Dr. Vincent Kuuire, an assistant professor in UTM’s geography department, recently received the prestigious Canada Research Chair (CRC) award. As a CRC recipient, the Government of Canada will support Kuuire’s research by providing additional funding. The Medium sat down with Kuuire to discuss his award-winning research.

Kuuire says “I am very grateful for the research chair position because it makes available to me extra resources for my ongoing projects.” He confirms that his research over the summer was partly supported by the CRC program and states that “the grant will continue to be useful in terms of providing some financial cushion to preliminary research, enabling [him] to seek bigger grants to explore [his research] ideas on a wider scale.”

Kuuire’s journey towards being delegated a CRC began at the University of Ghana. Following graduation, he completed one year of Ghanaian national service as a teaching assistant. Next, Kuuire moved to Canada where he completed his Master’s degree and Ph.D. at Western University. After Kuuire’s post-doctoral fellowship at Queen’s University, he joined UTM as an assistant professor.

Motivated by his own experiences growing up in Ghana and as a Canadian immigrant, Kuuire and his graduate student spent two months this summer in Upper West Ghana collecting both qualitative and quantitative data on the use of traditional medicine. As to why he chose to study traditional medicines, Kuuire discusses how “there’s this wrong perception that traditional medicine is not popular. In reality, especially in low and middle income countries such as Ghana, 70-90 per cent of the population uses one form of traditional medicine or the other as remedies for certain health conditions.”

Knowing the wide prevalence of traditional medicines in Ghana, Kuuire wanted to dig deeper and understand why people chose to use traditional medicines in place of the standard Western healthcare model. He expects “explanations [to] go beyond normal explanations of cost and availability” and predicts “there will be issues relating to efficacy which don’t get a lot of attention.”

Kuuire also anticipates finding “cultural preferences to some of these medicines because in certain instances, people’s ways of life are tied to use of these medicines.” Kuuire plans to explore how generational differences impact the use of traditional medicines and hopes to bring traditional medicines into the broader discussions within healthcare since there is currently little to no mention of it.

Healthcare is just one of Kuuire’s research interests. This summer, Kuuire also studied transnationalism and immigration by collecting data on the connection between immigrants in Canada and their countries of origin along with the impacts these ties have on the immigrants’ integration into Canadian society and wellbeing. 

Kuuire explains how “it’s an acceptable, well known fact that Canada has adopted immigration as a population growth policy. There is relevance in understanding how immigrant populations are integrating in Canada.”

Although Kuuire’s work focuses on Canada, countries such as the U.S. and UK where the public increasingly opposes immigration can also benefit from studies on immigration.

Kuuire regards “the broader trend in certain Western countries where governments have been leaning towards anti-immigrant sentiments [to be] problematic on several fronts.” He continues to explain how “immigration sentiments tend to focus on specific issues or one or two issues without looking at the broader picture of how immigrants can be or [how immigrants] usually are a positive [influence] to the wellbeing of society. More importantly, those [anti-immigration] sentiments don’t take into consideration the fundamental causes of the problems we are seeking to address.”

“For example, the fundamental causes of low or fewer highly lucrative jobs in all of these economies where we are seeing those [anti-immigration] sentiments is not because immigrants are taking those jobs. It is part of a broader globalization and political economy –factors that are responsible for creating those circumstances,” Kuuire explains.

Kuuire goes on to discuss how blaming immigrants “is also part of the broader inequalities that are emerging across the world. Those sometimes tend to mask the real problems that exist, and so, getting to a root cause usually will not have anything to do with immigrants directly.”

This year, Kuuire is teaching two courses that bring together his various passions and encourages students to unpack the ideas they may hold regarding healthcare, especially relating to Sub-Saharan Africa. His course GGR353: Disease and Death “tries to unravel how place-based factors and social determinants of health all impact trends we see related to death and disease.”

GGR265:(Under)development and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa, his second course, addresses the complexity of the region and aims to dismantle the notion that Sub-Saharan Africa is a monolith with similar traditions and issues across the region, when in reality, the area holds more diversity than most other parts of the world.

The results of Kuuire’s studies are anticipated to be released in about a year. Kuuire’s research holds significant potential, especially since immigration and healthcare continue to be issues at the forefront of many people’s lives. 

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