“Don’t be afraid to be vocal about the issues you are passionate about, your voice and experiences are incredibly meaningful, you have the power to make the world a more equitable place.”

Deborah Ola

2024 Top 30 Under 30


AGE: 21





  • Canadian Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases
  • Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids
  • Create Change Foundation
  • Canadian Partnership for Women’s and Children’s Health
  • Friends of Medicines Sans Frontiers, University of Calgary
  • John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights


What specific issue(s) are you taking on, and what inspires you to do so?

I’m incredibly passionate about the treatment, prevention, and elimination of tropical diseases. A large part of my interests in tropical diseases stems from my experiences as a Nigerian woman. Observing the inequities and disparities in accessing health care in my home country motivates me to bring more awareness to these issues.

The people who inspire me are the incredible advocates who live and work in tropical disease endemic areas. Their work and passion motivate me to strive for change both locally and globally.

What does climate change or climate justice mean to you? To your work?

Climate justice to me means understanding that individuals who live in the margins of society will bear the largest consequences of climate change. This means when creating solutions and interventions, it is imperative we have these groups of people in mind and prioritize their needs.

Climate change is an issue that is closely tied with the spread of tropical diseases, and while I’m advocating for greater awareness of these issues, it is critical to understand the role that climate change has on individuals living in areas that are endemic for tropical diseases. Climate justice in this sense means using my voice to discuss how the issue of climate change has devastating consequences on these groups of people, ensuring that they are listened to and taken seriously.

What advice do you have for other young people looking to get involved in sustainable development?

Stop telling yourself no. It’s so easy to hide behind our self-doubt, but by doing so we are only limiting ourselves and our potential. Apply for the job, start the initiative. It may not always work out, but remind yourself that rejection is redirection. Learn from every experience and you’ll surprise yourself with the impact that you can make.

Deborah speaking at the 2023 World Water Day event at the University of Calgary hosted by the Canadian Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, ACGC, and Operation Eyesight Universal.

Deborah presenting her malaria research at the Snyder Summer Student Research Symposium at the University of Calgary.

Deborah speaking as a panelist for the “Research and Action to End Neglected Tropical Diseases” webinar hosted by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

Deborah presenting her malaria research as a Diversification of Our Research (DOORS) scholar at the Promega headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.

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