Taron Topham, a USask College of Nursing graduate, is one of two USask recipients of a Rhodes Scholarship this year. (Photo: Submitted)
Taron Topham, a USask College of Nursing graduate, is one of two USask recipients of a Rhodes Scholarship this year. (Photo: Submitted)

USask Rhodes Scholar focused on rural health care reform

University of Saskatchewan (USask) nursing graduate Taron Topham will be heading to the University of Oxford next fall to pursue double master’s degrees, with an aim to spark change in rural health care systems.

He received the call that he was selected for the esteemed Rhodes Scholarship, a prestigious opportunity that will provide Topham with tuition, fees and a stipend for living expenses while he attends the University of Oxford in England. Topham is one of two Rhodes Scholarship recipients selected from USask this year.

“When I received the phone call informing me that I was selected, I thought it was a dream!” Topham said. “One of the panelists on the other end of the phone recommended I ‘pinch myself’ to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.”

Hailing from Grandview, Man., Topham was the recipient of a Loran Scholarship in 2019 and moved to Saskatoon after high school to pursue his undergraduate degree in the USask College of Nursing. Topham graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in June 2023, and has since been working full-time as a registered nurse on a high acuity medicine unit in Saskatoon.

“The desire to be able to be able to use compassion, empathy, and problem-solving skills to provide care to individuals and their families motivated me to pursue a degree in nursing,” he said.

Having grown up on a grain and cattle farm in rural Manitoba, Topham is familiar with the challenges of accessing quality health care in remote communities.

“During my time [in] undergrad and work placements, I often wondered what interventions could have been implemented to prevent hospitalizations and rehospitalizations post-discharge,” Topham said. “Coming from a rural Manitoban community, my main interests are in rural health-care reform and equitable health care for all.”

His research interests lie in studying harm reduction and the way that social determinants of health can affect individuals at both local and national levels.

To study in his areas of interest, Topham plans to pursue both a Master of Science in Translational Health Sciences and a Master of Science in International Health and Tropical Medicine at Oxford. His degree in International Health and Tropical Medicine will involve an eight-week placement in a global health care setting that will involve limited resource access.

Topham plans to study how health care innovations can be adapted from research and used in real front-line health care in a timely manner. He will also study major population health challenges in resource-limited settings, and how ethical approaches can be used to address these inequities.

“My dream career is in health policy analysis for rural, remote, and resource-limited health care settings,” said Topham. “A goal of mine is to improve access to health care services and address specific challenges faced by these communities.”

Besides his academic work, Topham has completed summer internships with the Offord Centre for Child Studies, Grandview Medical Clinic, Prairie Harm Reduction Services, and The Saskatoon Foodbank. He also served as a volunteer firefighter in his rural community back home, and enjoys hiking, fishing, and playing hockey in his spare time.

His community leadership and dedication to improving rural health care access will be paramount to his success at the University of Oxford, where he will begin studying in the fall of 2024.

“I am extremely thankful for this opportunity and would like to thank my family, peers, mentors, and colleagues for their continued support,” he said.

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