Ganiyu Abass was working as a public health physician in Nigeria when he realized his knowledge in the field was missing something. “Around 2018, I discovered my public health knowledge was lacking environmental health concepts such as the effects of climate change on health,” says Abass. “That’s when I started looking for universities that could help me fill the gap.”
Abass says there were two key reasons he chose Cape Breton University’s Bachelor of Health Sciences program. First, he explains, CBU is located on the most beautiful islands in the world. The second reason was courtesy of public health instructor, Helen Mersereau. “When I inquired about the program, Helen responded in such a courteous way with the speed of light,” says Abass. “That impression helped make up my mind and it has been one of the best decisions of my life.”
Three years later, Abass is graduating with countless positive memories from his time at CBU. From excelling in his food hygiene labs and becoming Team Lead for the Guard.Me Campus Ambassador Program to assisting faculty with the shift to remote teaching, Abass has accomplished a lot throughout his program. “One of the most fun and memorable things for me was the day I led my group to prepare Nigerian fried rice in one of our labs,” says Abass. “It was my own recipe and everyone really enjoyed the cuisine.”
Abass says what made his experience even more special were the people he met along the way. “All of my professors were outstanding but the M2 guardian angels stand out the most,” he explains. “That’s my code name for Melissa McDonald and Michelle Prendergast who were exceptionally supportive both within the classroom and out.” Abass says Melissa’s experiential stories helped him understand class concepts and Michelle had an incredible way of simplifying tough abstract subjects. “They were willing to help no matter what,” he adds.
Although Abass thinks fondly of his time at CBU, it was not without its own set of challenges. “I struggled a lot because I couldn’t experience the support of my family who could not be in Canada,” he explains. “My wife took care of our three lovely kids by herself and I tried to help them with their assignments despite the five hour time difference.” Abass says the support from Melissa, Michelle, Helen and International Student Advisor, Donalda Johnston, made him feel as though he had family here in Cape Breton. And while his family can’t be here to attend an in-person ceremony, he looks forward to being able to share the virtual convocation ceremony with them this weekend.
Currently, Abass is working with New Dawn Homecare where he enjoys connecting with the community and working with an extraordinarily supportive team. He is also volunteering as a public health specialist with the Canadian Red Cross as they work on the COVID-19 response. Some day, Abass says he would like to become a professor at CBU and provide the same opportunities to other students that he was given by his instructors.
Abass says his time at CBU has sharpened his ability to set priorities and goals for himself, and to embody the culture of courage, innovation and perseverance in the face of adversity. “We have continued our studies through the pandemic and still accomplished our goals,” he says to his fellow graduates. “Let us go on to become strong ambassadors of the University and remember the life-changing experiences we have had here.”