Feb. 9, 2021

UCalgary alumna Sundus Khan named Top 30 Under 30 in international development

Council for Global Co-operation highlights exemplary Albertans who are leading the way to a more sustainable world
Sundus Khan

Working and volunteering in global health research, Sundus Khan, BISC’13, has learned you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“You have to be quick on your feet and adjust to changes at the last minute when you work in global health. You can’t assume that every convenience you have at home will be available in the field. But being uncomfortable has allowed me to grow, shown me what I’m capable of and to check my own biases,” says Khan, who was honoured as a Top 30 Under 30 by the Alberta Council for Global Co-operation. The virtual awards ceremony is being held Feb. 10 at 6 p.m.

Recognition from the Alberta Council for Global Co-operation is guided in part by the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals. “Working towards achieving these United Nations goals provides inspiration to be a part of something that is bigger,” says Khan. Khan’s volunteer and professional work focus largely on promoting good health and well-being, and gender equality.

Support for projects in Tanzania, Uganda

She's gained valuable experience as research associate, and monitoring and evaluation lead within the Cumming School of Medicine’s Indigenous, Local and Global Health (ILGH) Office supporting Mama na Mtoto, a maternal, newborn and child health initiative in Tanzania, and Healthy Adolescents and Young People in Uganda, a sexual reproductive health and rights initiative.

It is an honour to be recognized for my roles within these incredible teams, working to improve the health and lives of women, children, and young people in rural Tanzania and Uganda. I have learned a lot from my Tanzanian and Ugandan colleagues.

As a member of a small team working in the field, Khan learned to wear many hats and to troubleshoot with her team members, using what resources were available. “You learn to quickly trust your judgment and abilities when you are first exposed to working in a low-resource setting, which builds confidence in the long run but it is an uncomfortable and daunting process,” says Khan.

She attributes her interest in global health to an uncle who instilled the importance of community, both locally and globally in his nieces and nephews. “He was a presence in my life that embodied humanitarianism. He educated us about global issues and taught us how to be advocates for health and social inequities in our communities and globally,” says Khan.

His lessons inspired Khan to complete an internship in Tanzania in health promotion for young women, new mothers and street youth in 2015, and to volunteer in Turkey working with women refugees in 2018.

Volunteering raises appreciation for diversity

Today she volunteers with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society’s refugee settlement program, Islamic Relief Canada, and the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society. Each of her personal and volunteer experiences has developed her ability to effectively communicate with people with diverse beliefs and values, and to see these differences as positives. 

This award nomination process has given Khan more motivation to work toward achieving other sustainable development goals. She advises those who are interested in sustainability and global health to become involved in programs and workshops available at the University of Calgary such as those offered through the ILGH Office, or the Office of Sustainability; be active in your own community, and to never stop learning.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Alberta Council for Global Co-operation’s annual recognition of those working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Recognizing the importance of ethical, co-operative and respectful international partnerships in medical research and education, the Cumming School of Medicine’s Indigenous, Local and Global Health (ILGH) Office is marking International Development Week Feb. 7 to 13. Learn more about ILGH’s Global Health initiatives and partnerships. Learn more about UCalgary’s celebration of International Development Week