June 5, 2024

Class of 2024: Soon-to-be registered nurse discovers passion for refugee and community health

Inspired by her own family’s lived experience, nursing graduate Faith Moghaddami wants to advocate and address gaps in health-care system
Faith Moghaddami asks her question of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky
Faith Moghaddami asks her question of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Faith Moghaddami never could have imagined she would be starting her nursing journey at a pivotal moment in history: during a global pandemic.  

Back in September 2020, she was part of the UCalgary Nursing cohort whose entire first year of university was online because of COVID-19 restrictions.  

“I felt a lot of disappointment around the fact that I wasn't starting this big chapter of my life in person,” she says now. “It was scary dealing with the pandemic and everything, but I feel like I wasn't really exposed to the worst of it." 

If anything, [COVID] just made me really excited to be part of a career where people were tackling this head on.” 

To that effect, Moghaddami leaned into joining student clubs, seeking leadership roles and signing up for extracurricular opportunities to make connections with other students.  

“I really made a personal commitment to just get involved,” she says. “I needed to make the most of this time for myself.” 

In her first year, Moghaddami joined the Year One Nursing Council, then connected with Esther Udeh, a second-year nursing student at the time, through a club called Advocates Alberta. They both competed in Hunter Hub’s Map the System, a global competition spearheaded by University of Oxford, delivered in collaboration with leading educational institutions worldwide. 

“It was a challenge to bring forth a social issue and do a creative concept map on what sorts of gaps exist in those systems and what are some potential ways we can work to solve them,” explains Moghaddami. She ended up making it to the final round at the UCalgary competition. 

“Our project was on mental health and refugee reintegration in Canada, and it was inspired by my family story coming here. I even offered my mom to do a very personal kind of case study on her experience because it drew parallels between our history and how we treat refugees and what programs are available.” 

Nurse holding catheterization supplies in hospital

Moghaddami withcatheterization supplies in Term 5 (third year), Unit 66 at South Health Campus

Family history inspires interest in migrant and newcomer health  

Moghaddami was born in Canada but her parents are originally from Iran. “My mom came in ‘89 when she was 16 or 17. She had to flee the country and was smuggled out and ended in Pakistan before flying to Canada. My dad was in the Philippines where it was cheap to attend university for Iranian students. Around that time, the revolution had already started, so he didn’t go back and ended up in Canada.” 

In 2021, Moghaddami participated in Global Community Challenge YYC where UCalgary worked with local non-profits and in partnership with international schools to address global challenges. Her team placed second in that competition. 

“We worked with Immigrant Services Calgary and the question that we tackled was ‘How do we unlock the social, economic and professional potential of refugees and newcomers in Canada?’” 

That same year, Moghaddami was part of a clinical group who completed their community health placement with Reach YYC, supporting Yazidi refugees in Calgary. 

“I don't think I realized how personal it was until I started the project with all my clinical mates,” she says. 

“Nursing is very unique where you are bringing a lot of yourself to your job. It was kind of interesting to explore my identity at the same time as I was understanding just nursing in general.” 

A natural leader, Moghaddami held various roles on the Undergraduate Nursing Society (UNS) executive at UCalgary Nursing including Indigenous Initiatives representative and VP communications before getting elected as president in her final year. 

“Term 3 [second year] was really big for me because it allowed me to discover more about myself when I stepped into that community role and learned a little bit more about my passion in migrant health, immigrant health and explored my own identity. It ended up leading up to, and playing a big role, when I got to speak with President Zelensky.” 

Yazidi women with UCalgary Nursing students

Moghaddami with Term 3 clinical group in Fall 2021. From top leftCharls Dino, four Yazidi women, instructor Megan D'Souza, Amirarshia Eskandari, Kulveer Rai, Zain Virani, Madison Thul, Braden Kehler, Sophia Cadang, Faith Moghaddami.

Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Ukraine president  

In June 2022, Moghaddami was among a handful of Canadian students chosen to ask Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky a question over video link. The event was organized by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy; Zelensky spoke via interactive link to post-secondary schools across Canada. 

“I was really curious to know his perspective on how social media has shaped the way we interpreted everything that was going on in the war. And he acknowledged that it was a very powerful tool. In the same way it can be a super positive opportunity, it can also be very negative and destructive when we see lots of misinformation which has been true for so many different world events in the last couple years.” 

Moghaddami says the opportunity to speak with the president directly left a deep impression. “It was just such an out-of-body thing. I had so many family members and parents just say ‘I'm so proud of you for doing this and we remember what it was like for us. This is amazing that you are here now and you're taking an opportunity to acknowledge being part of something so big.’” 

Community health nursing a calling 

Whether it’s speaking to the president of Ukraine or doing her final preceptorship in the emergency department at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Moghaddami says that her mother has taught her a pivotal lesson: “If I’m ever afraid to do something, then that’s a challenge and a sign I need to do it.”  

She says the experience taught her to stay flexible and be prepared for anything and everything to happen. “Through exposure, you learn to just be able to stay calm, cool, and collected and think of a short-term plan and a long-term plan even when things seem like they're on fire and everything's falling apart, which is an essential skill for any kind of nursing.” 

Moghaddami says she sees herself as a community health nurse. “I’ve learned that nursing is great in an acute setting, but 10 per cent of our population is in the hospital — 90 per cent is in the community and people are still unwell even though they're not in an acute-care facility.” 

Reflecting on her last four years and looking ahead after she crosses the stage this week, Moghaddami is grateful for all the leadership opportunities and people she’s met in the program. Her advice to nursing students is to try new things and to not let fear take over.  

“Courage is being afraid of something and still doing it anyway,” she says. “Be courageous. I feel like a nursing career is already kind of the first step to doing that.” 

Read more inspiring stories about the accomplishments and journeys of the Class of 2024.

Graduates, as you prepare to transition away from student life, we'd like to also welcome you into the UCalgary alumni community. Learn about the programs, benefits and services available exclusively to UCalgary grads, and be sure to keep in touch.