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Dal Med student helps African Nova Scotian youth discover a passion for STEM

Posted by Mark Campbell on February 27, 2024 in News
Dal Medical Sciences alum Ariel Provo always always knew she wanted to become a doctor. Nurtured by her parents, also Dal alumni, she is pursuing her ambition at Dal (Danny Abriel images)
Dal Medical Sciences alum Ariel Provo always always knew she wanted to become a doctor. Nurtured by her parents, also Dal alumni, she is pursuing her ambition at Dal (Danny Abriel images)

Inspiring more Black students to study medicine can only happen when young Black students are encouraged and supported in the STEM fields, according to Dal Medical Science alum Ariel Provo (BScMS’21).

“So there is not just one or two of us in these programs; there needs to be more,” she says.

But Provo adds that will only take root if students are introduced to these subjects at a young age and have access to opportunities and support to develop skills in science and math.

“That’s how we will achieve the representation we need to help improve health outcomes among underserved populations, which I believe is important,” she says.

Seeing the gaps

Representation has always been important for Provo, not just in STEM fields, but also in the classroom. She recalls how she was one of the only students of African heritage in her school when she transferred to the French school system in Grade six. That lack of diversity continued throughout her academic journey. When she entered the Medical Sciences program, she was one of only three students of African heritage in her class.

“As I keep going higher in education, I’ve learned more about how the world works and the gaps and the disparities that exist,” Provo says.

But Provo also saw that she could help change that.

“I realized I had abilities that I could use to engage younger kids and get them interested in STEM,” she says.

What Provo didn’t know was how.

Inspiring a new generation

Provo found the answer she was looking for while reading an article about the Imhotep’s Legacy Academy. This innovative Dalhousie-based program encourages and supports Grades 6-12 students in exploring STEM.

“They were getting students engaged at a young age and encouraging that kind of lifelong interest,” she says. “I was really excited about the work they were doing and reached out to see how I could get involved.”

In 2020, Provo began working with Grade-six students to develop their interest in science and with high school students on subjects like biology, chemistry, and math. She recalls that, initially, students were quiet and didn’t answer questions. As sessions went on, she saw their confidence grow. They started participating more and their performance improved.

“This is what happens when students have free access to resources that help them succeed academically,” Provo says. “I’m really proud of them.”

Provo says participating in Imhotep’s Legacy Academy was also a way to nurture and encourage students to succeed just as her parents, both Dal alumni, have done for her. Her mother, April Delorme Provo (BComm’93), works as an executive assistant and operations manager with the Department of Human Resources at Dalhousie, and her father, Dwayne Provo (BPE’93), is the associate deputy minister of the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives.

Recommended reading: Dal Bookstore dedicates shelf space to African Nova Scotian entrepreneurs


Looking forward

Having shared her STEM passion and knowledge to help students achieve their dreams, Provo is focusing her energies on realizing hers. She is in her third year at Dalhousie Medical School and is hoping to specialize in anesthesiology in the future. Although her career path could change, there is one thing that she hopes won’t change: her involvement with Imhotep’s Legacy Academy. She still finds time to devote to it and she is still helping to fill the gaps she sees by providing STEM mentorship in French.

“Not many kids have access to French resources outside the classroom, and I find my students really benefit from this,” Provo says. “That’s another reason why I want to continue working with the program and help them build the number of young Black students pursuing futures in STEM any way I can.”