foot Sea Can shipping container.

“We filled the container with an assortment of medical supplies, including everything from bandages to automatic defibrillators, weigh scales, wheelchairs, gurneys, splints and spinal collars,” said Little. “The Sudbury dental community was awesome, donating oral care supplies for which there is a huge need in Mongolia. We even had an ambulance donated, but couldn’t fit it in the container.”

The Redpath Group, a mining contractor in North Bay doing mine development work at Oyu Tolgoi, a large copper-gold mine in Mongolia, assisted with the shipment of the container to China and overland to Ulan Bator.

“I don’t think there is any other school that I know of that has done something like this,” said Little.

The Health Promotion program accepts between 50 and 55 students every year and currently has between 180 and 190 students in years one through four. The Outdoor Adventure Leadership program accepts approximately 25 students every year.

Intake numbers have increased because Laurentian and other universities are under pressure to grow enrollment, said Michel.

“Required GPA averages have dropped from a level of 83 to 85 per cent to 75 or 76 per cent, so we’re opening our doors a little wider, but we’re not sacrificing quality because our standards remain the same.”

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