When Adrianna Spyker began her undergraduate degree, she had her heart set on being a medical professional. Then she went to Ecuador as part of her program, to work in hospitals. “Although the trip was purposed around that medical experience, I was hit emotionally by the social inequality and the political imposition on people's lives. When I came back, I was determined to change the focus of my study.”
When the time came to take the next career step, she knew graduate education was the key. As a student in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPPGA) program at UBC, she had the opportunity to learn and share knowledge with people from various backgrounds.
Today, Adrianna is a Community Health Specialist with the Fraser Health Authority. As part of her job, she acts as liaison for the Health Authority for community partners and organizations, building relationships, strengthening connections and promoting cooperative approaches to current and emerging issues. Recently, she’s been supporting the COVID-19 pandemic response internally and for community partners.
Part of this work involves advocating for marginalized communities. “Racism is a public health issue,” she said. “It impacts people’s access to care. It impacts the quality of care they receive. So, I need to do whatever I can to address racism and discrimination, and it begins with working with people in positions of power who can impact the lives of others in positive and negative ways.”
As a Black woman who was born and raised in Canada, Adrianna understands the importance of being recognized as an expert and having a seat at the table. “I don't know if they notice it, but I notice that there’s nobody that looks like me. And this is just another reason to take my job seriously, and make the most impact I can.”
For her, Black History Month is an important way to honour the past. “We've seen communities that have been intentionally destroyed in Vancouver, and in this process a lot of our stories have been lost,” said Adrianna. According to the MPPGA alumna, there is no collective hub of Black folks in Vancouver, making it harder for people to connect and find a sense of community and belonging.
These celebrations are also opportunities to recognize contributions made every day by Black Canadians. “There’s so much diversity within the black community. It’s sad to think that we all share and experience discrimination and racism, when our cultures and our history are all so different,” she continued.
Adrianna thinks a lot about how far she’s come. When she was an undergraduate student, she often wondered why there were no role models in her program that looked like her. So, she went and became the person she wanted to look up to. “My advice for someone like me thinking of going into grad school? Don't let anybody talk for you. Use your voice.”