MPH Students Receive the Ron de Burger Student Award

Second year University of Guelph MPH students Saarah Hussain (left) and Amber Gillespie (right) have received the 2018 Ron de Burger Student Award, which recognizes outstanding work in the critical analysis of environmental health issues. A partnership between the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health and the Environmental Health Foundation of Canada (EHFC) awards students with a $500 prize and an opportunity to present their work as part of the NCCEH Environmental Health Seminar Series in November. 


The students took different approaches to explore how our environments influence health status. 


Saarah’s review explored computer keyboards in hospitals as a potential reservoir for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA). This pathogen is of concern in a hospital setting due to its resistance to antibiotics. As hospitals become increasingly reliant on electronic medical records, the potential to contaminate keyboards rises. All it takes is one person to come into contact with MRSA and use a communal computer for other practitioners to become carriers, and inadvertently spread the pathogen to other patients.  


“The implications of computer keyboard contamination must be considered regarding patient health, and awareness is imperative as this is a preventable public health issue,” said Hussain. 


Amber used a more macroscopic lens on her topic. She reviewed how our built environment influences the development of social isolation and loneliness. Her research revealed age, disability and many social determinants of health are risk factors for individuals feeling lonely and isolated. 


“Without consideration of the challenges faced by populations to adapt or control their environment, the fight to reduce social isolation and loneliness, and its association health consequences, will continue to endure,” said Gillespie. 


For more information about the award, and to read each knowledge synthesis visit: