Hanaa Ameer has accomplished a lot during her academic career at York University. The first in her family to graduate from university, Ameer has earned a bachelor of health studies, graduating summa cum laude, and is the recipient of the Murray G. Ross Award.
The award, which is typically presented during spring convocation, recognizes one student for outstanding academic excellence and significant contributions to the University and campus life. It is considered one of York University’s highest honours for a graduating student.
Ameer, who specialized in health-care management, says she feels honoured to win the award and “be part of an extraordinary group of students who previously won.” And though it was her own dedication to academia and university life that earned her the recognition, she credits her mentors – Lynda Van Dreumel (undergraduate program director, School of Health Policy and Management); Professor Ellen Schraa (School of Health Policy and Management); and York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton – for their guidance throughout her undergraduate journey.
She describes her academic experience at York as one rich with hands-on learning and experiential education (EE) opportunities. During her years of study within the School of Health Policy and Management, she contributed to the development of course designs and potential placements for a practicum course. She also provided advice on ways to increase EE initiatives and suggested opportunities that would enrich the Health Studies program.
Her academic performance is notable, and in her first year Ameer was admitted to the Golden Key International Honours Society for ranking among the top 15 per cent of students in the Faculty of Health. She has earned a place on the Dean’s Honour Roll every year, and in her final year was named the top graduating student in the Health Studies program based on her academic achievements and contributions made to improving undergraduate student life on campus.
Ameer is a recipient of the Canadian International Model United Nations (UN) Organization Award for the best health policy recommendations in the World Health Organization committee, and the Outstanding Delegate Award for her debate performance at the Ryerson Model United Nations Conference in 2018. York has recognized her with the York University Continuing Student Scholarship for academic achievements, as well as the Calumet and Stong College Leadership Award for contributions to the Faculty of Health.
“My passion for social impact and helping others inspired me to pursue a degree in health studies,” she says, adding that combined with her interest in business leadership, health-care management felt like the right fit. In her fourth year, she completed a practicum at the Toronto Grace Hospital in downtown Toronto, where she worked on a research project to improve family and patient experience.
Also heavily involved in extracurricular and leadership opportunities on campus, Ameer contributed to campus life through several student clubs and organizations. In her second year, she served as president of Doctors without Borders and as vice-president of York’s Model United Nations team. During the past two years, she worked closely with the University, serving as a president’s ambassador, student-alumni ambassador and student representative on York’s Marketing Committee. She was also selected to represent Canada at the United Nations Youth Assembly taking place at the UN headquarters in New York City.
“My extracurricular activities allowed me to create a connection between what I was learning in the classroom and real-world events,” says Ameer. “In my second year, I took a health policy course, while at the same time volunteering with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to persuade legislators to implement a value-added tax on all vaping products in Ontario. My extracurriculars helped shape my academic success, as I developed a new way of thinking about course material. I understood how my coursework directly impacted everyday decisions in health care and solutions that could be created to address challenges.”
Ameer says her most valuable learning experience at York didn’t take place in lecture hall, but instead at a place that represents the future of the University: the grounds for the Markham Centre Campus. In October 2020, she was invited as the student representative for the campus groundbreaking ceremony, where she was asked to speak.
“I was given the opportunity to present what the Markham Campus means to the student body and the future of York University,” she says. “I was truly humbled to share the platform with the President of York University, Rhonda Lenton, along with several cabinet ministers from the federal and provincial governments. Throughout my undergraduate degree I developed an interest in law and politics, so being able to share the platform with politicians made me realize that one day I could become a politician myself.”
The experience had a great impact on Ameer, and she plans to attend law school and run for public office in the future, as well as contribute time as a volunteer to non-profit organizations and community groups to further her interest in social justice.
“York University is a second home for me and holds a special place in my heart,” she says. “The community is so tightly knit, where everyone wants to help one another and become changemakers in their field. We are a close family who have each other’s backs and are willing to step up when it is time for action.”