Kika Otiono: University of Ottawa Health symposium

2018 University of Ottawa Healthcare Symposium promotes youth excellence

Kika Otiono

Kika Otiono

by Kika Otiono

It’s not often that you find over 200+ students in business professional attire at 9am on a Saturday morning. However, on January 20, 2018, hundreds of eager undergraduate students filtered into the Faculty of Social Science Building at the University of Ottawa.

The University of Ottawa Healthcare Symposium (UOHS) is the largest student-run healthcare conference in Ottawa and attracts over 200 delegates from Canadian universities every year. The conference focuses on promoting student interest in various aspects of healthcare, science and medicine. Created eight years ago by undergraduate students, this year’s conference began with an exciting keynote address by Dr. Andrew Pelling, an unconventional biophysicist famously known as, “The Scientist Who Makes Ears Out of Apples”.

The event covered a wide range of topics within healthcare through seminars, discussions and a lively debate. These topics included curiosity in research (Dr. Andrew Pelling), epidemiology (Dr. Alice Zwerling), medical ethics (Dr. Jeff Blackmer), and functional medicine (Sachin Patel), to name a few. The event ended with a fantastic keynote address by Jessie MacAlpine about the importance of effective science communication.

After enjoying the event, I reached out to the Co-Presidents of UOHS. These two 4th year uOttawa students, Victoire Kpadé and Amanda Quan, astounded me with their hard work, intelligence, and leadership qualities. Victoire is doing a Major in Biochemistry and a Minor in Health Sciences, while Amanda is doing a Major in Biomedical Sciences and a Minor in Economics. Both have been involved with UOHS for four years, since their first year in university. To get a better idea of what inspired them to serve as co-chairs of UOHS for the past two years, I asked them a few questions.

Kika Otiono: What was your favourite part of UOHS 2018?

Victoire Kpadé and Amanda Quan: Both of our favourite parts of the conference was the new panel debate introduced this year. Three healthcare professionals and a member of parliament debated the issue “Have psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry played a role in creating a drug centered society in their quest to tackle mental health?”. While we initially faced some backlash due to the controversial nature of the topic, our team chose this debate subject because the majority of our delegates are undergraduate students that are aspiring healthcare professionals, and we strongly believe that healthcare professionals should be exposed to heavily debated topics such as this one. This is not necessarily for them to favour one “side” over another, but to acknowledge and understand different viewpoints surrounding this topic. We are happy to say that the debate was a great success and that many of our delegates have asked UOHS to host more similar debates in future years!

KO: Why did you become involved?

VK: I was one of the heads of my high school’s Black History Month Show, as well as Co-Head of the prom committee. I had always enjoyed planning large events and once I got to university, I wanted to combine this hobby with my growing interest in healthcare.

AQ: I became involved because I did extra-curricular throughout high school and it seemed natural to continue doing this at the university level. In retrospect, it was also a great way to make friends since I came to this university and city knowing only 1-2 people. 

KO: If students want to get involved in executive for next year’s symposium, how would they do so?

VK and AQ: Our executive team consists of undergraduate or graduate students from the University of Ottawa. Applications will be released in early August for the UOHS 2019 executive team. Students from all programs of study and faculties are welcome to apply. For students from other schools aside from uOttawa, external ambassador applications will be released in October.

To learn more about UOHS, check out their Facebook page and the UOHS website.


Facebook and Instagram: uohs.csuo


About the writer

Kika Otiono is a 2nd year Humanities and Biology student at Carleton University. She is an avid reader and lover of rock bands, Broadway musicals, and sci-fi movies. Kika is the Youth Editor of Black Ottawa Scene, and has won numerous awards for her writing and academic distinction. She aims to use her writing as a means of reconciling her emotions regarding racial and gender inequality. She can be reached at: or www.




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