It is with profound sadness that we commemorate the life and mourn the loss of Dr. Paula Braitstein, the Principle Investigator of the Peer Navigator Project from 2018-2022. Paula was an accomplished epidemiologist and passionate environmentalist. She was a Chair of Applied Public Health from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), a Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, and Co-Director of Research for Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) Consortium in connection with Moi University. In 2017, Paula was recognized with a CIHR-Institute of Population & Public Health Trailblazer Award. She was further known around Eldoret as an avid horseback rider and advocate for the reforestation of the Kaptagat forest where she lived.
When Paula officially moved from Canada to the western highlands of Kenya in 2007 she made a name for herself as an activist and scholar seeking to improve the health and well-being of young people in East Africa, especially those who were orphaned, abandoned, street-connected, homeless, and living with or at risk for HIV and AIDS. Her intellectual curiosities and passion for knowledge grew to encompass Planetary Health as she witnessed the gross and pressing environmental crises impacting the East African region.
Paula’s work reached far and wide. Her collaborative spirit fostered partnerships with diverse organizations, leading to transformative projects that addressed critical health challenges. Her work on projects like EAT, OSCAR, and the Peer Navigator Project brought hope, healing and change. She was a passionate advocate for children’s’ rights and considered an irreplaceable scholar to countless Kenyan, Canadian, and American researchers.
Paula was a friend, mentor, and the tireless leader of the Peer Navigator team. It is with Paula’s support and encouragement that the youth working on this project were able to carve out their roles as Peer Navigators in their regions. Even while battling pancreatic cancer, Paula continued to ensure that the young people in all the study sites were recognised and had access to life-saving HIV prevention, testing and treatment. She continues to inspire our work and we will miss her dearly.