The Hub for Canadian Women in STEM

Journey WALAA


“Building Bridges”

Walaa crop for website.jpg

A physician by training in her home country of Iraq, a researcher and community health leader in cancer care in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Walaa and her family chose to apply to immigrate to Canada under the professional category. She was most concerned about leaving a very successful position in the UAE, and the prospects of finding work in Canada. Canadian immigration agents assured Walaa multiple times during the screening process that her expertise was very much in-demand in Canada. After five years of processing, Canada selected their application for approval. 

Walaa’s love of health science and research is unmistakable and her efforts to get her degrees and experience recognized were relentless. She applied to two credential recognition agencies. Neither were appropriate for her unique specialty as a physician in public health nor reflected her specific community health expertise. 

Walaa also participated in a bridging program. Although she grew up in the United States, and English was her first language, she had to join a mandatory English as a Second Language (ESL) component as a prerequisite for the co-op program. Her co-op placement was in an administrative position and not particularly relevant to her expertise. She also participated in a mentorship program, which she deemed extremely helpful to establish valuable contacts; it also helped her truly understand the system. Very frustrated with the process, she continued to focus on her search for employment. She applied for over 10 positions with no responses. Disappointment and discouragement set in. She considered changing her career but could not see herself working in another field. She even considered returning permanently to UAE. 

It wasn’t until a colleague, who knew her abilities and expertise from the UAE, contacted her about a specific grant-based position on a project for Cancer Care Ontario, that she was finally able to secure her first position in that field. 

By then, it had been three years since she first landed in Canada.

Photography: Haya Aldoori