Linden Alumna Onyka Gairey Working to Improve Global Health, Aiming for Medical School

Posted by Admin on January 31, 2019 at 10:50 PM


Since graduating in 2012, Onyka Gairey has been busy earning scholarships and travelling the world. After receiving her Master’s in Global Health at Western, Onyka was awarded a scholarship to travel to Uganda where she studied interactions between Ugandan communities and their fresh-water resources. She hopes to pursue a career in medicine. Read our interview with Onyka below:

Linden: What have you been up to since you graduated from Linden?

OG_2.jpgOnyka: After earning an Hon Spec Biology and a Master's in Management of Applied Science with a specialization in Global Health Systems at Western, I was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship. This allowed me to travel to Uganda where I worked as part of a research team that monitored crater lakes in Uganda to investigate differences in water quality and the presence of toxic algal blooms. With the data our team collected, I also studied the interactions between local Ugandan communities and their fresh-water resources to create a presentation and case study on freshwater management practices in Uganda, shared with our research partners and community stakeholders

OG_2.jpgAfterwards, as a co-op student with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change at the Dorset Environmental Science Centre, I collected climate change data by monitoring streams and precipitation. This data is a part of long-term monitoring done by scientists in the ministry, which is used by many different researchers. Currently, I am volunteering at Linden as a part of the 25th planning committee and the alumni exploratory team.

Linden: What are your plans for the future?

Onyka: Hopefully, I will pursue a career in medicine or in the global health field where I am able to connect my interests in environmental science with my passion for human health.

Linden: Could you share a special memory of Linden

OG_2.jpgOnyka: This might be the hardest question! Off of the top of my head I thought of the lip-syncs, the classics conference, basketball games and sports in general with Deidre, math with Nasrin — and the very big before and after Nasrin in terms of my math abilities! Probably, my most important memory of Linden was also saying goodbye. I remember just not believing that my time at Linden was over. The school was such a big part of my life for five years and it was intimidating to imagine leaving behind a place where I grew so much, where I got to see my friends every day, go to classes where I knew my teachers. I felt really safe in our little Linden community and it had become like a home to me. I'm pretty sure I put off writing my grad speech until the very last minute because I just didn't know what to say, how to close this chapter and "grow up."

But I followed through: I wrote my speech, gave it at the Celebration to Greet the Summer, and cried through maybe half of it. When I was thanking my teachers, I mentioned how Nasrin got me through math when I first came to the school with extra help and a couple of parent-teacher conferences. I joked about how I had struggled with math, and in a Nasrin-like fashion, she shouted something witty right back at me from the crowd during my speech. My grandpa still talks about it to this day.

Linden: How did Linden help prepare you for success at university and in the workplace?

OG_2.jpgOnyka: Linden definitely helped build my confidence, both in general and academically, and drew me to the sciences. Before Linden, I was a very shy kid that liked to read. I would stay inside my public school's library at recess and just read as many books as I could, and never really excelled or got out of my comfort zone there. At Linden, I was guided out of my own bubble. I got to see the real-life implications of the things we studied, be it issues with social justice, women rights, or even health and science. I was shown that none of these things exist in isolation — they're all connected and important and affect real people. And if I was able to see things that were wrong or unfair, I shouldn't stay silent or in my own bubble: I should try my best to change things. These ideas followed me to university and influenced my choice of career path. Even in my Master's, there was a lot of emphasis on looking at a larger system and finding the best ways to create positive change.