3 Toronto women who dropped everything to pursue their passions

These incredible women took the path less travelled to create a better world


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Dr. Adrienne Chan helped Ebola patients in Africa

We all fantasize about dropping everything and following our dreams. As part of our Daring Series, Post City chatted to the Torontonians who actually did. In this segment, we talk to three brave women who were inspired to pursue their passions. Find out why they think you should too #PostCityDaring

Geeta Khosla

​From the Annex to Afghanistan...

By the time Annex native Geeta Khosla entered her twenties, she was well on her way to a career in public health.

She travelled to Darjeeling, India to work with an NGO at a clinic.

“I was only 21 and it was empowering to think I had something to add, and also very humbling to learn so much as well,” she says.

From there, she was determined to find more opportunities to work abroad.

In Kenya, she worked with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health to develop a curriculum for primary school students that looked at healthy behaviour practices.

“We were trying to teach children how to be more hygienic and to think about nutrition,” says Khosla.

Next it was Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan where she travelled several times a year as a public health adviser focused on maternal, newborn and child health, polio eradication and reducing incidences of tuberculosis.

Now Khosla is stationed in Tanzania with her husband where she manages grants with international NGOs for Global Affairs Canada.

Khosla is now married with kids, all of which happened while she has been overseas.

“This is the lifestyle that we hope to continue having. I feel privileged as well in seeing how my children are benefitting from living abroad, and meeting new people, exploring new cultures,” she says. “I feel like I have something to contribute, and this is how I want to do it.”   

Chiara Picão

​A Bishop Strachan School student who climbed Kilimanjiro...

At just 16, Chiara Picão has climbed three of the world’s highest mountains to support equal access to education for girls around the world.

The Grade 11 Bishop Strachan School student came up with the idea for Literally Climbing Mountains for Girls’ Education after a sequence of fateful events when she was only 12 years old.

First, an inspiring experience at We Day, then the shooting of female education advocate Malala Yousafzai and finally a trip to Pico Island where the highest mountain in Portugal stands.

“At that point it clicked for me: I’ll never face that sort of mountain of injustice because that’s not something I face here in North America. I’m very privileged and I’m allowed to go to school,” she says. “Of course I could throw a fundraiser. I could raise awareness with pamphlets, but what better way for me, as someone who has a lot of privilege, to raise awareness than to put a mountain in front of myself and try to conquer it?”

Indeed, Picão conquered Pico Mountain that summer, and began collecting donations through WE in support of girls’ education around the world.

Since then, she’s climbed two more of the world’s highest peaks — Kilimanjaro and Elbrus.

“I’ve always been told to work toward doing what you love, and there’s nothing I can think of that I’m more passionate about than creating a better world and fighting for equality,” she says. 

Dr. Adrienne Chan

Helping patients in Africa for a decade...

Dr. Adrienne Chan, an infectious disease specialist at Sunnybrook Hospital, always had an interest in global health and the intersection of social justice and human rights. So it was only natural for her to take the first opportunity she had to work abroad as a physician. First stop, Zimbabwe in 2005.

“I was working with a physician who was working in a hospital outside of Harare, which is the capital of Zimbabwe,” she says.

Not long after, she received an opportunity to set up programs for HIV-positive patients in Malawi, and moved there in 2007 for three years to co-ordinate the HIV clinic and run the medical program with Dignitas International.

“Now I go back and forth several times a year to the Dignitas project in Malawi,” she says. “When we started, there were only about 4,000 patients who were HIV positive on treatment that we would support, and now the program supports over 170,000 HIV positive patients,” she says.

To make a big difference, Chan says one has to commit to being in a region long-term. But, her commitment to Malawi patients did not stop her from joining a team of doctors travelling to Sierra Leone,  during the 2014 Ebola crisis, to train front line health-care workers. Although she’s now back in Toronto, Chan says she’ll continue to work in Malawi.

“My commitment to Dignitas is a long-term commitment.”             

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